Allan Wille von Klipfolio

Gr├╝nderkaffee Folge 030

Allan Wille von Klipfolio

Ich bin Jeroen von Salesflare und das ist Founder Coffee.

Alle drei Wochen trinke ich einen Kaffee mit einem anderen Gr├╝nder. Wir sprechen ├╝ber das Leben, die Leidenschaften, das Gelernte, ... in einem intimen Gespr├Ąch und lernen die Person hinter dem Unternehmen kennen.

F├╝r diese drei├čigste Folge sprach ich mit Allan Wille, dem Mitbegr├╝nder von Klipfolio, einer f├╝hrenden Echtzeit-Dashboarding-Plattform f├╝r kleine und mittelst├Ąndische Unternehmen.

Straight out of college, Allan started a web design company with two friends, that turned out to develop one of the smallest Java runtimes in the world, took a lot of funding, and IPO’ed. He then took the learnings from this venture to start Klipfolio.

At first, they built a downloadable widget engine that people used to build personal dashboards, but it was hard to monetize it. Then, one day, Lufthansa called because a lot of their employees were tracking soccer scores through their software, and that’s how Klipfolio as we know it now began.

We talk about how that all happened exactly, why Allan recently stepped down as CEO to focus on the future of the company, how he was influenced by his dad, and why he’d dream bigger if he was doing it all over again.

Willkommen bei Founder Coffee.

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Jeroen: Hi Allan, it’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Allan: Ja, danke Jeroen, ich freue mich sehr, hier zu sein.

Jeroen: You’re the co-founder of Klipfolio. For those who don’t know Klipfolio yet, what do you guys do?

Allan: So, we are super lucky to have 11 thousand awesome, small and mid-sized companies that are monitoring their sell performance, their marketing performance, their support performance on Klipfolio. So, we’re a real-time dashboard. BI for people that don’t really have IT teams. We’re really trying to help small and mid-sized businesses get a real-time view into the performance of their business.

Jeroen: Wenn ich es richtig verstanden habe, haben Sie den Markt ein wenig ver├Ąndert, indem Sie BI in die Cloud gebracht haben, indem Sie es ein wenig mehr in Echtzeit machen und indem Sie es mit anderen Quellen verkn├╝pfen. Ist das richtig?

Allan: Yeah, I’ve never really thought of it that way, but I think you’re probably right. I mean, if I rewind a few years back, I think we probably were one of the first B2B dashboard vendors that was in the cloud. Not only in the cloud, but also we had adopted a go-to-market that was targeting small and mid-sized businesses.

Jeroen: Aha.

Allan: So, I mean, I don’t know how much you know about the BI space, but almost all of the vendors, if I go back five or ten years, all of them had a very heavy sales type of approach – very expensive to have on premise. I think we really took that and we actually spent some time in that world as well, but we really took that, shook it up and targeted the SMB with a less expensive ‘in the cloud’ version.

Jeroen: Ich kann mich sehr gut an diese Zeiten erinnern. Ich glaube, in dem Unternehmen, in dem ich gearbeitet habe, haben wir Clickview benutzt.

Allan: Ja, ja.

Jeroen: There was this desktop application that you could use. It was quite expensive, it was doable in the case of Clickview. It’s not like the big IBM Systems and all that. But, still they didn’t really make the shift to the cloud yet.

Allan: No, and they’re still struggling.

Allan: And I mean they’re great tools if you have a team of analysts and a team of BHI developers and if you’ve got the budget. But for a lot of those enterprise focused companies, to come down market and not cannibalize their existing customer base is really, really hard.

Jeroen: Ja.

Allan: So, I do think we’re in a bit of an envious spot for many of those other customers.

Jeroen: I imagine you, yourself, don’t come out of BI then, in that case?

Allan: No, not really. I mean, there’s always so many influences that shape somebody’s life, right?

Jeroen: Aha.

