Matthew Wise: We know founders face unique challenges when they decide to start a company. What was the hardest part about starting Podio and how did you overcome this obstacle?
Kasper Hulthin: I think actually, having started a few companies, it’s not so much one challenge it’s mostly the mix of challenges. So how to structure your developing process, how to keep focus, how to sell enough to actually pay your bills was probably the challenges in the early days when were four guys sitting in a basement in Copenhagen. And making customers pay [laughs].
I think one of the challenges that we have taken pretty seriously is that going from a four guy team in a basement, setting up a new office, a nice office and stuff like that and hiring some of the [inaudible 01:02] people. How do you take the spirit, the passion from the basement and put it into 15 people rather than four people?
I’m so proud of the team. We have rock stars from all around the world. We have ten nationalities on the team and they are all equally passionate for the product. They use it every day and I think if you meet one of them on the street you will know it’s a Podio. I’m proud of that.
Matthew: Since you’ve been in operation what have you learned about your business and your users that you didn’t realize before you launched?
Kasper: So in the very short amount of time that we’ve been in the market a lot of things have happened, as we talked about before in terms of trends. Obviously it’s evolving all the time and I think having, as I said, a product where people can build their own things, it’s some of the use cases that [are] sometimes funny.
Like when we did sort of a market, go to market plan a couple of years ago I hadn’t thought that a swimming pool repairman shop in Kuwait would pick this up and use this as a work tool, or a church in some rural area in the U.S. So I think a lot of the use cases, it’s funny to see what people are actually using it for. You know, diving into things you always learn more and figure out a lot of the infrastructural or things that you need to be aware of.
Matthew: Lots of people admire entrepreneurs because they appear to make starting companies look easy. We know it can be very difficult. We want to dispel some myths here, so my question to you is, what is it that you make look easy? Meaning what talent or skill comes easier intuitively for you and what has been difficult and how do you manage that?
Kasper: I think most, there’s one saying which I think is really right for entrepreneurs and that is that good decisions are made based on experience and experience is based on bad decisions. I think most entrepreneurs they are very good at making a lot of mistakes very fast. I’ve done that. And by doing that you sort of learn by them, hopefully and make things move faster.
I think seeing from the outside, your first question, ‘How do you make it look easy?’ It’s absolutely not easy. I don’t have any recipe. I think it’s being passionate for what you do and there’s a lot of challenges to overcome and that’s your answer. This is my little baby [laughs] and my hobby and my passion for this. I think that’s the key element.
Matthew: Excellent. And so what’s the most important lesson you learned since launching Podio?
Kasper: So if launching Podio as the moment where we pulled the curtains off, I think one of the most important lessons is that you always build up to the next thing. You have a new goal. ‘We want to launch Podio March 24th. We want have to have an app store, and a physical app store in San Francisco, we want the product ready and we want all this stuff.’ And sort of build up to this very moment and then you haven’t sort of thought of what do we do the following day?
We really tried to be ready this time and yet we were sort of totally laid down by the inflow, which is obviously positive but I think it’s a lot of, you know, you go in waves as a start-up and you, as the founder sometimes have to think about beyond the wave of what you’re doing. You’re trying to set out a goal for the team. So like, ‘We are all going to San Francisco,’ we brought the whole team here, everybody was excited but what do you do afterwards?
I think there’s a lot of those small things that you do in terms of motivation.
Matthew: What bit of advice do you wish you would have known before starting Podio?
Kasper: [laughs] I don’t know if there’s like a single piece of advice. The most, I think the most common advice that we have got was actually that you cannot do this. And they might be right, but they’ve also been motivating us in actually doing what we do.
Obviously there’s some small things. Looking back at my career, some of my former start-ups, I think a lot of the places where you mess up is contractual stuff like you’re always battling somebody that has done it a lot of times whether it’s a VC, it’s a subcontractor, it’s people that have been doing this. When you are doing start-ups you’re doing it the first time often, right? And I think it’s some of those negotiation things where you should really get some advice at least.
Matthew: What mentor has played a significant impact in your professional development?
Kasper: Yeah I haven’t had like a formal mentor. I think I can pay a lot of credit to my dad, actually. He has his own business as well and in my early start-up days he got me out of trouble a few times, speaking of contracts and stuff like that and helping on the small tips and tricks on negotiation and sales and stuff like that.
Obviously, I think, when you work in a team with other co-founders you also become each other’s mentors a little bit. I’m very inspired by the other guys that I am working with, both the co-founders and the rest of the team.
When you are passionate about your start-up a lot of people will come to you and those guys help you as well. So you should really share. That’s the only way people can give you feedback and [inaudible 07:20].
Matthew: What advice would you like to share with our audience about launching a start-up? If you have to distill it what are the key elements?
Kasper: When I give a keynote I always speak about, think about activity and action. In my head, at least coming from Denmark, activity part is . . . What we learn in school, that’s thinking about it, writing the business plan. , analyzing the market, doing all these things. Where the action is just, go out, call the first ten customers, get it working, you know? All the things that you have to do.
In my mind you need a balance of those two. I see a lot of really new entrepreneurs coming out, spending months and months of writing business plans and participating in business plan competitions rather than just call those ten guys and figure out if someone wants to buy your shit.
I think you really need to have the action part, being a big thing. To your former question about what makes it easy, I think it’s people that just do it. That’s what makes start-ups look easy.
Matthew: Before we close, I would love for you to give our audience your vision for Podio and how you hope it will change the world.
Kasper: Yeah. So my vision for Podio, I would love Podio to be the interface of everybody’s work life. So it will be the tool you open in the morning and you close before you go to bed. I would love for you to see these coming in in one or two years and it will say, ‘I’m very experience in using a Mac and Power Point and Podio.’ So it becomes sort of a default of your work, just like the Excel sheet has been for the last 25 years.
I think that will change things in terms of how we interact. It’s really about bringing business software back to the people.
Matthew: Excellent. Well Kasper, it’s been a great pleasure having you as a guest on FounderLY. We’re rooting for your success at Podio. For those in our audience who would like to learn more you can visit their website at HYPERLINK “http://www.podio.com” www.podio.com. You can register for a free account. Free accounts for up to ten people at a time.
Matthew: And become a member of their community. This is Matthew Wise with FounderLY.com, thanks so much Kasper.
Kasper: No problem. Thanks.