Firing Squad: Spontea Coffee's Viktoria Sheyko

COVID has made online video incredibly popular in the workplace, but it's also made human connections harder to come by. And engaging with new people at work is almost impossible. That's why startups like Spontea Coffee are so interesting, they bring together online video with spontaneous human connection. But do they have the chops to survive the Firing Squad? Being recent winners of the HR Hackathon says they do, but Chad & Cheese will have the Final Word.

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Firing Squad Intro (36s):

Like Shark Tank? Then you'll love Firing Squad! CHAD SOWASH & JOEL CHEESEMAN are here to put the recruiting industry's bravest, ballsiest, baddest startups through the gauntlet to see if they got what it takes to make it out alive? Dig a fox hole and duck for cover kids the Chad and Cheese Podcast is taking it to a whole other level.

Joel (58s):

Ah, yeah, what's up everybody. It's another firing squad. This is your co-host Joel Cheesman joined as always by Chad Esquire Sowash.

Chad (1m 8s):

Well, Hello.

Joel (1m 10s):

And today we welcome co-founder of Spontea. We'll get into the name in a second. Viktoria Sheyko, Viktoria is also a consultant at KPMG, Viktoria . Welcome to firing squad. How are you?

Viktoria (1m 24s):

Hi! I'm good thanks!

Joel (1m 26s):

So who is Viktoria? Give us a little bio tweet on you and then we'll get into the show.

Viktoria (1m 31s):

Sure. I will be glad to. So yeah, I'm Viktoria. I used to be an auditor in KPMG, there for six years now and yeah. Switched to being a finance consultant, doing all these things, now I'm communication. And at the same time, I'm very passionate about improving the world a little bit, especially focusing in an improving workplace, I'm doing like a lot of diversity stuff and yeah, and now I was participating in that HR hackathon, too.

Joel (2m 1s):

Chad, tell her what she's won today.

Chad (2m 4s):

Well, that, that being said, everybody needs to know this is a special edition of firing squad because Spontea Coffee, the Spontea Coffee team actually won the HR hackathon, which landed them a spot on today's show kids. That's right. So for clarity sake, there were two categories of winners. Category number one was a ground up build concept tech team, everything. And that's exactly what Viktoria's team did. They built the entire thing from the ground up, the team, the concept and the tech. And it took two days. The second winner was actually existing tech and they will be on a future firing squad.

Chad (2m 48s):

So congratulations on that, Viktoria.

Viktoria (2m 52s):


Chad (2m 53s):

Now let me tell you what you've won you, lucky thing you. Well, you have won, two minutes to pitch the Spontea Coffee app. At the end, you will hear that bell then Joel and I will hit you with rapid fire Q and A. If your answers start rambling or we get bored, Joel's going to hit you with the crickets. At the end of Q and A, you're going to receive either a big applause. That means you'll be swimming in caffeine, water-cooler talk and cash.

Joel (3m 27s):

Drinking gold plated, orange juice.

Chad (3m 32s):

A golf clap. Now you should probably brew another pot of coffee, you're going to need the energy because a, this slug needs to get moving or last but not least the firing squad. Sorry, we don't see coffee in your future. Just another HR hackathon and try again. Any questions?

Viktoria (3m 54s):


Chad (3m 54s):

Okay. Let's do this.

Joel (3m 56s):

Let's have at it two minutes starting in three, two.

Viktoria (3m 60s):

Yeah! Hey everyone. So you heard it. I was participating in this big HR hackathon of two days and was teaming up with literally two strangers. And we were from different countries, different backgrounds skills. And yeah, the ideation process was really, really intense. But at the same time, we were concerned about this one thing we wanted to embrace remote work and why. So the new way of working, it proved to all of us that we are getting more and more disconnected from our colleagues, from the company. And the same time we are realizing that conscious breaks are so important for productivity at work. In the same time we used to have the breaks for networking because there we built relationships and this basically shapes work culture.

Viktoria (4m 46s):

So how does Spontea Coffee resolve the issues of being disconnected? Right? It gives us the opportunity to really connect and engage with each other in little short breaks, really five minutes with the option to extend and without having to consciously make appointments, right? The tool itself reminds us to take the spontaneous break. And yeah, you can decide in advance whether you want to meet new people or just chat with your teammates. So that way you keep in touch with your teammates constantly. And at the same time, you have the option to broaden your horizons. You realize how diverse your company is and then how much it has to offer. And this, at the same time, we really want to use intelligent matching tools.

