Founder Fika Friday with Mathias Thulin, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer of GetAccept
🚀 May 21st | #FFF with Mathias Thulin, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer of Get Accept: How to secure Series B and build a global business in Malmö
Mathias Thulin is a tech entrepreneur, Head of Operations, and Party Master of GetAccept. He got involved with sales from the age of 6, creating flower arrangements and selling them to all his neighbors in Växjö, and since then, he has never stopped creating win-win situations. His passion for solving frustrations remained throughout his life, and he has been a serial entrepreneur who built companies in Sweden and the US.
His latest company, GetAccept is an all-in-one sales engagement platform for B2B, which allows businesses to increase sales and close more deals by sending sales content with personalized video reminders, live chat and e-signature.
When Mathias and his co-founders founded GetAccept in 2015, they quickly gained traction as a Y Combinator funded company, one of the most prestigious startup-accelerators. He shared his international experiences at Y Combinator. When being asked about how his team managed to start and fund a business in the US, he said:
If you want to be successful in the US, you need to remember that it's such a big country. Sweden is one 10th of only California, so if you really want to be successful in the US, you need to move there and dedicate yourself. Give yourself the chance to become successful.
GetAccept has completed three funding rounds. In their latest Series B round, they raised $20 million led by Bessemer, one of the most prominent venture capital firms in the world. However, he talked about the importance of bootstraping and he advised to other founders that:
Entrepreneurs need to understand that you need to bootstrap your company in the beginning. If you don't know how to bootstrap your company, you don't know where to invest the money. When I personally invest in companies, I make sure that the founders understand how hard it is to run a bootstrapped company.
Don't raise money if you don't know how to spend them. Probably, you know your pitch and which problems you are solving, the team and so on. But why now? And how are you going to use them? Those are the questions that are the hardest to come up with a good answer.
In this Founder Fika Friday, Zhenni Liang, Managing Director of Skåne Startups, and our guests, founders of great startups in the Scanian region, Prudence Persson, CEO of Manje Health, Lotta Strand, co-founder of Svava, Mikael Wirén, co-founder of Payap and Wala Loubani Loubani, CEO of UrKip, had the pleasure to ask their questions to Mathias Thulin whose ntrepreneurial journey provides valuable learnings.
In this interview, he talked about the importance of aligning your core values with your co-founders, the keys to creating a vibrant company culture, and ways to stand out as a business and get your first enterprise customers.
From my recommendation, you need to be at least two to make something really successful and fast. And many times, it needs to be one business-minded and one really technical; that's the best combo. When we started GetAccept we shared the culture, our core values, and our vision, what we want to achieve.
Four co-founders, it's many times a lot. You really need to make sure that you know them. And definitely that you share the core values at least, otherwise it is easy to end up in a conflict. That's actually the most common reason why 90% of all startups fail.
Finally, he shared some important questions that an entrepreneur should be ready to answer to any potential investors. Mathias is driven by his passion for bringing massive change fast and “do more with less”.
Entrepreneurial Journey and Apsis Merging
Q: Mathias, you started a company called ProspectEye AB back in 2007, which grew to be one of the biggest digital lead generation and marketing automation platforms in the Nordic Region. That business has 1300 users, and it was eventually acquired by Apsis Group. Can you share with us a little bit of the learning from that journey?
So, after I graduated as a Mechanical Engineer and thought that was too boring, I decided that I want to work with tech instead. I started that in a company, then called Lundalogik, today is known as Lime, which has a great journey on the stock market. I started as a consultant, and I moved quite quickly on sales, and I got challenged by the founder. He said you need to double the revenue next year, but you can’t invest any money. So, then we needed to think about how we could solve that. And back then, the biggest frustration I had was to get more meetings.
So, then I started to think how could we understand who actually wants our product and work much more efficiently instead of just standing and "screaming" and cold calling. So that was when I started my first company with my co-founder, Jonas, who is also co-founder of GetAccept, and we started ProspectEye. That was a platform that tracked all the visitors on the web page and connected it to CRM, removed all the rubbish and scraps to only keep the 10% really relevant potential customers.
