In this episode of SaaS Origin Stories, Phil is joined by Carl Carell, Co-Founder of GetAccept, a digital sales room empowering revenue teams to increase their win rates by engaging and understanding buyers. Previously, Carl was also the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Adsensus Denmark Aps, and was a Sales Manager AtlasTM SRL.
They have an insightful discussion about just how educated buyers are now compared to years ago; why you need to be careful about who you choose to run a business with; the importance of learning through failure; and the impact of having a healthy working culture. They also get into why, as a startup, you need to be able to execute your ideas quickly, but also why you shouldn’t overwork yourself.
Name: Carl Carell
About Ran: Carl Carell is the Co-Founder of GetAccept, a digital sales room empowering revenue teams to increase their win rates by engaging and understanding buyers. Previously, Carl was also the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Adsensus Denmark Aps, and was a Sales Manager AtlasTM SRL.
One of his colleagues, Kevin Montano, had this to say about him: “It is rare to possess as much charisma and emotional intelligence as Carl. I was lucky enough to learn from him during my time with the company he founded, GetAccept.”
Carl on LinkedIn
Carl on Twitter
GetAccept on LinkedIn
Being a sales rep in this day-and-age can be a tricky business. Afterall, with so much accessibility to a wide range of information (and also misinformation) on the internet, customers are far more educated on certain topics and, as a result, are more weary when it comes to listening to sales reps.
Carl explains that, at GetAccept, they want to create a better experience for both sales reps and buyers, making it smoother and having a much clearer understanding of each other.
“So, how do we create a journey that is not just helping sales reps sell better, but also helping buyers have a better experience and understand that vendor in a better way? That's what got GetAccept to be where we are today. That is essentially the problem that we think about; I fall asleep thinking about our product and I wake up [still] thinking about it, every single day.”
Carl’s business background has certainly been a rich and busy one, but one piece of advice he has for anyone looking to start a business, whether that be in SaaS or another respectful industry, is that you shouldn’t just start a business with anyone. Just because someone is a good friend, it doesn’t mean they’ll be a good business partner. It’s an easy mistake to make, one filled with so much excitement and enthusiasm for a business idea that it can be hard to remember the importance of how well you and your partner will mesh and work together in the long run.
“We started a business in college [...] That was an interesting journey, it taught me a lot about how you should think around your business. You should just start a business with whoever’s around, you should really think about the co-founders you choose and what their ambitions are.”
SaaS is notoriously difficult to build a business in, and just like many of host Phil’s guests, Carl has started multiple businesses before hitting the jackpot with GetAccept. There’s a danger with the way the media shows off many entrepreneurs in recent times, portraying them as figures who can do no wrong and are unquestioned geniuses, but Carl warns us not to listen to them that much, as almost every entrepreneur he knows has had to try and fail before making something great.
It’s the dream of many SaaS entrepreneurs to move to Silicon Valley and smash it out of the park, but it’s important to remember: it won’t always be that easy.
Carl acknowledges that, when he first started in SaaS, there was a certain toxicity to the culture - tight deadlines, short tempers, inflated egos - but now, it has calmed down a lot. It’s so vitally important that your business creates a culture that people want to be a part of; culture is what makes people want to come back to the office and work with others, it creates a sense of belonging that is absolutely needed for any one in any sort of environment.
“If you hire really fantastic people and have that as a strategy, you also have to have a strategy to retain that talent and to keep them happy.”
When you first create your business, meeting deadlines and executing your ideas is paramount, because you still have to prove yourself. This can lead to long hours and hard work which will require a strong work ethic, resilience, and determination. It’s important, then, to try and stay optimistic, and keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Eventually, all of your hard work will pay off, it’s just a matter of time.
Welcome to SaaS Origin Stories. Tune in to hear authentic conversations with founders as they share stories from the earlier days of their SaaS startups. We'll cover painful challenges, early wins, and actionable takeaways. You'll hear firsthand the do's and don'ts of building and growing a SaaS, as well as inspirational stories to fuel you on your own SaaS journey. Here is your host, Phil Alves. Today I have Karl Karel, the CEO of GetAccepted.
Welcome to the show, Karl.
Hi, thank you for having me, Phil. Great to be here.
Karl, first question I would like to ask you, what problem does your product solve?
That's a great question. I think that's every founder's story and product story needs that background. From our perspective and where we started out, I come from a background helping other companies with complex B2B sales and helping them particularly in the space of setting a good sales process and creating opportunities. At the end of the day, we work very, very hard to create fantastic opportunities.
A lot of times, they end up in what we call the valley of death, meaning that you've spent all this money on marketing, SDRs, creating opportunities, having meetings, and then you have no response back from that customer. They end up in that valley of death, you send a proposal, nothing happens.
When we started looking into doing our next company and what we wanted to do, we realized we really want to help the latter part of the sales process from an account executive or closing reps perspective. It's really tough. It's a tough job to be a quota-carrying rep.
How can we help them to maybe create that sixth sense that you can have and close something?
That was the idea where GetAccept came to be. Helping account executives or closing reps, winning more opportunities of their hard-earned opportunities that they create throughout the funnel. That's the key, winning more business. At the same time, what we also had in our vision and the problem that we saw is that everything's changing in terms of the buying journey today as well, meaning that buyers are significantly more educated.
