Interview How a literary scholar became a millionaire

Emma Tracey, founder of Honeypot - the job platform for software talent
Emma Tracey, founder of Honeypot – the job platform for software talentPR

Emma Tracey, 31, turned job placement with her co-founder Kaya Taner: Companies use their platform to apply to IT talent. The Xing career network took over the start-up in the spring for 22 million euros (plus up to 35 million performance-related surcharges). In 2019, Honeypot is targeting 2000 corporate customers and a pool of 120,000 software developers, in three years it will be ten times more across Europe.

Ms. Tracey, your home country of Ireland is home to many IT companies. Did that shape you?

EMMA TRACEY: No, not at all. Our family has some shops in Dublin – laundry, greengrocer and such. My mother runs it, and I’ve been helping her since I was 14, or I was at the cash register.

Today you are one of the stars of the Berlin IT start-up scene, but you were the first to study literature and film. How did that happen?

I have a weakness for good stories. At Trinity College in Dublin I wrote for the student newspaper, then in Colombia for a trade journal. It went so well that I became editor-in-chief and published an issue in Ghana with a colleague. Two years later we founded a communications agency in South Africa. But that soon became too monotonous for me.

What appealed to you?

I was drawn to one of these rapidly growing tech companies. I also wanted to go back to Europe after five years in the south of the planet. I had enough confidence to venture into a German-speaking environment, but was looking for an experienced founder. I found Kaya Taner who needed marketing reinforcements for a new start-up.

Was that the start for your honeypot job platform?

Exactly. Kaya then brought me on board as a partner and for talent management. I didn’t know much about technology. But the longer I listened to the software developers, the clearer it became where the sought-after specialists were looking for a job: frustrating time, uncertainty of what exactly they were needed for. That was a striking pattern. Recruiters and applicants talk past each other. So we tailored the platform to the candidates and their profiles.

A lot of new territory for you?

I had to learn how developers tick. A 19-year-old colleague taught me how to build software. I spent a lot of time at hackathons and organized conferences for techies and recruiters myself. 1000 people came to GraphQL Conf! Great! That’s how I built a network.

With the sale to the Xing career network, you have become a millionaire. How was it?

We were back in Berlin late after signing the contract in Hamburg and celebrated with a currywurst at the train station. Announcing the team takeover was the happiest moment of my life. But we were also attractive: zero marketing costs, black numbers after one and a half years, all without venture capital.

And is everything different now?

It feels more stable. We all lived like interns with 60- to 80-hour weeks, but never asked ourselves: do we hire someone or do we keep more money to ourselves? Today we have a manager salary. We haven’t touched the proceeds yet.

But was there a little reward?

Oh yeah! A meal with friends at the star chef. And I invite my family for a Christmas trip – maybe to Madagascar.

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