Then, back in 2010, we needed to pivot towards marketing automation because we saw that it is important to market ourselves in a soft way to let potential customers know us a little bit better before we approach and call them. And that was a super fun journey, more or less my first real company journey.
And we scaled to Malmö, Stockholm, and Gothenburg and started to look to expand to Europe, and then it was when we were approached by Apsis. And they said, "we have a newsletter, you have the engine for marketing automation, we have all the offices, you could have 200 more salespeople selling your platform, shouldn't that be a win-win?" And that was why we merged the company in a very successful way. One thing we missed and it was definitely a learning from the merge was that we missed checking the company cultures.
We had spent so much time on how to build up our company culture, and during a merge, you really need to not only do a product due diligence but also check the culture you're moving into because that was not exactly what we expected, which led as to leave the company two years after. So overall, it was a successful merge, but without tons of learnings.
Q: Many startups dream about being approached by this big company coming and giving them millions of dollars for all of their shares. But a merger is something quite different. Why did you go into the merger with Apsis, instead of continuing building the company on your own? Was it a way to scale fast, or was there something else that you saw with Apsis that you wanted to bring in?
It is important to mention that this was 15 years ago, I was a first-time founder, and you get really flattered when people approach you. And I think that's something you should always be prepared for, what you should answer if someone is knocking on the door, because we were definitely not prepared.
I never dreamt about money, that's not the passion or driver for me. It's really about changing things and changing things fast. And the reason why we did it was because we talked about the "story" of accessing 156 people instead of only our 20. That made us excited "oh my god, we can really scale fast now".
So that story made us decide to access more resources. Back at Lime, I was responsible and involved in opening up Denmark, Norway and Finland. So, I know the hassle and the challenges of opening up new countries, and I saw that it would take at least two to three years to fix, so the merger was a shortcut to scale faster. And it was not a traditional acquisition; it was a combination of cash and shares so that we can be involved and still be a part of the journey.
Q: How do you think these experiences with the acquisition helped you start your next business, GetAccept?
The answer to this comes back to frustrations. When we actually solved marketing automation, generating leads and booking meetings was not the biggest challenge anymore. Everyone wanted to have a meeting to understand what marketing automation was about.
So, our new biggest challenge was to take a great meeting, after you had a conversation with a prospect, to the point where they actually sign and finalize the contract. So, we were wondering why doesn't a platform that helps a salesperson to close the deal exists—a place to collect all the collateral, like video meetings, their conversations, etc. So far, it was just random phone calls, email threads, no structure at all.
And when we started to analyze, 60% of all the sales proposals globally just end up in the status quo. Nothing happens. You actually lose only 16% of your opportunities to a competitor, meaning that your biggest competitor working as a sales rep is your own ability to make your prospects make a decision at all. So that was something we started to think about and say "Okay if we could combine several different tools out there, like document tracking, e-signatures, video, pitching tools, and conversations tools by a chat, we could create a deal room experience, a place where you could handle that full process.
And, of course, when you are sitting in Malmö, you are wondering, does that exist? So, we went to San Francisco because we said, if it exists, it's definitely someone in San Francisco coming up with that idea. So, we met a lot of investors, and everyone said, "It's crazy. No one does this. People just focus on the lead generation part and not on the closing part. Super interesting. You should pitch this to Y Combinator." And we didn't know what Y Combinator was back then; we only knew that it was a great company accelerator.
It is a little bit like American Idol, but for entrepreneurs, so we were wondering, "but is it for first-time entrepreneurs?" And they said, "Yeah…, but in the US, you are still a first-time entrepreneur." And that was really the feeling we got because we had zero network. So, we applied to Y Combinator and got accepted, and that was fantastic. Me personally, I had just bought a house outside Malmö, I just got a daughter, our second kid, and Y Combinator said you need to move here with your family in two weeks. Okay… So that was the hardest pitch to convince my family! But we moved there. And that's been a fantastic journey.
The importance of a solid Founding Team
Q: You started GetAccept in 2015, with three other Swedish founders. Can you tell us a little bit of the background of the founders? And how did you manage to set up a team that has complementary skill set?