You have sites like G2 Crowd where you can figure out anything about any software today, what this actually real user is saying. How do we create a journey that is not just helping sales reps sell better, but also helping buyers have a better experience and understand that vendor in a better way. That's where GetAccept proved to be where we are today. That is essentially the problem that we think about.
I fall asleep thinking about when I think about our product and wake up thinking about it every single day. That's a great problem to solve. Let's take a step back. I'd love to hear a little bit about your background story and everything that you've done before you start GetAccept.
Yeah, sure. I'm Swedish, born and raised in Sweden. I've lived abroad for many years in South America. I've gone to college in the States and in San Diego. I have a formal degree in business administration and corporate finance and statistics. I've always liked numbers. I think numbers are very interesting.
From my personal interest as well, I understood very early on that sales and customer relations is very interesting because it has a lot to do with psychology. That has taken me on a couple of journeys. I started my first company when I was 20 years old. I haven't been employed ever since. I started out with working around food and wine and realizing that's a really hard business to run a business in.
I ventured into starting a business during college. We started a consultancy that grew from zero to 120 odd people in a couple of years, a couple of college friends. That was also an interesting journey that I think taught me a lot about what you should think around when you start the business. You shouldn't just start the business with whoever you end up starting the business with.
You should really think about the co-founders that you choose and what your ambitions are and where you go. That is part of it. During this entire time, coming back to where we started GetAccept, the plan was always going back to the States.
For me, that meant going to Silicon Valley and try the hardest scene for entrepreneurs to succeed, but also the biggest opportunity. We wanted to see if we could spread our wings and fly in the most competitive space in the most competitive place in the world. The eyes were set on Silicon Valley and that's how we ended up there. Awesome. You had two other companies before starting your SaaS product.
I see that as a trend. People don't talk so much about it, but building a SaaS is very, very hard. I see founders that have some experience and built other kinds of companies before kind of have an advantage because they learn things. You just talk about the lesson of hiring the wrong people.
SaaS, because you're going to lose money for so long, the impact is bigger. It's harder to build a SaaS than it is to build other kinds of business. I think it's good that you build other businesses before.
Would you agree with that statement?
100%. I think what I don't like about media tends to look at entrepreneurs almost like these demigods. I'm not going to mention any alternatives, but I think there's a lot of bad examples. To get to where you are, you have to try and fail.
Taking that analogy, then going back into how you end up and want to do SaaS, I think it's good to go through that journey to understand what it is like to start a company. What is the journey like to set a strategy and idea, launch a product or a service, figuring out the unit of economics of things and understanding what's profitable, what's not profitable.
That's why I love SaaS, because it's an extremely profitable business model, and it can scale very quickly when you get it right. But as you say, it's really, really, really tough. But one thing that you never can discount is the value of building a great organization with great people and a great culture.
Because if you have a purpose and you have great talent and hire smarter people than yourself, I figured out that the hard way. In the beginning, I think particularly in the second company, I had a feeling I had to do everything myself. I had to solve every business problem. I had to fix any situation. When it was tough on cash, for example, we're a bootstrapped company.
We went through some really, really, really tough times and having the experience to take away your own salary. So you have to fund everything yourself. Those experiences harden you, but it also keeps you quite humble, what it means to go the entrepreneurial path. I think today everybody wants to be an entrepreneur because that's what's portrayed from colleges and media. But you have to understand entrepreneurial journey is not something that comes easy.
You have to fight for it. And I think you have to want to do something like this to go through that journey. I think it's extremely rewarding, a fantastic space to be in, but you also have to understand both the risks, of course. The vast majority of people who go on a journey for a startup and SaaS particularly, they fail.
So the learnings that I had early on, get accept, was kind of the answer of how do I actually want to run a company third time around?
Which people do I want to have on board?
What ways do we want to run the company in terms of core values and culture?
What is the ambition with the company?
Because that's also something that I learned the hard way. If you have co-founders who have maybe someone who wants a lifestyle business, they want to live in a certain way. And that's the most important for them.
For me, the perspective was when I started my companies, I always dreamt about, okay, I want to be the best in the world at everything that I do. I had played soccer when I was younger and played soccer towards college as well. I also always wanted to be the world's best.
So when I realized I couldn't be one of the best soccer players in the world, which I was naive to believe for a long time, I realized, screw it, this is not for me, I have to give up. So that's why I went into entrepreneurship and wanted to succeed in that fashion. That drive is always there.
That's I learned if you start a company, then with people who don't share that passion and don't want to go that length. So when you hit hard times, you're going to have conflict and friction that's going to be really, really tough because I want to pull in that direction. Whereas my co-founders want, we want to take the secure route, not worth risking anything.
And to me, if you don't risk anything, yeah, we can't win. Somebody's going to beat us because they're going to take that risk and some of them will succeed.
So I think that those are a couple of things that always come to mind when I talk to other entrepreneurs and other people, particularly when I talk to younger entrepreneurs, the importance of choosing your co-founders, choosing the people you work with and ensuring that you share core values and ambition. Because those are very hard to come, you know, mix if they're not somewhat in the same ballpark together.
You bring up culture and that's something that I see like when you are early on, like maybe for a second time starting a company, you're thinking about a strategy, we're thinking about the business plan, but that's going to change. And one thing that's likely not going to change so much is your culture.
