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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jobbatical : The Story of a Checkbox

Jobbatical : The Story of  a Checkbox

Last week it was announced that Jobbatical received funding. Before, we get into the numbers on this endeavor, let’s have a look at the idea.

"Jobbatical"? Is this some hip word the kids are using these days? We at the Dot EE Bubble try to be up on all the latest trends, but this one must have passed us by.

Actually, it passed everyone by. It’s a word the company made up. It’s intended to be a play on the real word “sabbatical.” For those not familiar with the word sabbatical, we don’t blame you – the word is about as commonly used today as “rapscallion” because they are so uncommon. A sabbatical these days is pretty much reserved for high-ranking university professors to take 6-12 months off from teaching to focus on their research. It’s estimated only 5% of US companies offer a paid sabbatical.

It's OK. He's on sabbatical.

Jobattical? Jobbattical? Jobbatttical? How many t’s and how many b’s? That’s the problem when you name a company after a made-up word, based on a word that is not commonly used. Let’s hope Google’s auto-correct works when people try to find this company online. We mis-typed their name about 100 times just writing this post!

Back to the idea. As we understand it, the jobbatical is for working professionals who want to take a break from their job and find another short-term job with a “life-changing experience”. Likewise, it would allow companies to find short-term help for projects they have, to be filled by people on a jobbatical.

Why so skeptical?

According the company’s own data, 74% of professionals would like to take a jobbatical.

Of course they would! Who doesn’t want to quit their job for a year and take a job that is more fun? According to our data, 100% of professionals would like a pay raise, 100% of professionals want more vacation time, and 100% of professionals want to work fewer hours. We wonder what else was on their scientific survey. Did they ask these professionals if they wanted 10 million euros? Did they ask them if they wanted to take a 3-month vacation on the French Riviera?

Would like a larger office space... and a jobbatical, of course!

We know many aspiring entrepreneurs read our blog, and there’s a valuable lesson here. A lot of companies use surveys of potential customers to validate their idea, but it’s important to be careful of the methodology. We’d have worded the question this way: “Would you take a jobbatical for one year if it meant taking a 15% pay cut and possibly moving to another city?” Now we just pulled the 15% number out of the bottom of an empty sauna water bucket, but it makes people really think of the possible costs of a jobbatical, and it will result in more reliable data.

It’s not crazy to assume that any jobbatical will incur costs, whether it’s taking a pay cut, moving to a new city, or simply longer commute times. A lot of people simply can’t afford any disruption or decrease in their income. Government data shows that nearly half of all Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, with few liquid assets. These aren’t the type of people who are going to take any financial risks by jumping to a short-term job, with a potential pay cut and the chance that their previous job is not there when they come back.

But let’s give the Jobbatical team the benefit of the doubt and assume there is enormous pent-up demand for jobbaticals. While among our circle of friends (and yes.. even a few rapscallions), we have never heard anyone utter “I wish I could leave my job for a year, but I know of no possible way to find another job.”, that doesn’t mean it’s not the case. We’ve often been called idiots, so it would be no surprise if our friends are idiots also.

Is the Jobbatical website going to fill this huge apparent need for people to find short-term jobs? Well, setting aside the data showing that 80% of jobs are found through networking with peers, there are still a number of websites out there where people can look for full-time, permanent jobs.

In fact, that’s just the problem! The biggest threat to Jobbatical’s success is a simple checkbox on a web page! All these existing job websites need to do is add another search option for “jobbatical” (they’ll use a more logical term of course, like a word that can be found in the dictionary), so job seekers and companies can include that in their search.

Coming soon: an additional checkbox in the Job Type section

These existing job websites already have spent years on marketing and building their brand so they already have an existing user base looking for jobs. They also have the technical resources to add a checkbox to their search forms.

So in summary, we have a company trying to solve a problem that we’re not sure exists, and if it does, the existing established players in the market can easily solve it by adding a checkbox to their search feature.

Now you know what time it is... time for the money!

Jobbatical raised a total of 260,000 euros. 130,000 euros of taxpayer money came via SmartCap. The other 130,000 euros came from various angel (their term, not ours) investors in Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Russia, and the UK. In fact, the president of the Estonian Business Angels Network (ESTBAN) was so proud of this investment that he bragged how it was the first time such an investment has been done with investors from 5 countries.

Good work, indeed. So why did the taxpayer need to get involved? There are plenty of private investors ready to put in their money.

In fact, the founder of Jobbatical, Karoli Hindriks, might have a few good contacts to find private investors. Her husband is Allan Martinson, who founded Martinson Trigon Venture Partners (MTVP), and is even pictured on the front page of ESTBAN's website. Does the wife of a prominent venture capitalist really need money from the taxpayer to start her latest venture? Would the wife of a founder of Benchmark Capital expect the California government to fund her startup company that is developing a website to solve the pressing need of how to manage the schedules of all your household staff?

Good household staff management tools are so hard to find!

Of course, we wish them the best wasting our taxpayer money. Maybe we’ll apply for a jobbatical at Enterprise Estonia. We’re sure they’ll be glad to have us.


  1. Sounds like business as usual in Estonia. Some woman's husband knows some guys in some other place, and they all benefit from misuse of government money.

  2. Why is Estonia not spending money to double teachers salaries. These guys are just raping money from the government, while cuts are being made everywhere else.

    If only teachers knew this, they probably would go red. Or maybe the intent is to ensure there is not much future in Estonia with reducing education.

  3. I really don't get this business concept. What employer would be cool with one of their skilled employees taking a long leave of absence to go work for a competitor? The possible conflict seems huge. There is a reason people sign non-compete agreements. Taking a short term job somewhere else seems a direct violation of any such agreement.
    This looks like a poorly thought out concept which has a main purpose of siphoning off tax dollars to the rich and politically connected. It's sad to see this become a trend in Estonia. Why should middle class taxpayers be forced to subsidize the lifestyles of the rich?

  4. I wonder if it works like this:
    1. Private investors sign letter saying they plan to invest in the company.
    2. Smartcap sees the letter, and based on that, they make their own investment in the company because they match private investor money. They send money to the company.
    3. Private investors never actually give any money to the company, or they do, but then send invoices to the company for "services" so they can get it back.
    4. Result: only taxpayer money in the company, and a sweet deal for private investors.

    1. That's awesome - why don't we make an app that does that for you automatically in Estonia. e-stoned

  5. I wish it was "government money" - but it's EU tax payers money; money the Western Europeans are donating to poor Estonia...