September 20, 2022

What the heck: It’s PeopleTech!

On September 1, we organised an event where WorkTech & EdTech entrepreneurs, HR professionals, VCs and thought leaders came together at the Rubio office to exchange perspectives on PeopleTech. Our goal was to bring together the PeopleTech community to discuss what PeopleTech is and how it can make an impact.

For all who missed this addition, we are happy to share some of our key takeaways:

  • 💸 VC funding for HRtech in 2022 is not affected in first half of the year by market downturns and unicorns are still on the rise
  • 🦄 There are 23 impact unicorns in Europe and looking at the societal challenges and what technology can do to solve these we expect many more social impact unicorns to emerge
  • 💰 Financial wellbeing solutions for employees are in demand by employers who are looking for ways to support their workforce in these times of high inflation
  • 🧠 Employers recognise the role they can play in psychological wellbeing of their employees via digital solutions. This makes sense as a responsible employer but it is also a smart business decision with an attractive ROI
  • 💻Virtual reality is on the rise within Edtech and has the promise of replacing and speeding up the learning of skills of groups which are high in demand 

So, what the heck did we do all afternoon?

Impactful PeopleTech solutions have everything to do with i) who you are helping – preferably an underserved group of the population – and ii) how much your solution is helping this group vs. status quo or other solutions. That is the vision Ilonka Jankovich shared when she kicked off the event. Under Ilonka’s leadership Rubio’s PeopleTech team actively makes Seed and Series A investments in impactful PeopleTech solutions across Europe. We look at tech and digital solutions to solve some of the biggest societal challenges in Europe and contribute to the underserved groups in society. We remain on the hunt for more Impact Unicorns – companies positively impacting the lives of 1 billion people. 

A growing need for mental health support

One of the large societal challenges we see today is a growing need for mental health support in a traditional health system which does not have the capacity to support these needs. Entrepreneur Gijs Coppens, CEO and founder of OpenUp, spoke to this in his keynote on why employee wellbeing is connected to business growth. Poor mental health is costing employers in Europe €240 billion per year through absenteeism, churn and low engagement/ productivity. At the same time, every €1 euro invested into mental health by employers has an average ROI of €5.3 euro. Gijs’ keynote helped bring into focus why you should take mental wellbeing seriously as an employer – not only from a responsible employment perspective, but also from an economic perspective. Gijs is on a mission to make mental health accessible to all via OpenUp, the B2B mental wellbeing platform he founded.

Worktech pitches

We had four founders pitching their Worktech solutions in front of an expert panel. The energy was high in the crowd and our expert panel had some great (and critical) questions. The panel consisted of Natascha van Boetzelaer (Partner, Egon Zehnder), Philip Kaufmann (Global Head of HR & Recruitment – Flow Traders), Tamara Obradov (Managing Partner – Tablomonto Ventures), Warner Philips (Managing Partner – Rubio Impact Ventures)

Kicking off the Worktech pitches, Equip provided insight into their B2B financial wellbeing offering. This sparked interest with the HR professionals of our panel, as they recognise that financial anxiety is rising in their workforce and are looking for solutions in this area. Next up both SkillLab and AG5 shared their skills-based solutions which are designed and applied in different ways. SkillLab uses AI to understand what skills are behind people, jobs and education in order to help job seekers turn their skills into careers. On the other hand AG5 provides a smart skills management software for companies with many frontline workers focussing on operational and strategic skills. The panel Q&A focussed mainly on the scalability of both solutions and the ease of implementation for a client. Lastly, Jobs for Humanity, a platform for jobseekers from historically underrepresented groups in the workforce – i.e. visually impaired, neurodivergent, refugees, single moms, returning citizens. The platform connects talent from these groups to employers, while coaching employers on diverse hiring. From our expert panel Philip Kaufman provided his perspective that for HR professionals, it’s all about the quality of talent that such a platform can provide. Focussing on screening of candidates in a scalable way will be a key factor of success for Jobs For Humanity. 

New WorkTech unicorns are still emerging!

A special guest from the USA, George Larocque, joined us online. George is the founder of WorkTech by LAROCQUE. He shared his insights on how current market dynamics are affecting the WorkTech space. The analysis he shared showed much room for optimism as the funding pace in WorkTech ventures is still high in 2022 and not affected as strongly as other industries by current market conditions. An overall valuations dip is mainly a market correction and we see valuations normalising to pre-COVID amounts. Also, keep your eyes open since new WorkTech unicorns are still emerging!

Discussing impact in EdTech

Contrary to what some might think, not all EdTech solutions are considered impactful. This was topic of discussion for our EdTech panel discussion with four inspiring ladies: Svenia Busson (Co-founder – European EdTech Alliance), Marie Geneste (Investment Director – Educapital), Marijn Pijnenborg (Founder – Winc Academy) and Willemijn Verloop (Founder – Rubio Impact Ventures). Marie Geneste mentioned that at Educapital they for instance prefer solutions improving the educational system for a wider group of beneficiaries over tutoring solutions which are available for a happy few. There was also much discussion on how to quantify this impact in EdTech, where Rubio’s founder, Willemijn Verloop, added that measuring the outcome, the depth of the impact is always preferred but often more challenging in practice.

Time for interactive workshops

Our partners from Fenix Leadership, Bart Jan van ‘t Hoff and Kasper Pruijsen, provided a brilliant workshop. This was all about understanding how self-awareness is linked to leadership and how you can use this to lead yourself, your team or your organisation more effectively. Simultaneously, we had Lukas Grosfeld (co-founder Wakuli) explaining everything about one of the origins of Wakuli’s coffee, the Idjwi island in Congo. An active discussion with participants followed on how Wakuli can take the impact they are making forward in their brand identity. Another group of attendees got a masterclass from Adam Avramescu, VP Customer Education & Engagement at Personio, on the power of customer engagement – Adam literally wrote a book on it.

The power of a shared learning experience

We were happy to have four inspiring EdTech entrepreneurs and an experienced panel with us consisting of Hidde Hoogcarspel (Partner – Dutch Founders Fund), Florien de Nijs (CHRO – Exact), Valerie Westerduin (Global Head of HR Innovations – Adyen), Hannes Aichmayr (Brighteye Ventures). Kicking off the pitch session was Ritsaart van Montfrans, CEO of Incision, showcasing the power of a shared learning experience on the outcome of surgical procedures. Next, Jeff van der Laan from BUKU shared how they are making education more accessible in developing countries through providing subscription-based access to study books. Both Warp VR and MEXR showed us that VR-based learning is on the rise, which definitely got the attention of our expert panel. As Hannes Aichmayr of Brighteye Ventures mentioned, VR solutions providing learning experiences for specific skills are very interesting to keep an eye on.

See you next year!

We closed the day with some drinks to discuss, reflect and connect after an eventful day. Those who were lucky even scored a doggy bag from the catering, a great service from Freshtable to prevent food waste.

A huge thank you to all who participated on this day. We look forward to welcoming you again next year. N.B. This was an invite-only event. Do you want to be included next year? Shoot us a message at with subject “What the heck: I want to attend PeopleTech”