Why I shut my SaaS company down: Hampus Jakobsson Co-founder of Brisk

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I really, really strongly believe that companies don’t fold because they run out of funding.  Companies fold because they run out of passion.

In this new Episode of The SaaS Revolution Show Alex Theuma speaks with Hampus Jakobsson, Entrepreneur and Angel Investor about why he recently shut down his SaaS startup Brisk, after 4 years. No growth stories, no bullshit. Just the truth from Hampus on how it is to run a SaaS business. A must listen/read for every founder.

You can listen to the full interview below and read the transcript, alternatively, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher and never miss an episode

Alex Theuma:  Welcome to the SaaS Revolution Show, I’m your host, Alex Theuma.

Today I have a great guest on the show where we’re going to talk about something different.  We usually talk about sales and marketing and growth tactics but not today.

My guest is an entrepreneur, an angel investor who co-founded a company called The Astonishing Tribe that was acquired by BlackBerry for I think something like 180 million.  I’m not sure whether that’s euros or dollars but I’m sure he may be able to confirm that.  And he also founded a SaaS sales tool for CRM in 2012 called Brisk, but recently made the tough decision to shut Brisk down over the summer.

Welcome to the show, Hampus Jakobsson.  Good to have you here.

 

Hampus Jakobsson:  Thank you very much, Alex.

 

Alex Theuma:  Usually, we focus on all the growth stories, of course, the founders and the audience listening to this show want to know how to grow their SaaS business.  But I think as we’re reading a lot, there’s so many SaaS businesses out there and a lot of them are finding it really tough.

What I want to cover with you today is a little bit about this story or the journey that you had at Brisk and coming to that I guess tough decision to shut it down.

 

Hampus Jakobsson:   Absolutely.  I have this belief that we very seldomly learn when everything is going all right.  We learn like when we fall.  I’m invested in a bit over 50-something companies right now and some of them have been immensely successful.  And when I sit down with them and have a chat and do mentoring, sometimes we’d get into the subject of like, “Oh, well, by the way, why didn’t we figure this out?”  And sometimes we just realise we don’t know.  We just happened to hit bull’s-eye and something and then just spend and then we just threw more money at that thing or more power.

But then the thing we always start discussing is like, “Oh, by the way, why didn’t this thing go right?”  And then we realise how many things we learned there.  Like, “Oh, I remember like we deployed that.  We had no clue of unit economics”.  Or, “I know but we thought that marketing would lower our CAC cost.  It didn’t.”

All of those things where you had a bet and it didn’t work out.  It feels like when you learn to bike by falling off the bike.  You don’t learn to bike by just enjoying the landscape somehow.

 

Alex Theuma: Let’s start at the beginning of the journey of Brisk. You’ve had a hugely successful exit with The Astonishing Tribe.  Why did you start Brisk in 2012?  What compelled you to do it?

 

Hampus Jakobsson:  I’m driven by learning so everything I do from I wake up to not going to bed in the evening is because I enjoy learning.  And I think that there are multiple ways we can learn.  You can study something, you can get different impressions and then you can get a lot of callouses and be part of something in the trenches.

I think that when I built TAT, The Astonishing Tribe, we built that completely on our own.  We had no venture capital.  We were kids.  Growing that company, we honestly we learned all the things that we could’ve learned so much faster by having venture capital or angel investors or anything because like it was very much on our own.

Then when I joined BlackBerry, I ran M&A for BlackBerry for EMEA and it really felt like they were all open and then there were a lot of these very interesting high-level discussions.  And I started angel investing and I found all of these interesting things happening when you get this very global perspective.

I think the question I would challenge anybody who present themselves as an angel investor is are they kind of an armchair angel investor or are they actually out there?  Because it’s so easy to just say I’m an angel investor which means I don’t really do anything but sometimes once every third year I give somebody $20k and I’m just sitting and waiting to retire completely.

And I think that at BlackBerry, it wasn’t that case but I was starting to feel like if I was going to go learning again heavily, being an armchair investor was not the thing.  I felt that it was diminishing returns at BlackBerry. I felt I had learned a lot of things.  It was very, very exciting, and then when the CEO was pushed out, I really felt my role change there.  I mean, BlackBerry stopped acquiring and I really felt, I thought of doing another thing.