I get so many great pitch decks almost every week, but I think many people lack a really good co-founder. From my recommendation, you need to be at least two to make something really successful and fast. And many times, it needs to be one business-minded and one really technical; that's the best combo. When we started GetAccept we shared the culture, our core values, and our vision, what we want to achieve. We said, when you are working with tech and SaaS, the big "holy grail" is to launch a company in the US.
So that was the first thing we needed to align. Do we want to become global, or just build another Nordic company? No, we want to be global. And then I was the guy in between all the co-founders. So, of course, I took Jonas, that I started my previous company with because I'm 80% businessman, 20% tech. He is 20% businessman and 80% tech, so it's a good combo, and we really understand each other.
And then we saw that we need a product guy. Because if we go to the US, the company needs to be product first, otherwise, it won’t be successful. You really need to understand the product and growth and stuff like that to build a super good product, among companies like Airbnb, Slack and so on. That’s why I brought in Samir, that I worked with at Lime. He was the VP of product, and I was the VP of sales. Normally these persons are always in conflict, I overpromise, and he underdelivers. But we had a good understanding of each other, and we wanted to build a company together.
And then we said that we need one person taking 100% control and care of the sales process. That’s when we took in Carl, who has a great understanding and knowledge of B2B outbound sales. Carl was running the company that was the only partner we had with ProspectEye, so I knew that he really could sell and that he was a great culture fit.
Are four founders too many? A lot of people say that it's probably too many. But for us, it was important to focus. Now I could focus on marketing, Samir can focus on product, Carl can focus on sales, and Jonas can focus on development.
So, for us, it was the perfect fit because we didn't become each other's bottleneck. We could deep in and start to work and say I respect your domain, you can ask me for advice, but I will not yet challenge you. I really trust you. So, I think that's the background of why we could go so fast. But of course, four co-founders, it's many times a lot. You really need to make sure that you know them.
And definitely that you share the core values at least, otherwise it is easy to end up in a conflict. That's actually the most common reason why 90% of all startups fail: number one reason, conflict with co-founders. The second thing is that you don't reach product-market fit. And then the third one is that you can't attract the right talent, meaning that it's only the founding team. And if you can't attract new talents, you can't attract money, and then you will have a hard time scaling fast.
Q: You talked about you and your co-founders at the early stage. Were you all working full time? And how were you financing that? Did you have some pre-seed funding? Or was it founder contributions?
That's one of the trickiest parts when you want to start a company and thinking how we should start. How should we finance it? Of course, we were a little bit fortunate that we just sold the previous company so we could find that first part ourselves. But for us, it was super important that we start 100% directly because doing the hybrid (working in parallel while building a startup), that's very hard. And it takes a lot of energy.
And three of us four had two kids each, so it was not the perfect timing. Everyone had just gotten their second kid, so if you asked, "Should we start the company together?" Probably not. But we just did. We have very good wives. That's our passion. So for us, it was really starting directly, and we run the first one and a half years super bootstrapped because that's what we love. One of our core values is "Do more with less", be efficient in a good way. And you need to work hard. Work, day and night the first year. I think we worked on average 16 hours per day and six days per week. So that was the agreement we had.
Building a company in the US
Q: Many Nordic founders usually start and prefer to have their roots in the Nordic countries, then they expand slowly to other European countries, and then probably to the US market. But with GetAccept, you decided to enter the US market from the very beginning. What was your thinking back then? And what made you decide to do that?
I've seen that many times, as well, and I've seen so many companies fail. And I think the reason why so many fail is that they start and try out the US like a side business. They add some money, maybe put one or two feet on the ground, and hope for the best.
If you want to be successful in the US, you need to remember that it's such a big country. Sweden is one 10th of only California, so if you really want to be successful in the US, you need to move there and dedicate yourself. Give yourself the chance to become successful.
So for us, it was obvious that we need to move there. We need to understand the culture, we need to build up the network. So there was no discussion at all to stay in Malmö. All of us moved to San Francisco and then we hired one person instead, in Sweden. We had Sweden as a side thing because we have a quite good network, and we could manage it at nighttime from the US.
We were working two shifts. We had a small apartment, and we had both camera and photo lights to have daylight during nighttime. We were working from nine to five, and then we were getting home, playing a little bit with the kids, having some dinner with the wife, and so on. At nine o'clock, we were going back to the office because that was when Sweden and Europe were opening up again. And then we were working from nine to three in the morning. We did this six days per week. That was a really tough time, but it was needed to make everything happen. When you start, of course, you don't always need to put in so many hours, but it's hard work. It's tough.