And when I speak with more seasoned entrepreneurs, they always talk about culture because like culture, it's a strategy for breakfast. That's just the reality. It's like the foundation where things start and it's the foundation that when we are newbies, we don't understand. Right. 100%.
I mean, I'm not the person to say there's not businesses who have what I would define as bad culture and haven't succeeded. I think it's just getting harder and harder to do that because the smartest people, the best people also want the best workplace. They want the best work environment. And I don't think necessarily the toxic traditional culture that has existed for a long time.
That's when I entered the workplace that was quite common back in the early 2000s when I started working.
Yeah, it was a lot of toxic cultures. And I think culture is really important because that's what brings people back to the office. It's what brings people to want to work with each other. And that extra belonging is what's going to make people stay in any role, having somebody who is loyal and want to stay in that develops with you because you invest so much in people. You ramp them up.
They have so much know-how. And if you hire really fantastic people and have that as a strategy, you also have to have a strategy to retain that talent and to keep them happy.
And today, I think it's a prerequisite from the smartest and the best people out there that the company has a good culture. Then defining what is a good culture for certain individuals that may differ. I think GetAccept, our company culture is fantastic. I say to every employee or any candidate that I talk to, GetAccept is not for everyone. But we are like this.
And if you like this, we're probably a really, really, really fantastic employer for you. But if not, that's totally okay. I don't think that's bad for you. It's okay if you say, hey, this is not for me. I'm happy to help you on board and maybe direct you to a company that suits a little bit more your style.
Doesn't mean we're better, but we have to understand what our culture is and how we can attract people who like that workplace. Because if we do that, we have a pretty magical mix when it comes to growth and output. When people feel that belonging to each other that the culture can bring, you can achieve some pretty amazing things in pretty short amounts of time. For sure.
And like you say, there's different kind of cultures and there's a culture that's going to be right for each person. And it's okay to understand that some people are not going to try for your organization. And that's kind of like we do that with our customers, trying to choose our ideal customer. We have to do it with our team members, trying to choose our ideal team members.
But let's go back to the timeline of like your origin story. You start two companies, you came to the United States, you got a degree, you went back to your country, started the country's companies. And now you're thinking about coming back to San Francisco. You were like a foreigner. You want to come, you want to start a company in San Francisco.
How did you get back here and how was the process?
Yeah, I have to backtrack a bit in my mind. At that point in time, when I realized it's probably time to do something again, I passed that point with five odd years with my second company. And then it starts itching if I don't feel that we're moving in the right direction. I also felt at the time we've gone through some founder problems and some founder fights at the time.
And through that, I found an entrepreneurial network in Northern Europe where I met some of my co-founders. They were also customers. We became partners. So when we started Get Accepted, the idea was, hey, we want to go to Silicon Valley. We really want to see if we're good enough entrepreneurs to succeed there. That was the drive, the definition of why wasn't that more elaborate.
To be honest, it was more, hey, there's something shiny over here. We want to try it. And for us, when we started Get Accepted, we contacted some venture capitalists and some business angels. And we thought, okay, we probably need to build some revenue in the business, get some customers here in Northern Europe, in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and maybe England or something like that. Build some revenue there.
And for us then, a lot of people gave us advice to come to Accelerator. At the point in time, I was familiarized. I worked with some accelerators tied to some of our colleges that I actually did some lecturing at in entrepreneurship at the time. And I understood the concept of an accelerator. And we kind of, aren't we, we're second and third time entrepreneurs between the three of us and four of us.
Why should we do an accelerator?
For me, the accelerator was much for something coming out of college or during college. But then we did some research on Y Combinator after the second and third VC recommended us to apply to Y Combinator. And what happened is we sent in the application a little bit on a whim. We got an interview and it went pretty quick. It was a couple of weeks in difference.
And the Y Combinator batch started in, I think it was 4th of January. We got the acceptance letter end of November. We moved to the week before New Year's. And it took like four or five, six weeks in between where we took the decision. It was never an option to not do it when we got in. Let's take the opportunity. Let's come there.
So we left Sweden, me and my three co-founders, their three wives. I was single at the time and six kids and left for an apartment complex in Saneväl. Where we started our office. Everybody else, we were in this condominium where all families living in a row. Since I was single, my apartment technically became our office. So that's how we ended up in the US.
Of course, we went through YC, which is a 90 day program. We raised seed funding afterwards. The ambition was to continue to have the US and Silicon Valley centric company.
And yeah, that's how we got there. It went very quick when we said, oh, yeah, we should do this. We want to go to the US and we found a solution within 60 to 90 days to do so from when we started talking about it. That's amazing.
And how does the funding work when you go to like a YC?
I think they give you some money, three months program, and then there's like a demo day.
Walk me through that and how they went and how much money did you guys raise?
That was the questions we asked ourselves as well, Phil.
How does it actually work?
We just understood it was a good thing based on a lot of pieces.
But yeah, the process is quite simple. It was a hundred odd companies. It was accepted into the batch at the time. I think it was the biggest one that YC did at the time.
You get, I think, if I remember our deal, they have a standard deal that everybody gets, which is 125K for 7% of your company, essentially. So that's what everybody gets. It's done on a safe. And then you have 90 days to take that money to build as good of a pitch and the story and revenue or whatever metrics you're tracking during that 90 day period.