Viktoria (5m 27s):

We're thinking about that also. So you're getting matched based on common interests or hobbies based on data from LinkedIn profiles, for example, or acquirees and especially exciting is our collaborative feature here. That's possible to hop in conversations like an in-house clubhouse feature in a way. So you see two team colleagues and you're like, Oh my God, I didn't talk to them for ages. So you hop in and you get the ultimate kitchen top feeling back. Yeah. So this tool is really for connecting with each other again, get the team spirit back. Yeah. We would be glad to see you on Thank you.

Joel (6m 3s):

Good. Very good. All right. I'm going to give you the softball first. Let's talk about the name. So Spontea, how'd you come up with the name? And will there be an American version called Sponfee? Because we drink coffee over here.

Viktoria (6m 17s):

Actually, it was a really fun conversation. Very intense because yeah, we were out like one German girl, one German guy who's living in Denmark and Australian girl living in London. And we were really discussing it because it had to be spontaneous in it and the same time, Spontea Coffee and tea. And she's like from London. So yeah, it must be something with tea at the same time. And the thing is, I was thinking in German, I was like, do you mean spontaneous Spontea Coffee? Because I literally read it. And I was like, no, no, I don't like it. I don't like it. And until we really talked about that yeah, it was really, it was SponCoffee, CoffeeSpontea, it was everything.

Viktoria (6m 59s):

So yeah, the same at the end when we talked and she said Sponttea! And like, yeah, I like it. I like it. It's smooth. It's quickly. And it has everything it is in there. So as spontaneous tea or Spontea Coffee.

Joel (7m 12s):

So the full name is Spontea Coffee.

Viktoria (7m 14s):

Yeah, exactly.

Chad (7m 16s):

And the domain was obviously available. Is that what I'm hearing too?

Viktoria (7m 22s):


Chad (7m 23s):

Excellent. Okay. So tell me a little bit about the team, you had. Was it two other team members? How big was the team? What are their backgrounds?

Viktoria (7m 31s):

So it was also an interesting thing. So I was applying like submitting my idea and yeah, the, the only, the other girl was helping in my chat. And we were like having this really hot discussion about everything. What kind of features can we have, like virtual rooms and all this stuff, like really, really hard discussion. And yeah, all of a sudden Tom joined us. He has like a more kind of hackathon background. He did a lot of them. And so he and her, they're both developers and I'm the only one having this business consultant background. So I was mainly responsible for making the concept more, like writing it down, doing the video and stuff like that.

Viktoria (8m 14s):

So it was, and for like developing the prototype, they were more responsible and was a lot of fun, like having this energies, especially where like really different people. I'm like, okay, so I'm a consultant. So I love talking to people and I'm like, Oh, I would love to share this information or this information. Then I have, like, we talked to Tom and he was like, I don't want to talk to like strangers or something. And we were like, Oh, what do you want? Like you really want to. So I was like really a lot of fun conversations about like sharing data also because we were like, okay, intelligent matching what kind of things we would share. And actually, I was also like, I'm from Germany. So data privacy is really a hot topic here. And for example, him, he lives in Denmark and he says like, we share everything.

Viktoria (8m 55s):

So it was really interesting to get all these ideas together. And only in two days.

Chad (8m 60s):

You're right out of the gate, there, there really isn't any intelligent matching. You were looking for individuals to tell you what their interests are so that you can actually just do that regular type of matching and then hopefully match them up for calls down the road.

Viktoria (9m 16s):

Yeah. So it was one option to say, okay, rather we want like more data, like more information about the people. If this is like, you're compliant with the data privacy things. And then you can like matching them more intelligent, intelligent, because you're then like, okay, you love tennis. So you get like matched with someone who loves tennis or something. But at the same time, we were like, okay, you can just get matched randomly, completely, randomly. And also using, for example, icebreaker questions who are like coming up from a bot, for example, like, I don't know, I was making all this questions like, yeah. What was the best thing you did today or something, or like, did you have a hard day or something like that?

Viktoria (10m 2s):

And then you can start just from scratch.

Chad (10m 4s):

So is this only a mobile app or is there also a desktop

Viktoria (10m 8s):

Right now? It's not a mobile, it's only the web version.

Joel (10m 12s):

Okay. So what do you want to, what do you want to be when you grow up? So you win this hackathon thing and this weekend, you know, development sprint, are you going to raise money? Do you have plans to evolve the product, go to market it as is and see what happens? Like what, what are the next steps?

