Innovation, opportunities and tenacity were in the air in Antwerp last week...

Antwerp Startup Fair opened its doors and gathered under one roof a complementary mix of entrepreneurs, investors, established and young professionals, jobseekers and college students giving them the opportunity to show off their innovative ideas and products, network, pick up an investment and hook up talent or kick-start a career. 

Working for a startup was a key pillar of the Antwerp Startup Fair concept. Lion's share of 500 attendees also included jobseekers of different profiles who could get in front of startups, better understand them and look inside the startup recruiting process. 

When it comes to working for a startup - expectations and perceptions often differ, believes Stefan Goos from VDAB, who was also present at the fair.

“If we consider Antwerp Startup Fair from the recruiting point of view, such an event is very interesting because startups are different companies to work for. Many, don’t know what a startup is and basically, many do not clearly differentiate an IT startup from a starting company... Events like Antwerp Startup Fair allow applicants to look for more job opportunities. We will not make it black and white but usually startups expect more from the job applicants than other companies: more competence, a specific mindset and attitude, and the willingness to always learn.”

Indeed, startup life has become shrouded in myth. What is the truth in it? 

Definitely, Antwerp Startup Fair was one of the best occasions to find the right answers to many questions. We asked Antwerp-based tech company Rombit about their expectations from the job applicants.

“We are a scale-up that stays true to the startup culture and values. We encourage knowledge sharing and challenges, giving the ground where our staff can pioneer, while having fun and embracing the feeling of responsibility", explains Karolien Sluyts, Chief People Officer at Rombit. She continues:  "Rombit was founded in 2012 and we were growing fast… But the main shift is coming up now. The recent acquisition and investment allow to expand the Rombit team. For instance, from mid-2015 until mid-2016 we already grew double from 18 to 40 team members. Nowadays, there are 50 of us working for Rombit, primarily engineers and developers, and we are in the process of recruiting more. Currently there are 10 vacancies open and the recruiting scope is very broad. We are still chiefly interested in the profiles of developers, but not only. We are looking for the profiles of business developers, consultants, client support specialists, marketing – people who can add colour to the company and add their personal skills.”

Landing a job at a startup….

In total, 75 startups that exhibited that day offered over 150 positions that varied from web developers to salespeople and marketers. All the positions were featured on the website that each user could review upfront, thus optimizing the job search process and increasing the odds of success. 

“We are attending the fair for two main goals of networking and finding a job. At Antwerp Startup Fair it is easier to approach a company and it feels more personal,” clarify Levi Marien (23 y.o.) and Robin Jansses (21 y.o.) - students studing engineering at Antwerp University.

“I am here today because I am generally interested in entrepreneurship and technology. As for finding a job, it is also useful coz many startups look for English-speaking job applicants,” explains Nisi (28 y.o.). 

Well, finding a job in a startup was not the only reason. Obviously, many attended the fair to get into direct contact with startups, to show off their innovative ideas and to establish business contacts.

“I am developing new concepts of speed dating and organizing various speed dating and networking events. Antwerp Startup Fair is all about networking, looking around and asking for a feedback on my business ideas,” says Glenn Gezels.

Besides, there was an extra handy feature, everyone could schedule a face-to-face appointment via the networking tool Conversation Starter. 

“I am a web developer and Antwerp Startup Fair is a nice event to find a job. Besides, I already worked for a startup before. Today I scheduled 4 appointments with startups that look for my kind of a profile,” said Simon Depelchin (26 y.o) before running to his appointment.

At Antwerp Startup Fair we did our best to make sure everyone could focus on the essentials, while we took care of the rest.

“Conversation Starter app was a good thing today. It allowed me to make appointments upfront, so I could use the rest of the time exploring Antwerp Startup Fair. That was a tool I liked a lot. Besides, it was also easy to use. For instance, I could change time if needed. Today I had 3 appointments with startups interested in a profile like mine, that combines digital marketing and content creation skills,” Ruby (31 y.o.) shared her experience.