Q: How did the experience in Y Combinator change your perspective or your approach in building a SaaS business?
We thought we knew how to build a company, and we definitely did. But we knew how to be a bootstrapped company in the Nordics. Building a company in the US is not totally different, as it's always about product-market fit, but a big difference is that it costs so much money.
Hiring people is three times the price of hiring a person in Malmö. And if you want to scale fast and hire people, you need money. So then you really need to go to VCs and start fundraising. We didn't have any experience of fundraising, so that was something we learned from Y Combinator. They helped us a lot with our pitch deck, network, and so on. We are very thankful for that because otherwise, it would be a huge struggle for us.
We learned a lot and the mentality in San Francisco is that everyone wants to help you. Even if they are close to your competitors, they are open to help you. Everyone at least gives you one meeting, so it doesn't matter who you contact, they always take 15 minutes to give you one meeting. And you need to understand that and use that in a very efficient way. And that's a culture I brought back to Sweden as well. So that's why I always say yes when people invite me to talk about entrepreneurship. I think it's super valuable.
Gaining enterprise customers & standing out from the crowd
Q: Your team secured their first enterprise customer back in 2016. Would you please share with us a little bit of the early struggles when it comes to customer acquisition?
In the beginning, you need to fake it until you make it more or less. Of course, as a small company, you can't lie, you should never lie, and that's why it's so hard when you want to get your first big enterprise logo. One way you can hack customer acquisition is to have great content. Have a great web page, have a lot of reference cases and so on.
Our first big customer in Sweden was Tele2. Our platform was just released. And they started to ask if we are ISO certified, and we said not yet, but we're spending a lot of time on it. We offered to show them our corporate manual, and they found it very professional. And in the question, is your platform safe since we hadn't talked to compliance and stuff like that, we mentioned that we got help from the guy "sitting up there" in Twitter and the infrastructure and that we are a reference case for Amazon. And from their perspective, it seemed like we have it under control. So you need to build a narrative and stories around why you are secure, and you don't really need to show them everything.
For example, we showed them pictures afterwards of the office when they became customers to us. And it was 4 chairs, 1 table in the middle and 4 computers, in a small small apartment, and they said: "Oh, my God, we thought you were much, much bigger". But they are still customers today and super happy. We have a great partnership. And that's when other enterprises open up because when you have one great logo, that's when you can use it. And when another enterprise asks about security, for example, you get the chance to say, Tele2 checked us and all our processes, and they thought it was enough, so probably it'll be enough for you as well. And that's how it starts.
Q: We saw your video, in your YouTube channel Inside Silicon Valley, how to hack the SaaStr conference, one of the largest SaaS conference in the world. We saw you in a crazy, beautiful outfit, you offered special drinks and even invited top negotiation experts to attract people to your booth and your team managed to generate 700 leads in 3 days of conference. But how has your B2B sales approach changed during the pandemic when people cannot meet in person?
That's always the challenge, and it doesn't matter if there is a pandemic or not if you look at how crowded the sales and marketing industry is. The marketing tools back in 2015 were 1500. Today they are 8000. So it's getting more crowded everywhere, and you really need to stand out.
You really need to express to the customer what pain you're solving and why they should look at you. Being standard and not standing out will not give you a good advantage. So, what we did at the conference was TV- suits, standing out, being crazy, hack things, and that really works.
Of course, it's harder now with the pandemic because you can't do as crazy things online, but we tried to do. If you follow GetAccept or me on LinkedIn, you will see that we tried to do a lot of crazy videos, we jumped out from airplanes in suits, we hijacked and faked things when we entered the UK, we do so many things. You should see my inbox. We get so much feedback that "oh, we really love what you're doing." "Finally, something fun to get."
Because if you want to sell your tool, it is quite boring talking about your tool. We launched Inside Silicon Valley, a reality show on YouTube, about how it was to start a company and move into the US. We didn't even mention the company name until episode number nine, and we didn't talk about what we're doing until episode number nine. And for our two first years, this was our best lead channel. That's how people, entrepreneurs, and prospects found us. So sometimes content that does not exactly say what you are doing, but it's more about creating interest could be super valuable.
