It’s the warmest day of the year so far and the temperatures are high at the offices of Home24 in Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg. Fans are blowing air down rows of developers, buyers, graphic designers and copywriters in the open-plan factory floors.
Sandwiched between Amazon and Soundcloud are the headquarters of Germany’s biggest online furniture shop.
Laura-Lucia Wehner, Home24’s PR Manager, takes me on a tour of the various floors and meeting rooms kitted out with designer furniture.
Home24 at a glance
- Location: Greifswalder Straße in Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg
- Business: E-commerce (furniture)
- Employees: 300+
- Language: German/English
- Perks: Furniture discounts, a roof terrace and, yes, there’s free Club Mate
- Perfect for: Fans of good design
“We’re a traditional startup, with all the stereotypes.”
When you walk through the factory floors of Home24, you can virtually see the flat hierarchies. Typical for a young company in Berlin, there’s no screens between employees and no private offices.
Home24’s roof terrace
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The company founders and managers sit between everyone else, with the same kind of desk and computer as all other employees. Home24 is less of a traditional German company and more of a traditional Berlin startup explains Laura, as we sit down at one of Home24’s designer tables. “We’re all on a first name basis, from interns to managing directors.”
Free drinks and furniture discounts
You can’t call yourself a startup in Berlin if your employees don’t drink Club Mate. And like several other local web startups, Home24 offers an unlimited free supply to its employees, as well as fruit, drinks and cheap breakfast.
The e-commerce startup also sounds like the right kind of employer if you’re planning on getting a bigger flat in Berlin. All employees get 25% off everything in the online furniture shop, as well as additional discounts with carsharing services and gyms.
Lazer tag and mountain climbing
Every month the company has a company barbeque on the balcony (free drinks included), previously together with employees from SoundCloud downstairs. Team heads also have a budget to take their team out for regular team-building like lazer tag or mountain climbing. “As long as it’s safe, we don’t mind what it is,” says Laura.
On a typical lunchbreak, Home24 employees will grab some food from one of the local restaurants, head up to the office balcony and then grab a coffee from the baristas at Godshot.
A Home24 meeting room
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Category manager and head of pricing Stevan Lutz says he’s made a huge amount friends through Home24 since he started working here. “I feel there’s a lot of people here I can go out for a few beers with, you know? The work life and private life are kind of connected,” says Stevan.
Although Home24 is a founded by Germans and based in Berlin, it feels pretty international. With French, Swiss, Austrian and Dutch colleagues and more nationalities to come, the lingua franca is a mixture of English and German “We’re operating in five different markets so we have to be international,” Laura tells me.
Like most German companies, there’s a nine-to-six working day with an hour for lunch. But Home24 is part of Berlin’s increasing tolerance for flexible working hours, making it a student and parent-friendly workplace.
E-commerce startups like Home24 generally are prone to crunch-time. Buyers, web developers and quality assurance co-ordinators often work to strict deadlines, which can mean extra hours.
“Overtime does exist, let’s not lie,” says Corinna Frese, HR manager at Home24. Like in many other online shops, employees will need to put in some extra hours.
“But it’s not excessive. Most people are generally out by a quarter past six,” Corinna explains. “I was here until 7 last night, and the office was pretty empty,” Laura adds. On top of that, Corinna reassures me that overtime is mostly compensated with holiday time or extra pay.
Stevan says there’s a “positive pressure” at Home24.
“I think it’s really well structured so that the burden is on many shoulders, as we say in German. You have a lot of pressure to achieve certain goals. But it’s not like you go home and think ‘Shit, I didn’t finish this today’ or that you have to stay late.”
€50 million in beds and bulky furniture
Last year Home24 hit €100 million in revenue for the first time. Around half of this was made from selling bulky furniture items like beds, wardrobes and sofas. But Stevan tells me that of all 80,000 products, Home24’s most popular item is its industrial-chic Manchester table.
To celebrate the World Cup this summer, the company has made its customers an ultimatum. If Germany wins, every customer that bought their World Cup sofa will get their money back. It’s quite a risk, but then that’s part of being a Rocket Internet startup.
Home24’s living room
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All employees I spoke to agreed that being a Rocket company means being more dynamic and flexible than other companies, especially when it comes to new ideas.
Working for a Rocket Internet company
Companies backed by this global e-commerce VC firm are known for their extremely fast pace, volatility and rapid expansion. Just like at Zalando, Groupon and Wimdu, Home24 is changing quickly as it grows. Since it started out as MöbelProfi over two years ago, Home24 has rebranded and readjusted its focus, while expanding into France, Switzerland, Austria and Holland. And Stevan tells me there’s even more countries to follow this year.
Ambition is a key characteristic of Rocket companies, says the Home24’s head of pricing. “The company is really ambitious to become a branch leader. But it’s also ambitious in terms of people. People are ambitious (in a positive way). Everybody wants to work towards a goal. People aren’t like ‘Let’s do it tomorrow.’ They’re more like ‘let’s do it now.’”
Home24 are equally ambitious when talking about their company mission. “The ultimate goal is to become the market leader in online furniture. Not only in Germany, but across Europe,” Stevan explains.
As we leave the meeting room, there’s a toddler stumbling down the aisles of the office. Left and right, distracted heads turn from their screens to look at the infant, clutching onto desks. A fitting mascot for a startup in its infancy.