This startup is six months into an employment experiment -- no perks, lower pay, and you're free after two years

Jolt roei deutsch ceoJoltJolt CEO Roei Deutsch

“If we were to renew the employment deal today, what would it look like?” asks Jolt CEO and cofounder Roei Deutsch.

Jolt is a fast-growing Tel Aviv-based startup that connects Silicon Valley pros with startups around the world for videoconferenced lectures. So if you’re a Polish startup and could use an hour of expertise from a Google engineer or a Stanford professor, Jolt has the hookup.

From Deutsch’s perspective, modern employment is kind of a raw deal, especially for the mythical millennial tech worker: When they go looking for a job, Deutsch says, young people aren’t looking for lifetime careers — they’re looking for places where they can spend 12 to 24 months learning what they can before they go on to the next thing. It’s a big part of why even the top tech companies have such high turnover.

In fact, Deutsch says, the opportunity to learn is a more powerful attractor for top talent than lavish startup perks like snack kitchens or yoga classes. For many, Deutsch says, the chance to grow personally and professionally is more valuable even than a fat paycheck.

And so, about six months ago, when Deutsch and his cofounders went to build the Jolt team, they sponsored studies into the habits and desires of Silicon Valley and New York City tech workers. What they came out with was a concept called “Chapterships,” a new concept of employment for a new kind of workforce.

The Chapterships concept has helped them grow to 14 (and soon, he says 18) people. Now, Jolt is starting to grow a Silicon Valley presence with the same methods, using the $2 million in venture capital it raised in July 2016.

What are “Chapterships?”

The name comes from the fact that, as Deutsch says, “we help you better prepare for your next chapter.” He even wrote a free book about it, that you can download here.

This Chapterships philosophy has two key tenets:

  • After two years, your job is done, no matter what. At that point, you can either leave the company with no hard feelings, or else find a new two-year “mission” at the company. “It doesn’t mean I’m firing you, it means ‘let’s find something new for you to do.'”
  • There are no Google-esque perks at Jolt whatsoever, and Deutsch cops to the fact that he’s paying employees below market rate. Instead, that money gets reinvested into what he calls “employee success.” You come in with a list of things that you want to learn, and Jolt invests “tremendous resources” and assigns you a manager to help you get there.
JoltJolt’s infographic on what makes its approach special.

As an example,
Deutsch says, one of Jolt’s engineers recently came in to discuss his personal learning goals.
After his two years at Jolt were up, the engineer told Deutsch, he wanted to be the CEO of his own company, but he was concerned he wasn’t confident enough. Rather than try to convince him to stay, Deutsch made it part of his development plan.

“We’re probably the first startup to send an engineer to acting class,” Deutsch said.


This is still an “experiment,” as Deutsch readily admits. As Jolt refines the concept, he says, some employees are even going to have their stock options fully vested after two years as a push towards giving them “total freedom” when their two-year chaptership is up.

Nobody should be at Jolt if they don’t want to be, he says. It’s sort of similar to Google’s famed ATAP secret labs, where researchers are given two-year employment contracts and shown the door at the end, to encourage fast innovation and nobody to stay on their laurels.

And as for any concerns that the 2-year model encourages high turnover, well, Deutsch says that it’s still the tech industry, after all.

“People leave anyway,” jokes Deutsch.

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