The importance of company culture and aligned values
Q: Back in 2019, you grew GetAccept from 30 to 100 employees. You actually overgrew the employees before you even move into your new office in Malmö. When hiring and onboarding a global team, what are some of the key takeaways that you would like to share with us?
Growing from 30 to 100 employees is maybe one of the hardest steps to take while building a company because that's when you're adding a manager layer, and really building out the structure that should hold for at least until you are 200 people. When we hire people, we always make sure to onboard them in a very professional way. That's been super core and important for us.
It doesn't matter if you're in the US, France, or the UK, we fly everyone to the office environment. And the reason for that is that Malmö is the office... Headquarters is still in San Francisco, but in Malmö, we have all the departments. We moved all development to Malmö because of what I said before, one-third of the cost, and because people are loyal here. That's not the case in the US, where we need to always fight against Google, Facebook, and so on.
Our office in Malmö is definitely our biggest. So we fly everyone here and let them hang out with people for two weeks, they live together, they have sessions during the day, they have cook along during nighttime as well. That brings them so much together and creates a great culture. And it is so much easier for people in the US to go back and have a relationship with Sweden.
There is a big cultural difference. So for us, it's important to show our Swedish culture. So, a very structured onboarding is great. We invest a lot of money in it, and we also have our career plan called GetNext. I think that's like the two successful things that we have invested so much time in.
Q: How did you come up with the decision to make company culture a focal point while building GetAccept?
If you want to scale fast, everyone needs to have the same, or share at least, the same core values and work in the same direction; otherwise, you will have too many conflicts, you'll be spending too much energy and so many other things. Having everyone aligned towards the same vision and goal is super important.
When we started the company, we, four co-founders, said the core values we would love the company to have are, and then we broke them down, so we said, okay, let's aim for this. We spent time, money, and energy to make sure that we keep the core values. But these were our core values.
So, when we had hired the first 10, we went to them and had the same workshop again to see what core values do we think we have now. Again, 90% were the same, so still quite similar. And then we said, let's do this again when we are 30, but then we took a step away and let them run the workshop to see if that's actually the culture or not because that's the first time we could see if it's actually the company culture or our vision of what we want the culture to be. And it's still 90% the same! The one core value that identifies us the most is the "do more with less".
If you want to be able not to be the bottleneck for the company, to take one step away, to have great managers and so on, they need to share your culture, otherwise, you will start to micromanage people.
We have implemented something called OKRs ("Objectives and Key Results") which is something from Google on how you can steer the company in a good way working with objectives and key results. If you don't have any core values to set up the objectives, then it will be so hard for you to manage the company. I think that's the core of building a successful company, if you want to grow fast, at least.
Q: Regarding the team and onboarding new people, how do you work with diversity and inclusion?
We actually work a lot with diversity. That's one of our key things, and we have one person responsible for that. If you put someone accountable for that, then you know that it will be measured, it will be followed up, and so on.
I think at GetAccept, you can find more or less all nationalities, we have drag queens and, yeah, whoever you can think about, and I think that creates a great dynamic. They still share the same core values, but there is such a big diversity. And we are working a lot right now with creating great diversity also in the dev team, because I think hiring women in tech is much, much harder.
You can't just say, we need to have 50% girls or women in the dev team, you need to have a plan. So that's why we have initiated partnerships with pink programming, we are having a person responsible for that, we are making surveys with all of them, asking how we can be better.
You need to make people both accountable and be able to start projects and separate away time for that. You can't just say that (without actions). So we work a lot with diversity, and actually, when we were 30 people, we hired a person, she's called Stephanie, she is still with the company, and her title and role was Culture Hero. She worked with making sure that we had a great culture. That was a full-time position.
Q: Regarding the culture and you as a person or like a figure, or perhaps even a “mascot” of the company. Do you feel that the culture is dependent on you as a person?
Not anymore. In the beginning, it's always dependent on the ones setting the culture and what you want the culture to be because the culture is not exactly what people you hire. Of course, that's a part of it, but it's also the culture you set. If you say you can talk about whatever you want, they also need to be able to talk about whatever they want.