Then I was thinking what to do next and then I thought, honestly, one of the most irritating things about TAT, my first company, was that… and this might not sound like an irritating thing, but that was the deal size was around $5 million on average.  I think that sounds like a nice average contract value to have but the problem is that those deals took 18 months to sign and it required me to know the name of the spouse and the dog of the person I was going to meet.  I knew every team member, I knew their strategy.  Often actually I knew their strategy better than they did.  I knew their suppliers.  I knew how many vendors they had.  I knew everything about them.  Because I mean you’re going to sign a huge deal, you need to honestly predict their future and help them.

One of the things that frustrated me was when I’ve done quite a lot of angel investments back then in 2012.  My headache was that a lot of them were asking questions about sales and marketing and raising money from VCs.  And I had neither.  I experience of none of those.  I had experience in sales and marketing but my sales and marketing was like mammoth sales and mammoth marketing.  And even pre-Facebook/YouTube marketing in a sense.  I never had any venture capital or any external capital.  So for me, I really felt like I’m a pretty shit adviser here.

And I was thinking about what bugged me was partly I was a shit adviser, partly because I had no clue actually how to do modern sales.  So I was really feeling, oh, I’d love to know more about this.  The premise of the company was really let’s start a company which is a SaaS company but then works in that field.

We were starting to think about what actually was interesting and like how to figure out stuff and it would work with data visualisation, because we were very, very strong in visualisation.  Then as we talked a lot about SaaS metrics, we started saying, oh, let’s visualise SaaS metrics, help companies visualise their funnels.  And we sort of did a vertical version of kind of Tableau like insightSquared is now.  We built that back in 2012 and it was very like we had three pilot customers that all of them were like this is super interesting.

And we have business school.  We onboarded their data and when we looked at their data it was just noise.  And when we looked at that, we were very surprised because how come all of their CRM data looks like random noise.  And when we interviewed their CFO or CEO, and these are pretty successfully big companies too, they were all saying, “Oh, we don’t trust our CRM data.”  And we were like, “But if you don’t trust your CRM data then why would you visualise it, because it doesn’t make sense visualising just random stuff?”  And they said, “Oh, it’s because the salespeople don’t input anything.”  Or very rarely.

Then it was just 3 months into the project, we were like, okay, so tell these guys we’re not going to do this because this is never going to fly.  It’s going to be too much manual bespoke work on getting this to work and too much data washing.  We said skip that.  Let’s make it into an data input system.

We pivoted, it became an input system, it became a mobile app, really loved.  We had 400 companies downloaded it in the first four launch weeks.  Salesforce M&A contacted us and they were asking a lot of curious questions.  We got to talk to a lot of interesting people at Salesforce and had a lot of discussions.  And at the same time we found that it’s very, very hard to monetise a mobile app, a mobile-only app because the mindset of mobile app is like it’s $1.99 – period.

We kind of felt we need a system where we got the CFO on board, because he or she is willing to pay anything to understand the data, but we want a system where it’s going to touch their salespeople to actually get the data.  Then suddenly we just said, ah, let’s pivot this to actually kind of blend the two things.  Let’s build a system which had both parties.

The management says this is what we want and then the salespeople like get prompted with things and they’re going to input data while they’re doing their tasks and chores.  And this is one year into the project.  We started demoing this for customers.  And because we had 400 companies that had downloaded the app so we had plenty of email addresses to Salesforce people or like people who had a Salesforce.

A lot of people were very excited.  During that year, we kind of moved in and found that something that was really interesting was that sales is a very… people wanted to be data driven and very predicted process, but at the same time, it’s human.  It’s very, very human.  It’s like dating.  It’s like if you script it too heavily, it just becomes horrible as we all know.  We’re getting emails from sendbloom and Outreach.  It becomes horrible when you kind of dial up to 11 and make it completely automated.

Then we’re like let’s make something that actually like helps the salespeople do decision making but it’s the sales rep that actually does it, and while they’re getting suggestions, like, “Oh, you haven’t called Polly anna at BBC about that deal.”  Then if they say something then we’re going to put that into the CRM.

We started demoing that and the sales reps were like, “Wow, this has a better interface than Salesforce and it’s so much easier.”

Then Salesforce was saying, “Wow, this gathers all this data”, and the VP of Sales was saying, “Wow, this actually helped my salespeople to close deals.”  And this is like 18 months in.  Then we said, okay, let’s start onboarding customers.

