SPOTLIGHT ON: Bernhard Niesner, busuu

Bernhard Niesner, Co-Founder and CEO of busuu shares with us his experience in finding and building culture to retain talent and the importance of ’embracing the struggle’ in the life of a start-up.

1. What is the mission of your business and how do you hope it will change the world?

busuu’s mission is to enable everyone in the world to learn another language. We offer 12 interactive language courses on web/mobile combined with the ability to practice your skills with native speakers of our global community of over 70m users. There are already more than 1bn people learning a language and in many emerging markets, knowing English dramatically improves the average salary and career perspectives of employees. Besides the economic benefits, knowing another language fosters the understanding of different cultures, which will contribute to making the world a better place.

2. What’s your biggest challenge in growing your business?

busuu has now over 60 employees and in total, more than 100 people contribute to our project. Finding the right talent with not only the functional skills but also the right cultural fit has always been challenging. We have now a Culture Manager in place who makes sure that our values are tested consistently during the interview process and we as a team constantly strengthen our culture through value trainings, a buddy system, quarterly team events, yearly team away trips etc. This makes sure that busuu is a wonderful place to work where everyone is pulling in the same direction.

3. What advice would you give to your former self when you were starting/joining the business?

When we started the business in 2008, we immediately offered four languages and quickly expanded to 12 different language courses and 12 interface languages allowing us to offer 132 language combinations. This created huge complexity and with hindsight, it would have been better to fully focus on only teaching a few languages. So especially at the start, less is more and laser focus is key!

4. What part of the job do you most love?

What I like most of my job is the fact that even after doing busuu for nearly 10 years, every day is different than the other. The life in a start-up is a constant rollercoaster and once you ‘embrace the struggle’, you can enjoy the ride!