Bad News for Founders: The Venture Capital World Is Not Logical
Molly Johnson-Jones is nearly in her second year as co-founder of Flexa Careers, and she has a lot to show for it.
Flexa Careers, based in London, is dedicated to helping job seekers find flexible jobs and is built on the premise that, for most, the work-life balance is off — and that leads to dissatisfaction, higher rates of illness, less sleep, and poor mental health. Meanwhile, the company says that a full 90% of job descriptions don’t make any mention of flexibility.
On the site, job seekers take a quiz to see if they meet the criteria for “flexification,” and then get access to a curated, vetted list of truly flexible jobs — including flexible work location, remote work possibilities, flexible hours, and dog-friendly work sites.
Companies, meanwhile, get access to a self-selected group of job seekers who already have a strong idea about what their ideal job would be, and better brand visibility.
Johnson-Jones is an Oxford University grad who had a BA Honors in Geography. While there she was the campus TEDx treasurer, captain of the rowing team, and president of the Oxford Investment and Finance Society.
While in university, she worked as an intern at Rothschild and then as a scholar at Deloitte. Upon graduation, she was a food retail analyst at Nomura International, and then had the same role at another company. She quickly moved up to be head of food retail research at GlobalData Retail, which at the time was known as Conlumino and Verdict Retail. She then served two roles — consultant and head of strategy — at Stone & River, which providers insight and analysis for senior executives in retail, hospitality, and leisure, before spending a year at 11:FS, where she was the senior research strategy lead, at which time she was co-founding Flexa Careers.
Long Hours at Work Were Not Working for Johnson-Jones
It was when she was working as an analyst several years ago that the idea for Flexa was hatched. As Johnson-Jones told me on a recent episode of my podcast, Back Yourself, she has an auto-immune disease, and the stress of long days at work resulted in physical impacts to her body — her joints swelled up to the point where she could not walk. Working from home eased things considerably.
Johnson-Jones asked her company if she could work from home, and they sent her to an occupational work therapist, who recommended she be registered as disabled. Less than two weeks later, she was given a settlement package from her employer.
“I obviously left,” she said.
Meanwhile, her partner was helping to lead a company that offered workplace flexibility and found that by doing so they had better, happier, more productive workers.
“We decided to build on that because there was a pretty obvious gap in the market,” she said.
‘The Office Is Dead’ Is Only True at Companies That Have Already Killed It
You might hear that the office is dead, but that’s not really true, Johnson-Jones said. Nearly half of all companies fail when measured against Flexa’s “flexification” scale. Most people have to ask for flex schedules and many companies that think they are flexible aren’t truly flexible.
“What flexibility really is, is having it without having to request it,” she said. “Companies that offer it from day one, no questions asked, are much rarer than you think.”
Post-pandemic, there is a greater shift to flexible work arrangements, but many details are still being worked out, and many companies are still not fully advertising that they are “flexible” or even what the term means to them.
Advice to Founders: VC is Not Logical, and Stop Taking So Much Advice
As a founder, Johnson-Jones has learned plenty about the venture capital process. Too many startups, she said, are wrapped up in valuation, and VC is only investing in companies that they see as having the potential to make huge sums of money.
“That means they are passing up dozens of companies that could be unicorns,” she said. “And the likelihood of that is so low.”
Investment VC and the ideas around it are confusing, she says: “It is not a logical process. The system is broken.”
What advice would she pass along to other founders?
“Ignore everyone’s advice until everyone tells you the same thing,” she says. “Then do it.”
Johnson-Jones said she listened to too many people and their opinions, which too often led them down dead-end pathways they had to work themselves out of.
“People told us, ‘This is the right thing to do,’ and we wasted time listening to people who we thought knew more than we did,” she said. “No one knows you better than you do.”
Flexa succeeded in a crowded business market by finding a niche and perfecting the idea — though the process might have been easier if they had been more successful about what advice to take.