And then, as you say, you do a demo day. YCombinator is obviously the best, the accelerator in the world. So demo days at the Computer History Museum at least wasn't back in that.
Six, seven hundred of the world's absolutely top tier investors and angels come there. So you have a moment to pitch for two and a half minutes. So you have all this work within your life's work to have two and a half minutes to pitch people over two days for 105 other companies are pitching and getting their attraction and then trying to close seed funding based on that.
And that was a story in itself. We have never raised money. We bootstrapped our previous companies.
So for us, first, we went to the first investor meeting in a group of four with all four founders. We realized that's a catastrophe. It's just too much people. It's hard to keep a storyline and people asking different questions. So after doing 20 of these meetings in the wrong way, we started doing the right way.
And I think we did close to 100 meetings with investors those coming couple of months before we finalized our seed round. So hard work, a lot of failures during that time. It was very much a crash and burn scenario, I want to say, with the investors.
Lo and behold, a lot of the investors we started talking to later on in the process came on board rather than the earlier ones because I think we failed up a fair few of those pitches. Okay. So you three families come to the United States and you have $125,000.
What happens if you don't raise money that three months round?
So like what would happen then?
You have to come back home?
That depends on... We put in some of our own money into the business to have a little bit more time on our hands when we started the business. So that's something that we did to, you know, for me, coming from a bootstrapped company, your bank account and your liquidity is the absolute most important thing.
How much money do you have left in the bank to continue?
What's your runway, etc.?
I mean, I've gone through, as I said, taking away salary from myself and other people to ensure that we can survive the business so we can keep our employees. So I've been through that. I don't think that was a big fear in that sense.
I mean, we're born and raised in a country in Sweden where honestly, if you lose your work or lose your income, it's not that bad. You have a social security net. So you have that background coming from Sweden that, worst case scenario, moved back to Sweden in that case and we reboot and do something else.
But we also had the privilege that we had some money on hand between us founders to have a little bit more stamina into this journey. But of course, moving to San Francisco in its heyday in January 2016 when rents are 10 times higher than what they were back at home. And anyone who's been in San Francisco knows the cost of living there.
So I think if we didn't have a successful way of continuing in the US, we wouldn't have done that because it was not sustainable. So I think anyone who started a business in San Francisco very quickly start looking to alternatives of where to hire or building teams in other regions to increase their financial metrics in a better way because it's really, really tough.
It's a fantastic place because you have access to so much great talent, but you have to cough up a pretty penny to get that right.
And how much was the first seed raise?
How much do you guys raise?
We raised, let's see if I recall correctly, but I think we did approximately $2 million in that seed round. We did a little bit on different saves during different times, but about $2 million at the time. I think when we went public in TechCrunch for the first time around about the seed raise, yeah, it was $2 million.
And then we've written some other saves during that journey as well and raised some money on the saves. It's quite easy to raise money on saves versus price rounds. So as long as you can do that on good terms, that's an easy way to do it. Makes sense. So take me to the process of designing and building the first version of your product.
And specifically, I would like to know how long it took to have a product out. I think that's a great question. I have the fortune. I'm not the technical co-founder. That's why we're a couple of co-founders. We chose each other quite well because we have different strengths, but have two technical co-founders on that side. And we have one, our CTO, which is Jonas, who's one of those.
When you define a 10x developer, that's him in its essence, self-taught, very quick, built a lot of different software by himself and is extremely quick in doing that. That helps. So when we started, we started mapping out the first product that we wanted to build sometime during summer 2015, we then started to pitch this in PowerPoint. So we kind of mocked it up and pitched it to some of our networks and people.
Hey, we have this product.
Are you willing to use it if we release it to you in September?
You can get it for free for 90 days. So we had a business strategy, which was if they like it after 90 days, this is going to be the price. And then you have to convert to paying when we launch. We actually set the launch date, 4th of December 2015, for ourselves already that summer that we didn't want to budge on. Then we wanted to go public.
We wanted to launch the website with free signups and a free trial and getting there. So we had that timeline from summer to there. I think Joan has put together the first product in 60 to 90 days that we then released to those 20 customers in September 2015. It was good enough. We converted 18 out of those 20 customers 4th of December 2015.
So that was the strategy because we knew how important it was to get money quickly and get people to pay for your best validation of your product is somebody who wants to pay for it. A lot of people say, hey, sure, I'll try it for free. But getting somebody to pay for it is what you need when it comes to the validation of product.
So that journey, we started in the temple, mocking things and setting things up and thinking about the first product, what the limitations would be comparatively to our vision. We worked together. And since we all were in a situation where we had engagement elsewhere as well, I mean, a couple of us worked night time on this and didn't sleep for a long time to get this one out there.
Because I had my personal I had my commitments to my previous co-founders, my previous company to make that transition happen quickly when I said I'm going to leave and sell my shares. And it was just a lot of long nights and getting that one out there. And I think people talk about hours is not what matters at the end of the day.
But when you launch something and when you get started, how quickly you can execute on your ideas is so important. For sure. So when you came to the United States, you already had a product. And like when you got a set to YC, the product was already developed. And I was just improving the product and I guess trying to make sure you find product market fit.
Is that correct?
Yeah, pretty much.
I mean, our perspective was let's sell the shit out of this product in YC. That was kind of the essence at the same time. So we were four co-founders. We divided us into groups. So two co-founders worked on the product support, getting feedback from the users that entire loop.
