Three months ago, I heard about a small company in Copenhagen called Kirkeweb, which is Danish for Churchweb. Religion is always an exciting topic (too exciting for some!), but the key reasons why I got interested in the Kirkeweb story was, that the company was a start-up focusing on a clear niche (Churches) in a highly fragmented "industry" (most parishes and deaneries are fairly independently run organizations) where the need for a work flow management system is very clear, but no-one else in Europe seems to understand how to build and market to this highly specialized sector. I met the founder and CEO, Christian Steffensen, and then I quickly became hooked on getting involved. Christian could explain clearly how churches has significant benefits from using the system to streamline administration processes, internal communication & coordination, web site management, etc. and thereby have more time/resources to focus on the core tasks of the church (Love!). So, all the classic benefits of good work flow systems were also clearly seen in this "industry", and on top of that Christian through his long history with the church (programming church websites and admin systems since he was 11 years old) knew how to interact with the church community. Also (and Christian will hate me for writing this), Christian is a smart cookie who is a proper entreprofessional mixing the best of entrepreneurship with the desire to do things in a smart way. This means that since the Danish part of the business is doing really well with critical scale of churches signing up, then it is now becoming important to move out of tiny Denmark. Kirkeweb is engaging with the Church community in Germany, the first churches has signed up and much more is coming. This ticks the last box for me, since my background and skill set is a great fit to help Kirkeweb and Christian in the coming years as Churches all over Europe will see the benefits of easy-to-use Church Management Software. I joined Kirkeweb as chairman/bestyrelsesformand in April, and I think this is the beginning of a long and fruitful journey, amen!
Latin: Professio ingredieris Person who is mixing the best of entrepreneurship and professionalism. Can be viewed as a person that balances the below dimensions: The word was defined in 2011 when a Klaus Nyengaard tried to explain his ideal organization. Mr. Nyengaard later went on to write a book about this concept, but the book never became part of mainstream management litterature, but was instead a bestseller among teenagers in Scandinavia and Germany.
DING-DONG - It's been a while since I've posted last time, so here's an update. My plan in February was to do research on a couple of project ideas I had, and then to talk to all kinds of people to see where exciting things happened, especially in Denmark and London. The plan was also to move not too fast, since it is easy to become enthusiastic and commit to all kinds of interesting ventures, and then suddenly be fully booked up. And now, I have partly fallen into that trap - but for good reasons! What is it I want? The stuff that motivates me the very most, is to do great things with great teams. Everything flows from the people on the team, and if it is great people working together in the right, high-performance, entrepreneurial fun-loving way, then amazing things can happen. From these kind of teams flows great products, happy customers and oodles of respect from investors & partners. And that again attracts even more good people, and if the leadership continues to step up, then Nirvana can be maintained for a very long time. That is awesome to be part of, can't get enough of it. Many people with my background do one of two things:
- Become a classic investor, building a large portfolio of angel- or VC investments. That is very exciting, and you get to help all kinds of entrepreneurs, but my issue is that I don't think I'm ready for such a passive role. Any investor would say that they "add value hands-on", etc., but the truth is that with a portfolio of 15-20 investments and spending most of the time chasing new deals, then they are not really close to the action (and typically doesn't have any real, hands-on experience related to your challenges, but that's another story). And I don't like being distanced to what I'm doing, and the people involved.
- Become a CEO for a big company. Well, first of all, there are not really that many companies based in Copenhagen where it makes sense for me to get involved full time as CEO, and I'm not interested in moving my family to another country for a long period of time. Secondly, the reason why I enjoyed running JUST EAT even though it was a 1,000-man company was that I had been there from when it was a small 35-man Danish company, so I had directly or indirectly hired almost every single manager in the company, and I had skewed the company culture exactly in the direction that I felt was right for the company - and me! Chances are, that if I got on board another company that was already big, then I wouldn't be a great fit for the culture and all kinds of "culture wars" would have to take place (had enough of that in the initial phase, when I joined JUST EAT five years ago). Thirdly, working for one company only would not leverage all the knowledge I have today about leading, developing, internationalizing and scaling companies. That is a skill set that is still a scarce resource in Europe, so I might as well leverage it across several companies.
A couple of days ago I had my goodbye dinner in London with many of my old JUST EAT colleagues. It was a great evening (and very bad the day after) that hammered home the fact that it will take a very long time before I again can work with so many good people in one, great company (working on it, but it will take time, more about that another day). My dear ex-colleagues had also been so considered to give me some gifts. Already some weeks ago the Danes gave me a toy robot, and funny enough on Wednesday evening the "one-day-technology-will-take-care-of-food-delivery" theme had also been the starting point, so me (and my kids) just got this shiny new toy, yehaaa, time to fly! However, most unique of all, was a poster that some of the marketing guys had made, since I have always dreamt of being a super hero, especially one with a hot dog in his hand. I'm not sure exactly what the message is, but there is a lot of details and stories on this poster - the revolution is coming to a takeaway near you!