Allan: I mean, I think the one BI’s influence, I think, is that Cognos is an Ottawa company and Cognos used to be Canada’s biggest software company.

Allan: They were acquired by IBM a few years ago, so there certainly is a presence in Ottawa and there’s a lot BI knowledge and world class thinking, that with the re-batch they benefited from. My background though is, you know, I did Industrial Design at school, I’m a designer by heart. I love graphic design, I started as another software company in 1996, where I did lots of the marketing and the user interface design. Maybe we’ll get into this, but we actually stumbled upon what we’re doing today, as a consumer tool.

Allan: And the entire idea, I mean, I don’t know if you know, but the company is really old. We founded this company in 2001.

Allan: It’s ancient by any stretch of the imagination. And the original idea was a consumer tool that would help users monitor their weather, their stocks, their soccer scores, their football scores, all of that kind of stuff.

Allan: And we weren’t really thinking B2B. We weren’t really thinking Business Intelligence. What we saw out, back in 2001-2002, was that so many websites were coming online with frequently changing news items or Spark Sport scores, and we thought, there must be a better way to sort of aggregate that and present that to users.

Allan: Wir hatten also diese herunterladbare Widget-Engine, die ungeheuer beliebt war. Wir hatten tausend Downloads pro Tag, wir waren bei 300.000 Nutzern, die das urspr├╝ngliche, pers├Ânliche Dashboard nutzten.

Jeroen: Fantastisch.

Allan: Klipfolio 1.0, und es war fantastisch. Aber wir hatten keine M├Âglichkeit, das zu monetarisieren. Wir hatten also diesen zweiseitigen Markt. Eigentlich wollten wir unsere Dienste an die Online-Publisher verkaufen. Und wir hatten tats├Ąchlich einigen Erfolg. Wir hatten Beziehungen zu Der Spiegel in Deutschland, wir hatten Beziehungen zu Sporting News, The Weather Network. Wir hatten also eine Reihe von Beziehungen, die uns in die richtige Richtung wiesen.

Allan: But for the most part, these online publishers, that were publishing the weather, and the news, and sport scores and stocks, they didn’t have any money. And they were struggling themselves with what their business model was going to be.

Allan: So, we didn’t find any traction there. Even though we had hundreds of thousands of users, who were monitoring their personal interests using Klipfolio. The flip side that we couldn’t monetize it, so that was a big sort of two-sided marketplace learning curve for us. But, it did sort of, catapult us. It sort of established the brand name in the market and I actually think, to this day, we might still be benefited from that brand awareness that we had 15 years ago.

Jeroen: Yeah, if I’m not mistaken you were very popular with the soccer scores mostly?

Allan: Yeah. And there’s a funny story about that. So FC Midshire and Barcelona, they all had feeds. Now, they were not willing to pay us for these feeds, but they also had XML and RSS feeds. But, the funny story or the opportunity was that it was though the soccer scores that we actually landed our first enterprise, or our first paying business customer.

Allan: And this is a couple years later. Lufthansa contacted us and I remember it was about 4 p.m. at the end of the day, I’m sitting at my computer, I’m just struggling, because we’re not making any money and we get an email from Lufthansa, from their IT department. And it was in English and it said, “Many of our employees are using Klipfolio to monitor their football scores. Can we use Klipfolio to push business information as well?”

Allan: Innerhalb einer Nacht, innerhalb der 24 Stunden, die wir hatten, haben wir nat├╝rlich zugesagt.

Allan: Wir haben ein Preismodell entwickelt, und ich wei├č nicht mehr genau, was wir berechnet haben, aber wir haben es als ein Modell mit wiederkehrenden Einnahmen eingerichtet. Das war im Jahr 2004; wir haben es als j├Ąhrliche Zahlung eingerichtet. Ich glaube, es waren f├╝nfunddrei├čigtausend Dollar pro Jahr, und die Lufthansa sagte zu. Und das war unser erster gro├čer Schwenk, der uns in den Scho├č fiel. Es war ein Pivot ├╝ber Nacht, der uns einen Gesch├Ąftskunden einbrachte, und von da an schlossen wir Gesch├Ąfte mit Staples, Intel, American Express und anderen ab.