Myself and Mattias, my other co-founder, we sat and cold called the living hell out of every single person we could find in Silicon Valley. Took every meeting and introduction, you know, email market that ourselves to every single person. You can get the email address in Silicon Valley, all the people we knew back home from Northern Europe and try to sell to them.
So that was the strategy, essentially, to build as much revenue as possible because in YC and in general, when you raise money and growth in dollar signs, it's the most important metric that you can showcase. Makes sense. So you go outbound, trying to find those customers.
And what has worked for you guys to attract and retain customers from the early days to now?
Looks like you start with a bunch of outbound.
How have you progressed that?
It always changes over time. What worked back then won't work today, for example. At the time, we had one email that we sent out that I think was, you know, we scraped the common connections. So we had every single person we met in Silicon Valley to get some extra common connections, found other CEOs and sales leaders because that was our persona we sold to at startups and scraped then the common connection.
We wrote an email that generated the vast majority of our conversation, which was essentially, hey, I see that you know Phil Alves.
How do you know Phil?
That was the subject line. This worked in 2016, spring of 2016. But of course, sales tactics like that, you have to know today, you have to be significantly better in your sales development work. But then we had a blurb that said, hey, we're in the current batch of YC, would love your feedback on our product.
And anyone who liked our product, then we asked them, would you like to purchase a couple of licenses and try it?
And that's the process. So we got feedback on the product, demoing the product. We learned to talk to people in Silicon Valley because one challenge that we had early days when it came to growth is we had built our entire career and business and we knew all the people we needed to know in Sweden, for example, or Denmark or Norway for that matter. But we knew nobody in Silicon Valley.
So rebooting that was really difficult. And then that was the first growth engine. We continued to do that. We also at the same time started hiring people in Sweden because we knew that market. We had a lot of clients. We built a sales team back home in Sweden. We started then, we did about the first million dollar in ARR on us founders and we hired people then in San Francisco.
And, you know, early days, you don't get that much inbound. We had some inbound that we could work with from our free signups, free trial. We had a 14 day free trial that gave us something. But the vast majority on conversions on the product came from founder led outreach to get those introductions and introductions to someone and getting those a little bit warm introductions.
Going forward, we built quite a significant sales engine and outbound engine because that's what I did before for other companies. That was my one of my specialties. I had a consultancy that helped tech companies to build enterprise sales development processes. So we started building out that one. At the same time, we have a little bit of virality in our products. One part of our product includes e-signature.
So when somebody completes a signature, we pop a form.
Did you like the experience?
And then they can sign up for a free account. So we had some virality in the product. We get some high volume customers that started growing. But all in all, I mean, sure, you have to build your marketing motion and your demand motion and that side of things for inbound. But very reliant on us just hitting the phones, hitting the emails.
How long did sales stay founder led?
And I see that's very common when you build a product, especially because as the founder, you are getting the feedback that you can use to your product to improve your product.
So how long did you stay founder led on the sales motion?
I stayed sell. My co-founder, Samir, our CEO, closed the deal in December. Nice. That's been working for two years. So I think that's symbolically important.
I mean, we sell a platform that helps sales organizations and revenue organizations to win more opportunities.
So for us, it's always been important to showcase we can sell ourselves, right?
That we have a state of the art forward thinking sales organization. But the founder led side, I think, lasted for a good, where we pulled the majority of revenue continuously for, I want to say, the first two years, give or take. Makes sense. And now you still sell, but it's not like in the majority, you have a team and other people in place.
We have a team of 60 plus 60 odd quota carrying individuals. So now it's significantly larger. The pressure is not that much on us to do it. But I think from a founder perspective, where anyone working with product being in sales conversations is such a rewarding thing to do. You get so much information on the direct reactions of your product, understand what they like, what they dislike. Getting that feedback is so, so important.
And that's the number one thing I have in the back of my head from Y Combinator is that they always, always continue to pretty much say, you have to talk to your users. And if you think you've talked enough to users, talk some more to users. That was always their mantra. Like you have to get feedback, understand what they're willing to pay for, understand what they like.
Why are they coming back?
Why are they leaving?
And obsess about those metrics and that information and improve your product. So ultimately you build something that people really want. For sure. That's a great insight. And I think, of course, we had the advantage coming from sell. And that's how you build your team with like all the co-founders thinking about that. But it doesn't matter. I think as a founder, your background, you're going to have to talk to customers.
You're going to have to learn to sell. And no one, especially in the early days, will sell better than founders. That's why I ask you for how long you stay founder led. Is that just enough time to get your company out of like, okay, we're going to survive. Yeah. And I think that's a great sign of great founders that they're willing to do it.
I've seen a lot of great companies and I have a lot of co-founder friends who knew nothing about sales when they started their business. And still pulled the majority of their revenue for the first couple of years. Because they understand that that's what's important to get it off and up and running right. So I think that's a very important trait to have that you're willing to do those things.
And to me as a founder, you have to be willing to do what it takes to succeed. No task too small or too big. You have to be there when you need to. Sales is one of those areas where you really, really have to be close to. For sure.
So what is the first OSHA moment that comes to mind from your journey building Get Aset?