Then we started onboarding people and very, very… like onboarding has, it started doing early, early sales.  And the funny thing about it was that I started the thing because I thought I was curious about modern sales and marketing.  What I didn’t know was that since I built a sales and marketing process tool and the first customers we onboard are the people like Evernote and Intercom and Hootsuite and the likes, I spent so much time talking about how their sales process worked, how they qualified leads, how they did outbound marketing, inbound, blah, blah, blah.

I spent 4 years and I feel like a crazy dictionary of sales processes because… of course, not all things but Hootsuite has one model, Intercom has one model, LinkedIn had another.  We talked to everybody, pretty much everybody.  We talked to people like Tesla.  Like what on earth?  How would you use this?

Everybody came from the same premise.  They were like we think Salesforce is very clunky and hard to use.  We think this could be a tailored experience and this would prompt our sales people to do something.  But the nice thing is Salesforce’s is a sales system on record.  So we’re like, okay, we obviously have something.

We started this because it was we had this huge curiosity to understand sales processes and what we did is just we jumped both feet in and thought… like the thing is, as my first company, I think that if you take the audacious challenge of saying we don’t know anything about whatever, mobile user interfaces like TAT.  We don’t actually know that much about it when we started it.  We just said we’re going to be the best company in the world.  Like we’re going to design Android for Google.  Of course we didn’t know that back then because Google didn’t even exist when we started the company.

Or we’re going to deliver 13% of all the world’s mobile phones in 2010.  You can’t say that.  But I think what you can do is that you can work as a completely manic person to be and strive and become the best of that field.  Because if you do then everything else will solve itself.  I think what a lot of people do is that when they attack a field, they’re looking to get a certain MRR number or get a certain company valuation.  I think what I have done in both my startups and I advise a lot of the companies I invested in, is money and valuations are a result of an amazing product.  An amazing product is usually a result of an extraordinary domain knowledge and user knowledge and great craftsmanship.  I think that’s what you need.  That’s the way I always attack things.  Like I want to be the thought leader of that subject.

 

Alex Theuma:  You named some impressive early customers there like Intercom and Evernote.  You also raised seed funding for Brisk.  I’m just assuming that potentially that you didn’t have to given your previous…

 

Hampus Jakobsson:  No.  Exactly.  We didn’t have to.  I think it was a couple of different things.  I think one thing is my original co-founder, so I started the company with the old CTO TAT a good friend of mine.  What I didn’t know is that we kind of had very different workload ambitions.  Like I’m definitely a workaholic.  And I think that he is but he also doesn’t feel very well being it.

I think what happened a couple of months is that he was getting very stressed about workload and spending a lot of cash on this and everything.  And we have the same financial situation so I just felt like, yeah, let’s keep investing in this.  Let’s keep building it.  And he was just more and more being worried about what if they don’t sign, what if we have to pivot.  After a while, it just felt obvious that this was actually affecting a lot of his operational life, planning, and he was looking for shortcuts.

And the other part of it was that like the three things I set out when I was building the company was really I want to learn more than sales and marketing.  I want to learn distributed organisations because we never really needed that at my first company.  And I want to learn raising money.  Part of me had this thing that I want to eventually raise money, but my co-founder kind of became the forcing function of raising it earlier than later.

We actually raised money from DN Capital and Creandom, DN Capital being actually really strong in enterprise and knowing a lot about it.  They had done a lot of really, really big exits, among others against Oracle, and a lot of those big enterprise companies.  And Creandom being like the Nordic big kind of eCommerce/product design, consumer design company or VC.  Itfelt like they both kind of understand us from two different aspects.

 

Alex Theuma:  Did these guys, DN Capital and Creandam invest in Brisk because obviously they’re excited about the idea but also because of your past successes?

 

Hampus Jakobsson:  No.  No, they hadn’t.  It was like 100% they invested in us.  The reason I really know that is that we pivoted during the due diligence process.  They were saying, “Oh…”,  and we said, “Oh, by the way, we’re not going to be this app.  We’re going to skip the mobile app thing.  We’re going to be a desktop app.”  And one of the VCs just outright just said like, “Why did you have to say that?”  Like please, you just made this… now, we have to write a new thesis for the LPs.  We could’ve just waited and just pivoted the day after we got given the money, or at least told us.  Nobody told us that after.