Viktoria (10m 30s):

So actually I was talking to some people from HR because I really wanted to get to know their opinion about the tool itself. And really, I didn't even expect that much positive feedback about that because really people from HR looking into that, and there are like many big companies. For example, I was talking to someone from Microsoft, but they're developing kind of their own tools, but who knows, maybe they're coming up to us as well. Who knows? So we really see the need at one point. And yeah, we definitely would need to raise money to develop it further because it's really an early stage development prototype.

Joel (11m 11s):

Well, so let's get into sort of my, I guess two hurdles, I'll go over the first one. To me like these sort of, I don't know, chat, chat-roulette, you know, spontaneously meet folks that you work with through video almost feels like the ping pong tables of the nineties. You know, like companies thought it was cool and Hey, people are going to have these, these moments where they meet for ping pong or foosball or something, and really connect and engage. And I think what mostly has happened is that people don't use those because they think, well, if I'm using them, then I look like I'm slacking off. Or I'm sort of connecting with people that I may or may not like, talk to me about the human element.

Joel (11m 53s):

Do you feel like people want to spontaneously talk to coworkers in this way? Do you have any data to promote or support the business model or do you just have anecdotal conversation with HR people, who let's be Frank usually will tell you something is good now, whether or not they'll buy it as a whole different discussion, but help me and help me con convince me that people will do this.

Viktoria (12m 18s):

Okay. So I can actually talk also from my own experience, I told you, like, I'm very engaged in diversity thing. So I was building up with some other colleagues, huge female network within the company of 800 people. So when Corona came up, like everyone was like, Oh my God, we are just sitting at home and how to engage with each other. And actually we were one of the first ones saying, okay, we just do coffee dates with the people. So you get still this feeling of connection with each other and of this 800 people, like within a few days, more than 100 were like engaging, just filling up XO spreadsheets, like saying, okay, I will have an appointment with this people because we didn't have any other tools.

Viktoria (13m 1s):

Right. They just wanted to get connected. And especially new joiners, I had so many new journals talking to me. It was like really just 15 minute talks, but they were so important. And the same time you get a connection with a person who's there in the company for six years. And I was like, okay, just hit me up whenever you have any question and you need like some information about how getting things done or something, you know? So I think this is a very, very special tool, especially because I have the same feeling about this making appointments. Like I don't want to use that because I keep rescheduling stuff. I keep rescheduling stuff because I have so much to do during the day. And especially I forget about my breaks, right? So this was the main idea about that.

Viktoria (13m 42s):

They were saying, okay, the tool itself tells me to make a break, especially when it sees, I have like some, like I have no appointments in between. And then I can still say no, but like in this moment, you, you might feel happy about that because I barely talked to my teammates nowadays, because we have our tasks and we don't need to talk to each other, but it would be nice. I'm always happy if someone calls.

Chad (14m 8s):

So what happens when Covid goes away and we're not relegated to staying home anymore? I mean, do you believe this issue is going to be de prioritized? Yeah,

Viktoria (14m 17s):

Sure about that. Because I was also reading some studies, at least for Germany, for the German market. So almost half of the people like the employers, they don't want to go back to the office. And the only reason people want to go back to the office is to meet the people, to talk to them again, to network. This is the number one reason. There are some other reasons for sure, but this is the number one reason. So it will be kind of a part-time thing. Maybe we will go back, but probably it will be always a half-time thing, going back. So we need tools to stay connected. It's really like, I believe there's a so important because companies will have a huge issue because of this disconnection.

Viktoria (15m 3s):

Because at one point, like, you will say what I do this for this company, because you don't feel this bonding anymore. You're too far away from like being engaged in there.

Chad (15m 14s):

No zoom fatigue is real. So, you know, does anyone really want to go on another video call? No matter what, you know, you feel like you're on video calls all day. Do you really feel like you want to jump on another one, even though it's only for five minutes and maybe you're not talking about work, how do you get past the zoom fatigue rule? Yeah.

Viktoria (15m 35s):

This is actually like the only issue I see for sure, because we like need time, like a screen off time. But at the same time, I feel like for example, so in the tool itself, we definitely one, like we made a setting where you say, how often can you get called and which times you prefer, for example also. So you have definitely control over that. So you don't get pinged all the time. This is really important because it gets, it can get like annoying too. But for example, at the end of the day before the weekend, for example, you're just saying, okay, let's have a beer together. It's almost the end of the day.

Viktoria (16m 15s):

Right. And you feel great just talking to someone randomly or some of your team colleagues, even feeling this connection right now, having this beer and just be happy about like going into the weekend.