And as a founder and manager, you need to live and do what you say. For us, one of the key things is to make sure people really understand that we are always involved in everything, everyone can go out and try new positions and so on. We forced the dev team to cold call, we forced all the sales reps to sit in the support so everyone understands the challenges. That's how you are building a great culture, and that's how you are removing it also from you as a founder.
One thing many people forget when building culture is to create great parties, and they think that's more on the private side. No, it's not. That's really where you show how people can hang out with each other. And one thing that's super good for us is that more or less all parties we have, we spend so much time and money to make them fun and successful, but we also make many times themes, like masquerade, because that removes a lot of friction, if you're a manager, or newbie or whatever because then you just hang out with people.
Q: In one of your interviews, you talked about that you are still the responsible person for organizing parties in your company right now. Right?
Absolutely. I had a meeting yesterday about our company trip next year. As I said, it's super important, because you set so much culture when you travel on company trips together.
Q: What do you think makes GetAccept that awesome company to work for?
Because we care about the people. You spend many times more time at the office compared to your family, or it is 50/50. So it needs to be fun. Life is too short to be bored. We care so much about the people, and we also make sure to challenge them. We make them think about how they can grow within the company instead of needing to go outside. So I think that's why we are quite successful and have a very high retention of our own employees.
Fundraising and Bootstrapping
Q: You raised your seed round of $1.6 million back in 2017. What was the stage of the company in terms of the product development or revenue or other metrics that enabled you to raise that amount of capital?
We have done three fundraising rounds. The first one was the seed round, and it came naturally after the Y Combinator because Y Combinator ends with a pitch in front of 516 investors at once. Never been that nervous! We raised our first seed round, and I think it was when we had 500,000 in annual recurring revenue. That's how we measure that, SaaS business, and of course, dollars. I only talk dollars now, it's so much easier.
Then we decided to raise our Series A. You usually raise the Series A between 1 and 3, or 1 and 4 million in ARR. We had 3, more or less, so we raised our Series A, and that was when we brought in DN Capital, a really successful VC firm from the UK. What we learned when we sold our previous company was to do super due diligence on DN Capital.
So actually, one of the well-known founders here in Malmö, Hampus, was referenced because they had shut down the company that he had found, Brisk. And the best reference case you can have is to check how VC firms behave when your company struggle or if you need to go bankrupt, or when they need to turn the company down. That's when they really show if they're good or bad. And Hampus recommendation was more or less on it, and they showed that they are super professional and a good investor. So we did a lot of research, and that's why we ended up with them.
We always had a big dream of having Bessemer as an investor because they are the most well-known VCs in the SaaS business behind Shopify and LinkedIn, and DocuSign, our biggest competitor. So when we were about to raise our series A, they took a meeting with us, but in the meeting, they said sorry, guys, no, it's in conflict with DocuSign. We can't have you in the portfolio.
But then DocuSign IPO'd, so that opened up, and we managed to get them to lead our Series B round that we did six months ago, this winter. One of the coolest things with that fundraising round was that we said, okay, we are from a small town, Malmö, we definitely need to meet them in person to show our energy show a lot, make the shows as we did on the fairs and events.
But we couldn't meet due to the pandemic. So we said, okay, should we just close it down now or what...? We can't get 200 million Swedish kronor by pitching via Zoom. It will be impossible. But we managed to fix that. We used our tools, we used a lot of video pitches, we prepared a lot.
I still remember the last pitch we pitched for 60 investors at Bessemer at one time. You can just imagine it was someone in China standing on the cross-train or it was someone in Tel Aviv almost sleeping, and we were wondering okay, what do they think? But we can have a whole session about fundraising and tactics and how to manage that process. But I think we have changed so much now due to the pandemic.
Don't say that you can't close big deals via the internet. It's totally possible. And we didn't think it was possible at all, but it was.
Q: Do you think you need to go outside of Sweden to get more significant funds, for example, a million dollars or more? What's your experience there?
It depends so much on what you want to do. Fundraising was for us 95% about getting competence and experience into the company, not money. It's unfair to say, oh, money is so easy to get. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it's not. Now, it's fairly simple compared to four or five years ago.