For me, it was kind of obvious that it was like, okay, the golden boys are doing something.  Give them money.  It’s going to work out just fine.

 

Alex Theuma:  I guess that does happen a lot.

 

Hampus Jakobsson:  Absolutely.  I mean, there is some truth to that.  I think that team is one of the hardest things in a startup.  But I think what there’s so many parameters that are hard.  I think if you take all the world’s founders and put them on a list and look at like the company, oh, Sergey Brin and Larry Page and Steve Jobs and whatever.  The thing is what most people mistake themselves is they believe the bigger exit they’ve done, the smarter they are, or like the bigger the company value.  What people don’t understand is being a great founder is hygiene .  It’s the thing that makes you not fail.  The proportion of success has very little to do with your quality.  It has to do with where you happen to… like what banana shell you just stumbled in on and just became something else.

I mean, Larry and Sergey are amazing people but Google is not proportionally amazing in how amazing they are.  They just made sure to not fuck up what was in front of them.  And I think that’s the same problem that some of the VCs also do is that they said all of these guys did this humongous acts.  They must be super smart.  It’s like no.  It just means that they have a less risk of failing.  It doesn’t mean that they’re going to succeed necessarily.  It just means that their risk of failing is going to be less.

But of course, like easier to do acquihires with those guys because the other people will believe the same thing.  There are a lot of good things about investing in serial entrepreneurs.

 

Alex Theuma:  What went right and what went wrong with Brisk?

 

Hampus Jakobsson:  What really went wrong, I would say… I’m mostly, I’m a big proponent of self-criticism.  I think that what really went wrong was that we never really nailed the product.  I would say that we never kind of said exactly use-case.  We can never narrow it down enough. We should have narrowed the target group much, much tighter, we should have narrowed the use-case, the problem much, much tighter.  There were a lot of times where we end up being flexible on things because we have a two-way target group.

It was also like on Evernote, they used us for the account management team and they were like, “This is amazing.  This helps our account management team.”  And they were just like pouring it into account management.  And very soon after this, our customer success team wants to use this for like upsells.  This is amazing.

And then when we met Hootsuite, Hootsuite was saying, “Oh, this is great for SDRs and their lead work.”  And yeah, sure, we started helping them with that.

In the beginning, we had this understanding that it can be deployed all over the sales process.  But the problem when you’re doing that is that you’re ending up with a product which is just sub-par.  If we would’ve just said this is going to be the AEs best friend, or like this is the best lead prospecting tool, or whatever then we could’ve done something.

The problems is, at the end, we ended up with having, for every single customer, we have 60% of the code being pretty much useless for them.  And 40% of the code of course will be useful but we could have added more.  The customers never complained but for every new customer we onboarded, we felt that we became a slower and slower beast.  And there were so many things inside the machine that just it became a burden that we had.  A lot of the discussions we ended up saying, okay, should we write this or that on the webpage?  It was like both.

And it’s one of those things where I hate when people say “both” or “and”.  It’s like here’s one target group, that’s one problem.  If you say “both” or “and” it’s wrong.  We kind of worked with this quite a lot.

But what then eventually happened before we folded, was that I really, really strongly believe that companies don’t fold because they run out of funding.  Companies fold because they run out of passion.  You don’t give up just because you don’t have money.  There’s always a way to figure out money somehow.  Of course it’s not the nice way but it works out.  What kills you is if you just feel it’s not worth it anymore.

I think what happened for us is that so many things happened at the same time during the same 6-9 months period.  It was like we started feeling like we didn’t really care.  There were a lot of product choices that we felt like it wasn’t that important.  And of course the flexibility in the product added to that.  There were just too many ways where like if we remove this feature, this customer will be pissed off.  If we add this feature, it’s going to be a slower for that other customer.  That was definitely one irritation.

The other part was that I think we started getting really sick at what was starting to happen in the fast-moving SaaS sales world, like an over-automisation which was extreme.  On the other hand, I think we saw that salespeople didn’t change their mindsets.

I think what was so confusing is that I think that we started feeling this world where there was this rift between the data driven sales operation and marketing people who really wanted to have tools to measure everything and then you have the sales team who were this old football team of good guys in a room who were like tolling the bell when they signed the deal and they celebrated with beer and they were great.  They had great fun voices, whatever.  I think that clash just started to hurt.

