Those that know me would not say the "hair & beauty" segment is a natural fit for me. My wife would even say I'm the anti-thesis to hair & beauty (she married me because of wit, charm and money ...) so how did I end up as chairman of Wahanda?
Earlier this spring I got a ping from Lopo Champalimaud. Lopo is co-founder and CEO of Wahanda, Europe's biggest destination for salon - and spa bookings. Initially I was a bit baffled, because why would people in the beauty space talk to me, they obviously had never met me or seen pictures of me, but when I then started chatting to Lopo, I quickly realised the logic for why I should talk to Wahanda. A while ago, Lopo had decided to go all in on the booking part of his business concept, i.e. if you need to get you hair done or want a beauty treatment, then go to Wahanda, check out the local salons in your area, and book directly into the system. Obviously, that is quite similar to the underlying model of JUST EAT - however, there are also some critical differences which team Wahanda has spotted and are getting the most out of. Lopo's Wahanda journey has so far been 5 years long, and lots have been achieved, but I am particularly excited about the focus on building up the best and biggest network of local merchants that can offer great supply of hair and beauty services through out the UK, and internationally as well. Lopo and his team (incl. the latest add-on of Simon and Chris) has more experience than anyone else in this space, and the size of the business is also well ahead of the many smaller players in the industry. Building internationally leading companies in emerging industries is one of the greatest professional experiences I know of, and I think Wahanda has a great opportunity to do exactly that. A chairman role is very different from the many years where I was running companies, but I hope that background is a strength. I need to help & support those that leads the organisation & strategy, not be the big leader or strategizer my self. This transition is massively helped by the fact that Lopo and I get along very well, and through a very open discussion atmosphere we get everything on the table and leverage our different backgrounds and perspectives. I'm looking very much forward to the Wahanda journey, this will be both very fun and very big. And I might even learn a few beauty tips along the way.
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!
One and a half year ago we/JUST EAT decided to move forward more ambitiously with the JUST EAT Academy. The objective is to supplement the valuable on-the-job training with more structured learning and development. In practice, the set-up has been running for less than a year, and there is plenty more to do, but from my perspective we can already see some really good results, e.g.
- Most of the managers in JUST EAT have now been through our Management Assessment Centre (“MAC”). This means that as a supplement to their line manager’s view on their performance and development needs, then we have a structured, 360 degree view on the person from many of the traditional management/leader dimensions, e.g. communication skills, presentation skills, collaboration skills, analytical skills, etc. The MAC is definitely not the final truth, and the line managers qualitative view is still key, but it all adds up to a better understanding of what the manager need to do to develop her- or himself. It is challenging to be a manager in a fast growing company, so if JUST EAT can support with a few tools then great.
- Together with an external agency, we have developed a really good sales module called “Sweet & Sour”. A lot of sales reps and managers have already been through this program, and it is getting very good reviews. The important thing now of course, is to make sure the learning’s are actually been put into use when the participants come back home, so that is a key focus area for the sales managers.
- We have a lot of people in JUST EAT, who have their first management job, or which have the biggest management challenge they have ever had, so a course in basic management skills can come in handy. We have therefore put together a course ("JUST about people"), where the participants goes through a catalogue of the fundamental management tools, and we have run this course for the first time some weeks ago.
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.