Again-again: thanks for all to those who helped make it possible. And now on to new adventures that needs a hot-dog equipped viking super hero - the Universe and Beyond!
Yep, I am stepping down as JUST EAT CEO! History When I joined JUST EAT in March nearly 5 years ago, the original plan was to take one year at a time. I had never been involved in anything for 5 years, and thinking 5 years ahead seemed impossible, so one year at a time seemed to be the sensible thing. By August 2008 I had moved to London with my family, and very soon after that I 1) fell in love with the company and 2) realised that JUST EAT could become much bigger than anyone could imagine. I knew it would still be one year at a time, but I also knew that it could be a long and very interesting journey. In the beginning of 2008 JUST EAT was still a fairly small company, but it had build a very solid business in Denmark that earned money, 90% of our revenues were in Denmark. We decided to make UK the core market for us, and then launch in other markets as much as we could given the UK priority. Then the rocket really started. For me, the inflexion point was summer-autumn 2009. In spring/summer 2009 we negotiated and finally closed our series A round with Index as a lead, and in the autumn we did the first TV campaign in UK which together with solid restaurant growth and a lot of other activities saw the orders go through the roof. In those 5 years, the company went from being a 35-man Danish company that was one of several companies in the online takeaway ordering space to becoming the world leader with 1,000 employees. Very few world leaders have roots in Europe, so everybody who contributed should be happy. And it is not at all the end for JUST EAT - more about that later. Why and why now Once every quarter my wife has asked me to stop working for JUST EAT. We moved back home to Denmark nearly 2 years ago, and since then I have travelled more than 3 days a week, a lot to London obviously, but also to many other countries. And that is tough when you have a family with small kids. You can do that for only so long - and I planned to do it for a bit longer despite a bit of home front scepticism. But, that is not really good enough from the company's perspective, I have to accept that. A company such as JUST EAT, with it's ambitious plans and momentum needs a CEO who is committed for many more years, and it "might" also be a good idea to have a person who is more often in London where we have most of the central functions, the Group exec team, etc. So before the "next phase" of the company it makes sense to get a new CEO on board, it is not healthy to change the leader when crossing a river, it has to happen well before that. Ideally I would have staid a bit longer, but there is a logic that I can't argue against. Tough for me, right for the company. The future of JUST EAT Regarding the future of JUST EAT, there is only one thing to say: it will be awesome. There are so many things happening in the company, so much momentum and so many good people that it can only be better. Some of the areas where I am particularly excited is what we will do the next 6-12 months on the technology side. Also, the continuous improvements of all the small details of sales, marketing and operations are happening all the time. Customers and restaurants can look forward to a lot of good stuff. Thanks So, it is time to say thanks to everybody who helped move the company forward. I don't want to mention any specific JUST EAT'ers, each of you know how much you have contributed, and there are so many of you. Also thanks to restaurants and consumers, investors, advisers, partners and friends. You all deserve a slice of the success. The JUST EAT journey will continue - and I will quietly follow it from the distance, but start on another journey my self. What that will be I don't know for sure (a few ideas though, and let me know if you have any as well ...) - it will be something with good people and growth for sure. Yehaa! UPDATE Here is the internal, amateur goodbye video I made to all my great colleagues. If you don't understand the quirkiness, then join the company and you will get it -;) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHTyvUkfAXo
We did it again! Went through a few months of focused effort and then suddenly the Just-Eat bank account has been filled up. The press release says we raised $64 Mio., but with the exchange rate on the day it was actually $65 Mio. - but as they say, what is a Million between friends? Officially this is called a series C funding round, because that is what logically comes after A and B funding rounds, internally known as "the big C". The new guys we have chosen to work with are Vitruvian Partners - also great for us to see we got full backing from our existing investors, thanks to Index, Greylock and Redpoint. For those that follow the European internet scene Vitruvian doesn't pop up as the traditional VC, but more of a Private Equity company ("PE"), which is true. So, why are we suddenly getting money from spreadsheet driven PE's instead of the sexy "big picture" VC's? The answer is simple: it is difficult in Europe to raise that level of money from traditional VC's. $65 Mio. is a lot of money, and well beyond the scope of the traditional VC model. In the US it is different, but if you want someone that has a European presence to support you then an important option to explore is the mid-cap growth focused PE guys with internet experience. Another argument for inviting PE's on board is that they in general have another set of expertise and support infrastructure which is helpful in our situation. We got - as usual, I am cocky enough to add - a fair amount of interest, and most of those potential investors were PE companies, typically US investors with a good European presence. Several of them we really liked, but we ended up with Vitruvian partly because they had a different feel to them. Of course Vitruvian offered the right terms, but several investors did - most of the people we talked to in the process were also really good people we got along with, but the specific Vitruvian guys on this transaction had a great rapport with us. It probably helped some of them in the past worked as VC's, entrepreneurs or executives in high growth companies. And what will we use the money for? Other than the usual jokes about corporate jets, there are only a few specific things on the list, and the rest is dependent on what happens in the future. We already run a tight ship, where we generate enough money in profitable countries to fund loss making countries. But there are so many growth opportunities out there in terms of new countries, consolidation/M&A opportunities, new technologies etc. so it makes a lot of sense to have a very strong balance sheet so we can move fast if the right opportunity arises. Just-Eat is ready for the next chapter in our history, thanks to all who contributed so far! Back to running the business - money is nice, but the real deal is what you can do with those money, and that is all about satisfying restaurants and consumers.