I think very differently. We talked a little bit of this recording, but I have a little bit of a different story. When we started raising our CRSA funding, I got diagnosed with stage four cancer. And I think that was the first. I was pretty, I would say an energetic, young and pretty naive person at that time even. Even despite the fact that I've done a lot of things over those years.
But to me, I was always full throttle, all in, never look back, do everything at full pace. I continued to do that. I continued doing my sports. I continued living my social life to the fullest and spreading myself quite thin. And it never really kicked me in the ass. But realizing that you're not invincible was probably a good thing for my own personal development.
There was also kind of an OSHA moment came like. I love doing this, but at the end of the day, health is what really matters. Health is wealth. And that's something I'd say to my employees all the time. At the end of the day, what matters is that you have your personal health and well-being.
So you can be a great parent, a great brother, a great sibling, a great manager for that matter. And also in prolonging that your family members and loved ones have good health and well-being as well. What I'm doing, I think, is a privilege. I love doing this entrepreneurial journey. I love the startup scene. I love the SaaS space and I love GetAccept as a company.
It's not the end of the day what happens with the business. It's actually more at the end of the day if you survive, that's something that hits you at that point in time. I love what you say. Like health is wealth. And that's so real.
You know, like real wealth, it's being healthy. And there's no point in building big companies. So here I'm Utah. The richest guy in Utah was this guy called Larry H. Miller. He was a billionaire. He was the owner of the NBA team. But he died very, very young. He died like in his early 60s. And he never took care of his health.
And then we all think about what did money do?
Because money doesn't buy you more years. That's just the reality. It is you. It's about you being like understanding your body and then deciding to like you say, sometimes take a step back and focus on yourself.
So how did you overcome?
Like cancer is a huge big deal.
How did you overcome and how was the process of going through?
Yeah, I'm happy to have one comment on what you just said. I think it's also the quality of your activity or your presence in what you're doing. So you just don't run by. I think it's really important to enjoy and celebrate your wins along the journey, both as a company, as a founder and to your team.
Because it's so easy to just rush to the next thing and not depreciate what you actually have. So I think it's both the combination health is wealth. Yeah. But it's also the quality of the time that you spend, whether that's at work or with your loved ones.
Yeah, those are really, really important levers to enjoy life. To overcome cancer. I realized one thing when you have bad news, you don't know how you're going to react. You can think about it.
I think anyone here listening to think, oh, how would I react if somebody told me it's a 30% chance you're going to die within X amount of years?
And then you start to, oh, how would I react?
I realized you don't know until that hits you. So that's the first realization.
For me, I think I was lucky enough to be pretty happy in life. I didn't question it.
I mean, one case that I've seen, I've met a lot of other cancer survivors now and been in the same situation. They're like, screw it. I've done my life totally wrong. I'm going to run in a different direction and go totally haywire and do all the things we really wanted to do.
I think I was in the lucky situation that I lived my life in a way where I just said yes to everything that I thought was interesting and played a little bit on a more spontaneous note. So I didn't have that crisis, but the support network was extremely important. First of all, the support from my co-founders. I had no idea. We never talked about these things when we started the company.
I don't think you do when you're 27 years old.
That is, oh, what if I die?
So first of all, they covered my ass. I think the simple thing, like when I realized I tried to work way too long into that journey, I pushed myself to continue to work with, you know, doing chemotherapy at the hospital. I had my computer with me and took meetings, which I quickly got slapped in my face by a nurse and say, you're an idiot, Carl. You can't do that.
And that was, you know, a realization as well. It took a little bit of time to come to terms with the situation, but the support network was important. Support from family and friends. And that was really key part of it. And I think it's a really hard journey to go through yourself. And if you have lucky to have people around you that support you, I think that's one of the key things.
But it fundamentally also changed a couple of things for me, how I prioritize what I do on a daily basis or where I put my time in because worst comes to worst, I have checkups.
I mean, now I'm in remission and in a good state, I'm healthy. But I'm very well aware that there's a chance that things come back.
And, you know, I do checkups all the time.
So be aware that am I actually spending my time in the way I would want to if that message came?
That's a good reminder to have. It's a little bit like a litmus test on my quality of life and what I put into. And that also brings me to when you start a company that you really believe in and people who believe in you have a strong culture. I would have left if that wasn't the case now. So that is also a little bit of an oh shit moment.
But on a positive note, I really, really do appreciate this company and this journey we're doing together. So I'm committed to continuing it. So those were a couple of wins.
But again, I don't think my story is representative of people who go through the same things in similar situation, because every story is personal and how you react to hardship in life.
I think you have to be empathetic and understand that just because you don't think you would react or do in a certain way, it doesn't mean that it's a shitty, shitty situation for the other person because you don't know what they're going through or how they feel about it.
So it's left me with a lot of empathy towards others and try to really give people the space they need to handle their personal business, even in a business setting.
I mean, I would send somebody home if they're telling me they have an issue, take care of it and come back when you've sorted it, because they're doing nothing good either at the company if they're feeling bad and everybody loses. I think it's really important to promote that at the end of the day. I think this may be a bit different experience than from others.
I think having that type of leadership is really important when you run your business. And I've seen that. I think you get a lot of loyal people if you take care of your people also on the personal side of things. Thanks for sharing.