Every single customer we onboarded, we had this huge project with LinkedIn in the end and we’re just starting to feel this like rift in the company inside our customers.  We just felt like I don’t think you want the same thing.  That kind of alienated us a bit from the field.

So for us it was really like we ran out of passion.  And I’m not really sure how we could have fixed it when we actually ran out but one of the things we could’ve done much earlier is that we should have just said narrow down the problem and narrow down the problem on the one where you’re not interested in the solution but you’re interested in the user problem.  Like we should have really sort of said this experience that the SDR is having or the whatever who is having, that is a fascinating problem to solve and we’ll know everything about it.  It kind of we became very interested in the overall sales process for our customers and that was a too big of a goal to solve.

Then we became very fascinated with the technical solution of how to do forecasting and predictions in the product, which was also very interesting but it was also too broad.  It wasn’t narrowing enough.  So that went really, really wrong.

What went right I think is that between the folks and those things, I think what went right is we ended up recruiting really amazing people, being very good at letting people go who were not fitting into the team and, in the end, when we decided to fold, we made sure that every single person who was in the team was included in the decision and kind of we made sure that it was a collective decision.  It was not kind of me just standing up and saying, “I’m folding this.”  It was like a very good conversation which took up almost a complete week of debriefing and made sure that everybody landed in different kind of cool companies.

I think that those people that worked at Brisk they were really stellar.  I’m really, really proud of how much time we spent on both recruitment but also kind of improving and developing those people and how good they actually were during the whole time and everything.  That was really fun.  And I think that’s the kind of good and bad.

 

Alex Theuma:  You’re running out of passion.  You spent a week with the team discussing about ‘shall we shut Brisk down?’  When did you know?  Was it just when the flame had gone or like the collective flame had gone?  When did you know actually we’ve got to do it this week?

 

Hampus Jakobsson:  Well, the thing that actually triggered it, the thing that really triggered it was that it was Easter and my co-founder and VP Engineering… it was not my original co-founder.  He left and two of the other very early people became kind of co-founder.

But we had a discussion about one of the employees we were discussing how to develop.  My VP Engineering was saying something I said “Honestly, I don’t think we can help this person.  I honestly think we should let him go.  I think that he’s got the wrong attitude.”  And then I can hear my co-founder that he was like, “Oh, it’s going to be so complicated,” and everything.

And then we just realised that it was kind of we hadn’t let go of him already because we kind of didn’t care.  If you see my point?  We were like letting him stay around another week because we might just figure stuff out.  And I mean he’s a great developer but just the wrong attitude on some certain things.  That just made us really panic because we realised how can we have let this guy be here for like 3 weeks too long because he obviously has the wrong attitude.  And that’s when it just struck me.  It’s like we don’t really care, do we?  We don’t really care.  And we realised this big customer that we were onboarding we weren’t crazy passionate about that either.  And then one question by one, we were just scrutinising.  We realised that we have plenty of money in the bank but we don’t… it just feels like it’s not there anymore.

Then we just said let’s just do this quick call with the team on Sunday and like in two days and just talk with everybody and make sure that we’re not wrong about this.  And when we had the call everybody was like pretty much chiming in that “this is the best group I’ve ever worked in but I really don’t care about the product anymore,” and stuff like that.  That just felt like, oh, my God.  It’s so obvious now.

Then what happened is that as I used to work in M&A, I know a lot of M&A things around the planet so I asked other companies.  I pinged 12 companies and what happened almost immediately is that one company just said we’re in.  We want to acquire you.  We’re going to do this.  They gave us an offer and then I ran it through the team and the team was super excited about it.  At first not, but then super excited after a week of thinking.  And then we kind of said yes, let’s do this.

They booked tickets to meet the founder I’m onboarding and then they pulled out.  And as they pulled out, which happens in M&As.  It’s nothing strange.  People change their minds or strategy decisions or the wrong timing or whatever.  When they pulled out, that’s when it just hit us.  It’s like we shouldn’t do this.  We should just hand out the money to the investors.  We should sell off the assets, we should just stop beating at a dead horse now.  So that’s what we did.

All the employees left two weeks later except me and my tech co-founder.  Everyone else left. Apple, two Y Combinator startups and a couple of super stellar startups that hired them.  Everybody had landed immediately super cool jobs.  And then me and my co-founder just started figuring out how we’re going to wind down.  Then we had a company who wants to take over all the tech and integrate it to their product.  It kind of worked for that taker during the summer.  He’s now going to take over the product and kind of launch it out of their own with kind of a twist there, kind of a version of it.  So they’re kind of acquiring the assets but it’s not going to be the same product or same use-case really.  And it’s not going to be called Brisk.