Yesterday, I was in Holland where I did a Q&A session with the Dutch team. Every once in a while I like to meet my colleagues locally the countries, where the local teams has the opportunity to ask all kinds of questions, and I have the opportunity to hear how they view the world and explain what direction Just-Eat is going. It is interesting for me to see what aspects are being brought up, and even though there always are some classics then there are some surprises here and there. One of the issues we spend some time on yesterday was "professionalism". Several people asked questions that were related to getting more structure & planning, more defined roles & responsibilities, better coaching & training, etc., i.e. all the stuff you would expect from a professional company. Any successful, high-growth company goes through the different phases from idea/concept, early start-up, early growth, etc., and the trick is to get it right in each of the phases which are often very different from previous phases. And if a company doesn't adjust quickly enough to a new phase (often pro-actively pushing into the next phase), then coming to the next level is only more difficult, if not impossible. The challenge is that people also need to change. Some people are brilliant in one phase, but out of their depth (or just not motivated) in the other phases. A few can actually master many phases, extremely few work well in all phases. Nothing new here, this has been part of the technology and management literature for many decades, but the interesting thing is that it is still so difficult to get right, and the key reason for this is that "people" don't get it. Or rather; they might understand to some extent, but they are not actually taking the full consequence. In Just-Eat, one of the challenges we have is that we want our culture to represent both professionalism as well as entrepreneurialism. Entrepreneurialism I believe is about energy, willingness to take risks and mental flexibility. Key elements of professionalism is for me about applying the necessary levels of intelligence and structure. Some people believe the two things are not compatible. That is absolutely not true! It gets harder as a company grows, absolutely, but if you roll over and surrender to one view then it only gets worse. Of course sometimes the two will clash, but at a closer look it happens less often than what we normally would think. Sometimes people that are out of their depths will complain about things no longer being entrepreneurial enough, and things are now "corporate and bureaucratic". Likewise, sometimes some would say it is difficult because a situation is not handled professionally enough, "more time/analysis/structure/money" is needed, but maybe the problem is difficulty in getting on with fixing the problem, and taking a bit of calculated risks ("sometimes" is the key word here ...). In many cases where I hear one of the two sides it is more excuses than real problems. Yes, it is tough sometimes to get it right, and I don't always have the ultimate silver bullet either, but I am certain that the two sides can live together in healthy competition. When building high growth companies it is the right thing to balance the two. The right mix will change over time, but they both need to be there. Those that believe professionalism is equal to bureaucracy lose out on major opportunities. At the personal level, I think it is important for all who loves to participate in building and growing businesses, that you do as was stated across the Apollo Temple in Delphi: "know thyself". Understand what part of company building you are good at, and motivated by. Don't fool your self into believing you are great in all phases. And be happy to leave the organisation the day you can see things are no longer good for you - and move on without moaning about how the company will now be destroyed and everything was better in the old days. You could of course be right, but the future progress of the company (or lack of) will typically tell the story. Get the balance right in your culture for each phase, and I promise you have one of the most important things in place when building and growing a company. Very banal in theory, very difficult in practice.
A couple of weeks ago we spend some days in a summerhouse in Denmark working on adjusting and fine tuning our long term plan and vision. As always spirits were high, and witty/wacky banter took over many discussions - especially when Rasmus and I served the foreigners a bit of Danish breakfast.