But still, it can be very hard if you're in a crowded space. However, it's so much more important to think what's your plan, what's your roadmap. We wanted to become a product-led growth company, and the best investors in the world with the best portfolio companies with product-led growth are at Bessemer.
Now, five months in, we have talked with so many companies. We redid our pricing and packaging. They brought all the specialists from the US, people behind Slack, Pipedrive, Soho, to talk with them. So I think how you can use them is so much more valuable. If you don't have any plans to go outside Nordics, we have many, many really good investors in Sweden and the Nordics, so you definitely don't need to go out there.
But for us building our first company in the US, we were not that experienced in that, and that's why we needed more help. And you need to ask for help. And if you ask for help, you get help. So taking a Swedish VC firm, we know that they can help us in Sweden, but not so much with our expansion in the US which is our focus.
Q: Mathias, you have done both paths, you have bootstrapped your company before, and you raised $20 million. What are the pros and cons of bootstrapping and raising venture capital?
Entrepreneurs need to understand that you need to bootstrap your company in the beginning. If you don't know how to bootstrap your company, you don't know where to invest the money. It's the best learning you can have. When I personally invest in companies, I make sure that the founders understand how hard it is to run a bootstrapped company.
In ProspectEye, I was totally bootstrapping all the journey. It was more or less like this. We earned some money, we invested it in the product, we gave salaries to the employees, we invested in marketing, and if there was something left, then I could have a salary. That was the company's mentality and attitude, which makes you really understand how you need to prioritize.
One of the events at Y Combinator was about how to start a company and scale it. And they didn't even mention bootstrapping as a possible way to scale a company in the US. They said you need to fundraise. We were thinking, no, you don't. We have a lot of great examples here in Sweden that bootstrap and grow big enough.
But in the US, it's different. I can't say it's the only way, but there are very, very few bootstrapped companies because of the salaries and so on. But I would say, don't raise money if you don't know how to spend them. And that's a question the investors will ask you as well. Why now?
And how are you going to use them? Those are the two hardest questions to answer. Probably, you know your pitch and which problems you are solving, the team and so on. But why now? And how are you going to use them? Those are the things that are the hardest to come up with a good answer.
Plans and Vision for the future
Q: With one of your competitors, DocuSign going public, and what is your plan and vision for GetAccept in the near future?
Going public is definitely not the end goal for us. We may end up going public, but who knows. But to answer a little bit more to the question why did we sell and so on; For us, the goal is to build this company as big as possible to really help people change. That's what drives us that made us produce so many hours and enjoy every day. We have a lot of companies knocking on our door for acquisition and merge and stuff like that. So I think if that happens, what should I do afterwards?
This is the best thing I know. I don't want to go back and sit there and come up with a new idea. This is the most fun thing you can do, scale a company. So, to answer your question, we don't have any plan, we just want to continue to grow. And I think that's important. Too many founders start with a plan to just sell the company. If that's the goal, then you should do something else. You can become a banker or buy bitcoin or whatever. If you want to build a successful company, that needs to be your passion and drive.
Q: You recently started a charity project called a statement that aims to design a better world by starting important conversations. Would you please share with us a little bit about your project?
After we sold the first company, we got a little bit fortunate to have some money that we could invest. And I started to invest a little bit in charity projects, which is really what gives me the most energy. It is so much more fun than a lot of other projects. So I discussed a little bit with my wife what if we could come up with a cool charity project that was a combination of tech, SaaS, and fashion.
I've always loved fashion, as well. So that was when we came up with the idea behind the Statement charity. So essentially, the project is that famous people design t-shirts in limited editions. We use blockchain technology to track everything from where the cotton is taken, from which field, which people are involved in building it, so we actually connect it to different factories in Pakistan. So that's a charity product itself.
And then you can track where the money ends up in what project and that the money is actually delivered. So that was a perfect project for me to combine tech, SaaS, influence marketing, and many different things. It's still super early stage, and we were just about to launch when the pandemic hit. So one of the things is that we want to start conversations; we actually want to be close to the project when we launch it. It's still on hold, just waiting for us to be able to travel to all the hard parts of the world where we want to make a difference.