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How Personio CEO Hanno Renner built a $6.3 billion company


Personio CEO Hanno Renner

Benjamin Hall | CNBC

Personio, a software company that has been valued at $6.3 Billion in six years, is Europe’s top-earning start-up.

Hanno Renner is a former CEO.

Renner spoke to CNBC and recalled the fact that there was only 200 euros (or $226) left in Renner’s company bank account prior to receiving its first significant funding.  

Renner founded Personio in Munich (Germany) in 2015. Roman Schumacher, Arseniy Vershinin and Ignaz Forstmeier. They met at the Center for Digital Technology and Management (a jointly operated institution of the main universities in Munich), while they were studying together.

Personio was founded to serve small and medium businesses. The inspiration for Personio was a friend’s struggle with managing the HR process at his job as chief technology officer.

The four of them set out to create a solution. Personio was a student, and they did not have an office. They used every space available at their college campus to develop the first version of Personio’s software. To help cover costs, they gathered whatever savings they could.

After they had customers pay for their first piece of software they were able to purchase more software licenses and rent small offices to hire employees.

Personio then raised 2.1 Million Euros in a Seed Funding Round in July 2016. Investors included Global Founders Capital which has backed LinkedIn and others. FacebookMeta, which was recently rebranded to,

Renner stated that Personio had to be funded before it could get its first round. He explained that this was an expected condition in fund-raising agreements.

He stated that he still had a screen from the bank account. We had about 100 euro in our bank account when we received our second round of funding. It was worth 2 million. [euros]”It was a great time for us, and it was amazing how close we could manage to that point.”

Since then, Personio has seen a dramatic change in its financial position. Personio was worth $6.3 billion in its latest round of financing, the series E round. It announced this funding in October. This is quite an increase for Personio, which was valued at $1.7B in January’s series D round.

Personio raised more than $500million from investors.

Personio stated that it had significant reserves from the January investment round, which was when it was still a start-up. The latest funding announcement was made last month.

Funding for the latest category of software called People Workflow Automation is now available. The goal is to eliminate software barriers between Human Resources and the other departments of the company. This could be used to automate tasks that are shared across multiple parts of an organization when hiring employees. 

Personio is competing with other HR software startups like Hibob and larger incumbents such as SAP. Salesforce.

“It is not about being a boss.”

The idea of running a software company worth multi-billion dollars seems like a different thing. Renner’s part-time job as a yacht skipperWhile he was at college.

Renner stated that sailing was something he had always loved. Renner was a student at college and couldn’t afford the cost of pursuing it in a hobby. So he decided that he would become a yachtmaster. He was able to be a skipper, and he also got paid to take him on college vacations around the globe to drive boats. This helped to finance his education.

It wasn’t always glamorous and fun. The “intense” and sometimes dangerous task of commanding a boat is not for everyone. [a]Renner acknowledged that the job was more challenging than people imagine, since he was also responsible for guests and crew.

He was able to manage a team and recognize the value of getting input from employees.

Renner explained, however, that it isn’t about “being a boss” or “being someone’s boss” and that he wants Personio’s employees to feel “ownership”.

Renner stated that he wants to ensure employees feel empowered and able to take the correct decisions.

Personio is clearly on the right track, with more than 1,000 employees now, up 350 from 2020.

Ryan Browne, CNBC contributed to this article.

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