Allan: Das war also ein gro├čer Moment in der Geschichte des Unternehmens.

Jeroen: Hat Sie das sofort dazu bewogen, das Gesch├Ąftsmodell zu wechseln, oder haben Sie noch eine Weile mit dem vorherigen Modell weitergemacht?

Allan: Well, we did. We didn’t sunset it, but from a revenue point of view and from a salary point of view, you don’t have much choice.

Allan: If you’re facing death and can’t pay your bills and all of a sudden you found a vein that is willing to sustain life, the choice is pretty easy. Now, I remember on our website we still had Klipfolio personal and then we had Klipfolio enterprise. We actually even had a third one as well. There was a brief time where we were trying our best at selling Rich Internet Applications, or branded desktop applications.

Allan: So, we would develop these very custom desktop applications that would stream news down to a users desktop, and we made some money with that as well. The problem was that each of them were so unique, that it wasn’t productizable. We couldn’t use it for the next customer.

Allan: So, we often called that dirty money, because it wasn’t money that we could build a business on, it was services revenue more than anything else. But, yeah, we had basically the personal side and the enterprise side and I always caution startups or entrepreneurs when they have multiple, different target audiences early in their lives, because it’s difficult. It really makes the buying decision and who you’re absolutely for, who you’re targeting, it makes it much, much muddier than it really should be.

Jeroen: Ja. Was w├╝rden Sie diesen Leuten raten, die verschiedene Arten von Publikum haben, wie sollten sie damit umgehen? An welchem Punkt sollten sie eine Entscheidung treffen?

Allan: I mean, first of all it comes with a realization, right? And I think many times, especially technologists feel that the thing that they have built can really be applied to 10, 12, 20 different markets, different types of customers. You could use it to do A, B and C. But, that is difficult, because when you’re targeting a customer that customer wants to know that you have reference customers, that are in their own space. They want to make sure that you are speaking their language, that you have depth in their field.

Allan: It really takes a tremendous amount of energy to focus on one particular market. So, as a young company, absolutely pick the one that you’re most passionate about, pick the one where you have some early traction, and then just double down on that as much as you can.

Allan: And then as you grow and as you have the support staff to be able to diversify, that’s when you could potentially do that.

Jeroen: Ja, da stimme ich vollkommen zu. Was war Ihre Idee am Anfang von Klipfolio? Warum haben Sie ein Unternehmen gegr├╝ndet? Was war Ihre Motivation daf├╝r?

Allan: So, I’d started another company in 1996.

Allan: We were straight out of university. It was me and two other friends from university and it was a massive, massive learning experience. We actually started by just developing websites for customers, this is in 1996 and there was a lot of need for businesses coming online to develop websites. What we didn’t realize is that in developing these websites we had also developed one of the smallest Java Runtimes in the world, and that was what eventually grew the business and got funding etcetera.

Allan: Bei diesem ersten Unternehmen haben wir tats├Ąchlich zu viel Geld aufgenommen, und das hat uns alle m├Âglichen Probleme bereitet. Das Unternehmen ging tats├Ąchlich an die B├Ârse, aber es war eine Art Zwangs-B├Ârsengang. Als ich Klipfolio gr├╝ndete, wollte ich das Gelernte nutzen und einen Neuanfang machen. Ein einfacheres Unternehmen gr├╝nden. Aber was ich auch sah, und wie ich vor einer Minute erw├Ąhnte, sahen wir all diese Leute, die t├Ąglich f├╝nf, sechs oder sieben verschiedene Dinge ├╝berwachten.