 

Alex Theuma:  You’re an entrepreneur that’s driven by learning.  What were your key learnings from the four years of Brisk?

Now, it’s like if you’re not at 50k, you’re a lifestyle business

Hampus Jakobsson:  I actually started my blog pretty much as we did this.  So I blog now at hajak.se and I’ve written so many blog posts now about the different things we learned.  I’ve written one about like metrics, one about how to do customer development, one on how to share stuff with the team.  There were so many things we learned that I’m so happy we did.  And I wrote like three different posts about why we failed.  One on like how to actually work with making sure you’re not too flexible and stuff like that.

I think that at the end of the day I learned so many different things I never thought I would.  I mean, I really never thought I would learn all these things.

And I think what’s really changed today is that when I built TAT, my first company, we built it inside the mobile world, which is a very closed world.  And it’s like a big announcement when you can get Apple to leak anything the day before.  Whereas in the SaaS world it’s like everybody knows what Salesforce is doing.  Like it’s not a big secret.  People are kind of open about stuff.

I think what’s just so amazing for all these learnings is like in our world, in the B2B SaaS world, you can just call people and ask them and they have great conversations.  And if you’re kind of secretive, you can say like, “Should we go for a drink,” and then you can have the conversation.

I think that I learned so many things and I’ve learned so much about the SaaS sales process and like the modern way to build companies.  And what I also learned is that so many startups and SaaS B2B startups get stuck on different thresholds.  There’s one threshold which is that you don’t get to charge customers.  Like there’s one first threshold which is like you have like zero MRR or homeopathic MRRs.

But then there’s another threshold which is like you get to 10-15k.  And at 10-15k it’s like you’ve got something, but you don’t have something that’s a VC case.  And that’s where we were sort of heading.  We realised like we’re getting closer and closer to this thing and we need to become at 50k.  And we can get to 15k but it’s going to take much longer than we expect.  And I think that’s where I realised that it used to be, I think like 5 years ago when B2B SaaS was young, is that if you had something that you can charge $2,000-3,000 a month recurring, like you had a 5k MRR company, you got funding.  Like you could raise a really significant nice round because you’re a SaaS company and it’s going to be cool.

Now, it’s like if you’re not at 50k, you’re a lifestyle business.  And that’s also why we folded.  We realised that we had not reached a point where we can build a lifestyle business unless we add the mass amount of bespoke.  Because if we do, like if we do add professional service and tailoring, we can continue to grow this.  But we don’t want to do that.  Like we don’t enjoy that.  And the VCs don’t enjoy that.  So that’s where we realised like we couldn’t really get to that point.

And I think that’s another thing I learned is just like when I ask companies today, when I meet a startup, I ask them what’s your MRR, what’s your average contract value.  Then looking at those I can then know what stuff should be like.  Then when I just ask them about their company if stuff aren’t like it should be then it’s just wrong.

If they say like, “Oh, our deals, our annual contract value is like $1,000.”  Like, “Okay, who are your customers?”

“Oh, it’s Fortune 500s.”  Like, “Okay.  That’s never going to work out.  There are just too few of them and you’re charging to them.”

Or they’re saying, “Yeah, we have like MRR.  You can’t really see an average because they’re all over the place.  We have some who pay 50, some pay 5,000.  We have one now who pays 60,000.”  It’s just like you totally lack focus.

Then it’s like all of these questions it’s just from onboarding all of these big clients were so obvious to me to see.  Now, in hindsight, when I meet a new startup who kind of hasn’t reached that machine stage of kind of 50k MRR, before you reach that stage, a lot of these metrics you just look at them.  A lot of people talk about like the quick ratio or whatever.  The quick ratio or LTV and CAC that’s great if you kind of have a very low MRR because then you have a lot of customers you can look at.

But if you go up to kind of $5,000 or, God forbid, like $50,000 deals then you can’t calculate a quick ratio.  You’re not going to have a hundred customers.  It’s not going to be statistics.  You’re going to divide three different companies by four different companies.  You can’t talk about funnel conversion because you’ve met 50 companies and three of them became customers.  So it’s not statistically relevant.  I think that’s the thing which I think that also we need to figure out how to apply the metrics that come from the consumer world, which are like LTV and CAC really are, to kind of a B2B world where we go up in agreements.

