Micky Chen is the founder of Minite Works. Minite outsources ‘any job to a smart student’. Minite is a hub and all-in-one talent platform where skilled students and companies meet! Trusted by more than 1000 companies, Minite is a remarkable solution to a common labour-market issue: matching young talent to a fitting company. Read more about Micky’s journey as an entrepreneur and her thoughts on the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Hi Micky, FEM-START is happy to speak with you today! Tell us, what inspired you to start your own business, and how did you come up with Minite Works?
I was a student at Erasmus University in Rotterdam myself. I had work experience, mostly in restaurants, and I was looking for work in my study field (Micky studied international business administration and information systems) to build my CV, which I couldn’t find After graduation, I worked at Salesforce . Many of my clients there had one thing in common: they all struggled to find flexible talent. I realized that students were looking for jobs, but also these companies were trying to find them. After that, my co-founder, my sister and I launched the first pilot where we matched students with companies and went from there. That was 3 years ago. I worked with scale-ups and larger companies, and they were all vastly different; it was very hard for them to find emerging talent to hire. If you are a student, the best way to learn and grow is to work for these scaleups and build your CV. As such, we now facilitate and contribute to this ecosystem.
You won the FEM-START Up Awards last year. What did the FEM-START Up Awards do for you? What was your experience, and can you walk us through your journey since?
The FEM-START UP awards was an incredible experience. After Minite won the award, we received so much support from the community. Many companies reached out, we got new clients, media visibility and partnerships. The wonderful finalists also kept in touch, and we exchange tips, advice and tricks. We also try to meet up and support each other on LinkedIn.
Can you share your experience navigating the startup landscape in Silicon Valley and the Netherlands as a female founder? What unique opportunities and challenges have you encountered, and how have they shaped your approach to leadership and business strategy?
In the Netherlands, there is a big discussion around female founders and the ecosystem. In the United States, especially in Silicon Valley, the landscape is different. Female founders in the United States is less of a discussion point, they do very well and are successful like in the Netherlands, but there is less discussion around the role of a female entrepreneur. There is less bias in Silicon Valley. I met many entrepreneurs who discussed the difference in the landscape of the Netherlands vis-à-vis Silicon Valley. Many founders feel like local investors proceed with more caution when it comes to ambitious numbers.
In the United States, investors in Silicon Valley go more by risk-taking and look into furthering opportunities such as implementing steps to grow your business in the first few meetings; they are keen to collaborate, and they make it clear from the get-go. Investors are very practical over there, and sometimes you can do a pitch deck, a Q&A and go through a presentation and discuss the next steps in just 30 minutes! As a practice round for future fundraising, we had a sit down with a friendly VC (introduced to us via the Dutch consulate, which was part of the FEM-START prize!), we went through 2 main challenges in 1 hour, and we walked together on things to implement today rather than later. As a team at Minite, we work very fast to implement feedback, or changes and attract results. Our approach is to work as fast and concise as possible with the resources available to us!
Building a successful startup often requires a combination of innovative thinking and adaptability. Would you mind describing a specific instance where you had to pivot your business model or strategy?
At first, Minite started by encompassing all kinds of jobs that all university students in the Netherlands could perform for companies. Focus was out of place because we focused on everything. We realised there were not enough targeted work tasks. So we started with marketing jobs only, then expanded into sales jobs, then IT jobs followed. Now that we are a big platform with thousands of top-tier students, we cater to all kinds of jobs, even engineering or teaching.My advice is to find a niche and grow from there. Realize that not everyone is your customer, especially not at the beginning.
How did your team handle the transition, and what were the key takeaways from that experience?
We were a small team, in the early days, it was my co-founder, my sister and me. We pivoted fast because we held conversations immediately. As a result, the implementation was fast-paced as well. That same night we had a discussion about changing the focus of Minite, we implemented the changes. We pivoted quickly because as a start-up, you have to be practical, especially in the early stage. With a small team, and no crazy processes, we moved at mighty speed and implemented overnight. We had the mentality that if we would not succeed, that would be fine because we were so small, so we were willing to try everything out and test along the way.
Diversity and inclusion are critical topics in the tech industry. How have you fostered a diverse and inclusive company culture within your startup? Would you mind highlighting any initiatives or practices you’ve implemented to ensure that all voices are heard and valued in your organization?
Our team is small and diverse, no one has the same background, but we all speak English in the office. I am super proud of our team, and we are very diverse and open. Company culture changes, and anyone who joins will have a big impact on that culture. We have our core values, but it’s not rigid in the sense that you have to agree to them rigorously. We are fluid, and we want to promote a very open office culture. In terms of the platform, we have 13,000 students, we have dealt with bias in the past and implemented radical changes to promote inclusivity.
From early on, we decided to remove student application profile pictures. Companies cannot see the name, the gender or the face of applicants, so that will be hidden in the selection process. We noticed that when students had pictures, and they had foreign names, they would get fewer opportunities, were not selected as much or had fewer invitations to interview. Now, recruiters can only see the work experience, studies and certificates of the applicant. Then we ask the companies to make a selection based on that information. Our screening process is neutral and gives an equal, level playing field to everyone!
What advice do you have for other women to raise funding, other than the awards, what are some ways you think are effective?
It depends on where and when you raise funding, the stage you are in and the types of industries you work in. For a freelance marketplace, I know many companies that raise before traction. There is no right or wrong way to go about raising funding. At Minite, we instead waited after gaining traction to be in a better position for funding, and have a stronger position for acquiring funds. We bootstrapped for a year, and then we announced we were open for investment a year and a half ago. We let investors know we managed with zero cost and growing consistently, but we had a clear message as well. Not only that, but we showed that if no one would invest, this is our continued growth rate. If you do want to invest in us, we have a couple of scenarios we can get to; we will grow regardless and if you want to grow with us and jump on that train, that’s great, but we will still do our own thing and work with the vision we have. I never wanted Minite to be dependent on investors, we had to stand on our own first. However, this all depends on the type of company you are, it’s especially hard if you need a large amount, some companies need millions worth of investments. For us, we strategize in the most cost-effective and fastest way to get up and running. Fundraising without traction is possible too, then it comes down to the vision and storytelling.
What’s next for Minite? What can we expect from you in the future?
We started as a freelance marketplace kindred to SMBs, start-ups and scale-ups. Over time we grew, and we now also have corporate partnerships with companies interested in our top-tier talent.
If you want to know more about Micky’s Minite, click the link here!