And it's kind of like when we started talking about culture, and it's cool to see how that nice strong culture play a big role in helping you go through the hard moment. Your co-founders came and they help and they work so you could go and rest and do the things you had to do. And it's also cool to see how that change your perspective on what's most important.
It's like it's enjoying what you're doing right now when you're building business. And we should be happy with the day to day. It's not about the destination. It's not about the huge exit. That's just a bonus. But if you're doing just for the destination, it's a waste of time. And I love it that you say when that news hit that you were doing what you want to be doing.
And it also helps you go through the hard situation.
When you're thinking about living your life, we should think about that because we're all morals, right?
So we should be saying no to the things we should be saying no and yes to the things we should be saying yes. Thanks for sharing. I think that was one of the coolest ocean moments of the show. It was like a big business thing. But at the end of the day, business is about people. You say it's not a business thing.
It's impacted significantly how I lead people at GetAccept and how I communicate towards people. And I think that's been beneficial for us as a company, both in a growth perspective and economic perspective. So I don't think necessarily I think they're intertwined in that way. So that's my experience. And you can look at that employee loyalty and how people commit to certain things. I think there's usually a silver lining with these stories.
And I think that's a big silver lining from my own perspective. For sure.
Could you share a very smart decision, kind of switching gears now, that you made in the early days of your company?
The smart decision I think we did make was the idea to launch the product in the way we did in terms of doing that trial where we, hey, use it for 90 days and we convert it to paying customers. But I think another smart decision that we're very happy with, we had the opportunity to build teams in more cost efficient parts of the world. We now fast forward to today's economic climate.
It's a lot easier when you run businesses where maybe salaries aren't at higher costs that aren't associated. So I think our decision to build our team internationally, depending on where we can find the best talent and bang for the buck for that talent in those regions, that was an early decision we did. So already year one, we had employees in three different countries.
Year three to four, we were in seven different countries. And that's brought us a lot of stability when it comes to the rocky markets and stuff like that. So the smartest decisions was a bit to spread the risk when it comes to both employment and market risk.
But it's easy to, you know, hindsight 2020, it's easy to say that today, but that has been a key reason why we've been able to continue in a quite high pace despite the fact of the economic climate today. You were doing that before it was cool to do it. Because after 2020, it became cool. Everyone is like, OK, we can hire everywhere, we can all work from home.
But this 2020 was many times maybe even the way that people look at it, why not your people are in your house, are not your people in the United States. But it is definitely a smart decision that I see a lot of successful business do. And that's how I build my own business, too. It's leveraging people in other countries. I'm from Brazil and I leverage a lot of people over there.
And it's also so cool to take jobs back to other places that need more than here in the United States.
Yeah, and I think all of us are proud of our heritage to be able to contribute back to Sweden with our company and that job market and find great talent there and foster them. For example, we build our engineering department centered around our Swedish office, mainly because it's easy for us to find talent, to retain talent. But there are also significant differences.
Anyone who's tried to hire engineers in San Francisco or around Silicon Valley know how difficult it is and how quickly people leave when there's different other offers on the table from great other companies. I think if we didn't have that, it would have been a lot more difficult, a lot more times more often in our journey in the early days if we didn't do that.
How about a decision that you made that wasn't very smart?
Less than a deal decision.
Yeah, there's been a fair few of that one as well. I was doing one I jumped before on podcast, I listened to the snippets of other interviews that you did. I can't remember the gentleman's name in that case, but you mentioned the same thing when it comes to finding and solving problems and finding smarter people than yourself.
I think it comes back to that instead of trusting maybe the organization and try to push something through, it's really hard to push through a decision if you don't have acceptance from the team. So I have a lot of times moved quite quickly what I think is the correct way instead of maybe asking a great question to the team and help them solve it.
And I think more so now earlier than today, because I think it took a little bit of time to get into that motion. But for example, it was a situation about how we should proceed in a certain sales strategy where I just moved very, very quickly and the stickiness in that change didn't happen at that time. And that failed quite. But I think the problem was I didn't ask for help.
I chose to do it on my own. And that's a really, really bad thing to do as a leader. And that's something that I've learned that I have to really ask questions to them, get their feedback, and then make the decisions based on the best ideas rather than just going with my first immediate gut feeling, what I think is the best way to go. For sure.
I think founders, it's kind of like your personality, we kind of make decisions quick. But that's something that I have to learn is to take a step back, listen to everybody, then make a decision later with more information. And that's, I think, how as we mature, we become better at not deciding so quick.
So if you could go back in time, like 2015 or 16, like let's go 2016, you just land, United States, what would you tell yourself if you could be yourself?
First of all, I would say slow down a bit. I think you went through it. I think that's a difficult thing.
You know, speed as a founder and entrepreneur is extremely important, but sometimes it can go a little bit too quick in my world. So I would say slow down and listen to people that's smarter than you. I think that is the number one thing I would tell myself.
You know, it goes to the same, you know, bad decision that I've made is usually done because I haven't gathered information and advice from other people. The number two thing goes into that thing as well.
Find great mentors early, people that you look up to, people that you trust that are outside of the business who can provide a different context to things that are not, you know, biased by living and breathing the same thing as you do every day. So I think getting advice from others is really important. And that advice goes a little bit further.
Finding a mentor that hopefully you can be with for a little bit of a longer time who gets to know you, because then you can get better and better quality advice as time passes by. And that has been really, really helpful to me in the past couple of years.