How do we actually evaluate a company that signs enterprise deals?  How do you forecast a funnel if your deal size is $50k?  When does it stop being math and when does it become an art?  And those are the things I spent so much time on.  It’s really interesting.

 

Alex Theuma:  You’re speaking at SaaStock on the 22nd of September in Dublin.  And the topic of the talk is engineering your sales team for hypergrowth.  Now, I’ve got every confidence that you’ll be able to nail that topic.  But given that you’ve had to shut Brisk down this summer, what will we hear specifically from you around this that’s perhaps different from the other panellists?

 

It’s like everybody is killing it.  I think that I find kind of the unit economics or product/market fit it’s kind of like the sex of high school.  Everybody is having it.  It’s like everybody is talking about it but nobody has a clue

Hampus Jakobsson:  I think that one huge difference, I’m not going to say anything.  I’m trying not to be negative about the other people on the panel because I think they’re going to do their best.  I think one huge difference for me is that I’m going to be just candidly honest.  Because I think that they will definitely try but the problem is that they have a company to save and a round they’re looking to raise or a PR team that would fry them for saying something wrong.  Like for me, I can just tell people.

If people want to know something I can just tell it.  It’s no problem.  I can just call bullshit on stuff.  I can say like that’s not true.  You don’t have those numbers.  It’s like plural of anecdote is not data.

And it’s like there are a lot of these things where I think that when you read the TechCrunch articles  everybody is killing it.  But that’s actually one of the really crazy things that happened to me after we decided to fold, we announced we would fold.  I got contacted by every single kind of competitor, competition in the field.  Some of them like inquiries about acquisition but a lot of them just wanted to know what happened and wanted to ask a lot of questions.

And some of those calls were just really scary.  I ended up talking to a lot of people who I thought like they were killing it and they were nailing it and just their team page alone looked amazing.  I ended up getting calls where like the founder who sat in front of me silent for one minute and just end up saying, “We have really no clue what we’re doing.  Like we looked up to you and we thought that you really had it.  And now when you’re saying you don’t know what you’re doing it’s like what on earth are we doing?”

And I think that’s one of the things I really dislike about some kind of this like macho culture sometimes, the venture capital industry sometimes I think drive us to do too.  It’s like everybody is killing it.  I think that I find kind of the unit economics or product/market fit it’s kind of like the sex of high school.  Everybody is having it.  It’s like everybody is talking about it but nobody has a clue.  And I wish we kind of had a much more honest discussion of saying like we think we have product/market fit but we’re not sure.  We just like kind of come in and just scrutinise what we’re doing and criticise us and we’ll pitch it to you.  I think just two people to do that, I wish that more people just sat down and said like let us pitch it to you and just be super honest.

 

Alex Theuma:  If I was a fellow panellist I’ll be slightly nervous sitting next to you.

 

Hampus Jakobsson:  No, I’m going to be nice.

 

Alex Theuma:

But what’s next for you now, Hampus?  Are you going to do another SaaS startup or more investing?

 

Hampus Jakobsson:  I’m going to continue to invest.  I really enjoy investing.  I enjoy helping startups that I think are interesting domains.

I’ve decided I’m not going to start something between now and Christmas.  Right now I’m just helping a lot of different startups and really enjoying it.  It’s actually one of the biggest things about not being a founder is that I can just go to bed at night and watch an episode of a TV series and then just fall asleep.

And I realise I haven’t done that for like 15 years.  All of my previous life it’s been that I went to bed, had a notebook, wrote different things, thought about something, picked up my phone, wrote another email to all my colleagues, realised that something was strange.  Checked that up, wrote another thing in the notebook.  And I was just like, hey, Mr Robot is kind of nice TV series.  Let’s watch another episode, which is really nice.

But the thing what’s next is I try to blog a lot and I try to help people a lot about their different problems and I really enjoy doing that.  I think that I’ll just see what happens next.  I’m after a little learning and I’m really enjoying that part.

Catch Hampus speak at SaaStock conference on 22nd September in Dublin

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  • This is a supremely good interview – and so rare to hear someone talk honestly about their failures (not just their successes). Glad I found this, it will help many I know.