And I would recommend that because it provides, you know, a different compass to your decision making in your business that again, is not biased by people who are living and breathing the same thing day in and day out.
Is there a specific mentor that you would give yourself like, just call this person or go meet this person somewhere?
Is there a specific person that you tell yourself, you have to meet this person early?
An individual that I'm thinking about right now?
Yes, yes, I'd give it a person. I'd be like, go talk to X.
Yeah, it depends a little bit on what area of expertise that you're talking to. I have a gentleman called Rommel Mitchell that I've worked with for a long time that is fantastic and yeah, would highly recommend on that area.
And then when it comes to the business side, there's quite a lot of names on the areas of other founders that I've worked with over the time and that's taken the time to give me feedback. But it's a little bit hard to just mention one, but that's the single individual that I've been working with for a longer time. That's awesome.
But I feel like the key lesson here is that a lot of your mentors are just older founders going through the same thing that you were going through and you got closer to learn from them.
Carl, thank you very much for the time to show. We're getting to the final last two questions. It's been great to chat with you.
So the first of the last two, I'd like to ask you, how is the business doing today?
Anything that you can share about the size of the company?
If you're publicly for revenue, people, and how does the future look like?
I think for everyone, you've realigned a bit about this current market economic with inflation and access to capital and how you think. So we're heading towards profitability as a business. We're in the double-digit ARRs and growing decently. We are not now trying to grow at any cost. So we've changed a bit the cost-to-dollar ratio that we pull in in terms of revenue.
And we're 200 odd people today, not planning to hire that many in 2023, but planning to continue to hire, but more strategic hires rather than the mass hires, for example, we did in 2021 where we hired 100 people in nine months. So the business is, I think I'm cautiously optimistic. I think we're doing relatively comparatively well to a lot of other SaaS business, I think in metrics and growth and retention.
But I'm also cautiously optimistic about the future because I know we don't know what's in store going forward and what the impact is.
You know, this is well-filled. There's a lot of uncertainties. We're planning for uncertainty in a different way we've done before. I think a lot more passive than I'm used to being in certain types of decision-making. But overall, I think the hard times is really good for our business because great leaders, great founders, great organizations, great individuals are shaped when times are really, really, really tough.
It's very easy to be successful when everything's blowing in your back. It's very easy to be graceful in times of that as well, but when times are really tough. So that's why I'm actually enjoying this time because I think it has a bit of a realignment to give people opportunity to shine. So that's my perspective on the current climate. But all in all, the business is doing well.
We raised a serious P funding in end of 2020 and we have a good bank account. And I talked about liquidity before, so I feel pretty stable. We're heading towards profitability in a very short timeframe. So set up to do both journeys that if we need more stamina to go through this crisis, but we want to accelerate growth in the future when we can.
But we want to make sure we're in the best position when that happens because things will turn around. Then we want to be the most attractive company on the market. So that's what we're working for to get into that position. So not being too passive, but at the same time, making sure that we don't risk anything unnecessarily based on the uncertainty that lies ahead. That's awesome. Thanks for sharing that.
And yes, after each recession, there's always a boom and you want to be there for the boom. We also don't know how long the recessions of the crisis is going to last for. So you have to be, like you say, cautiously, optimistically, have to think about moving slow. The way that I see it, I'm a pilot and it's my hobby.
And then when there's turbulence, the first thing that you do, you reduce the speed so the airplane doesn't break. And there's a speed that if you fly at that speed, the airplane won't break because the engineers made all the calculations. And in smooth air, you fly a lot faster. So you're definitely lying in smooth air.
So that's where everyone is kind of like reducing the speed and being more careful about where to go. But I'm also very optimistic that there is going to be smooth air ahead. And congrats on how far you took this company and this amazing company that you built. Thank you.
I mean, it's the start of a long journey. I think entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. So very happy that we've gotten this far and we're very privileged for that. But we have a lot of fantastic people to thank for that journey where we are today.
So yeah, I'm very grateful for that. That's awesome.
And the final question that I ask everyone that comes to the show, what's your favorite book or a book they recommend for every SaaS founder?
Yeah, I have a couple of different recommendations when it comes to these ones. But we have established a new software category, which is called Digital Sales Rooms.
I mean, that's our product. But for us, we were extremely inspired by the journey that HubSpot did. And there's a book about creating a category where Brian Halligan and Anthony Canada wrote that book. I think it's fantastic for any person who wants to disrupt something or change or establish a category. It's a fantastic book to understand what you can do when you're trying to create something that's brand new.
So when you're not entering an established category of a market. So that may be a little bit off the topic recommendation. I really like that book. And I think it's quite unique in that sense. So we highly recommend to read that one. That's a great recommendation. I haven't read it yet. I'm definitely going to pick up that book.
Carl, thank you very much for coming to the show. People want to follow you, keep learning about you.
What's the best way to do it?
Yeah, I would say the only place to find me is on LinkedIn. Very off the record when it comes to social media. So find me on LinkedIn. It's my first and last name in the handle. So that's quite easy to find me.
So yeah, looking forward to connecting with everyone. Awesome. Good. Thank you very much. Thank you. SaaS Origin Stories is brought to you by Dev Squad. To find out more about how we help entrepreneurs launch new products and help larger businesses plug in a ready to go development team, visit devsquad.com.
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