Allan: Das war also die Gelegenheit. Wir sahen, wie sich XML und RSS allm├Ąhlich durchsetzten, und nat├╝rlich auch die Breitbandtechnik. Die meisten Menschen hatten einen Breitband-Internetzugang. All diese Dinge kamen irgendwie zusammen, und das war es, wof├╝r wir uns begeistern konnten. Wir wollten so vielen Menschen wie m├Âglich helfen, die Dinge zu ├╝berwachen, die ihnen wichtig sind.

Allan: It’s moved from personal to business, but that spark or that passion of helping people monitor the things that they care about is still very much alive.

Jeroen: Yep. You mentioned you started off straight out of university. That means you never had a “real job” then?

Allan: I had some co-op jobs, but you’re right. I mean, even as a teenager, I always had my own jobs in summer. I had a lawn mowing and pool maintenance company. As a kid, I was big into remote control cars and I ran a summer camp for local kids on how to fix and race these cars. I got into reselling these model cars. I’ve always loved creating things, building things and even though it sounds silly, because I’m a designer by heart, one of the things that actually really attracted me was the brand and the logo and creating something that had meaning.

Allan: So, there was sort of multiple passions there, but I’ve always loved that. I don’t know what else I would do.

Jeroen: Yeah, I think it’s something that unites a lot of, at least software entrepreneurs, the urge to build something.

Allan: Yeah. It’s funny, because I do think about it often and I don’t know what you’re like, but if I’m at home, cooking on the weekend, or in the evening, I have a real difficult time following a recipe. I almost can’t follow the recipe.

Allan: And I need to somehow do something slightly different. There’s an urge, there’s a real deep urge and it’s exactly the same with business or life. Like there’s a curiosity and a want to do something different as opposed to following the steps laid down already.

Jeroen: Ja, ich kann beides, ich glaube, ich kann mich an ein Rezept halten und trotzdem andere Rezepte bevorzugen.

Allan: Ja.

Jeroen: Wie zum Beispiel Rezepte, die anders sind als die ├╝blichen.

Allan: Yeah, I don’t know. I struggle with that. I have an inability to follow instructions. Like I’m having a beer and I’m cooking and I think, “Oh, I’m going to add a little bit of my beer to this recipe.” I can’t help it.

Jeroen: Das klingt nach Alkoholismus.

Allan: I hope not. I hope not, so that’s funny.

Jeroen: So, it sounds like you’re into startups. You started in it and you’re never going to do anything else. Were you somehow influenced by anyone, while being at university to do this, or you just felt it was the right thing to do and you went into it?

Allan: I don’t know, I mean, obviously growing up I definitely did some things, but my father also was an entrepreneur. My father worked for a Swiss bank, he worked for a Canadian bank for a while and then for some other big companies. But then eventually he wanted to start his own company. And that’s actually why we grew up in Switzerland and we moved to Canada, my mom is Canadian. We moved to Canada, because it was easier to start a company in Canada.

Allan: Mein Vater hatte tats├Ąchlich sein eigenes Unternehmen, das er aufgebaut und mit dem er gek├Ąmpft hat, und er hat ├╝berlebt. Ich denke also, dass das wahrscheinlich auch einen Einfluss hatte.

Jeroen: Yeah, you sort of saw your dad doing what he was doing and you thought, “Oh, I could do that too.” Not work for someone else.

Allan: Yeah, I don’t know how much of an influence it had, but it must have right?

Jeroen: Mm-hmm.

Allan: Ich erinnere mich, dass er abends am Esstisch dar├╝ber nachdachte, wie wir diese Kunden anziehen und wie wir die Preise gestalten k├Ânnen. Also ja, ich denke, dieser Dialog und diese Kreativit├Ąt haben mich beeinflusst.

Jeroen: Yeah. Now, with Klipfolio, if you look at the way you run business and the direction you want to take the company, is there anything specific about that? Like the way you look at, I don’t know, bootstrapping versus VC funding? The way you interact with employees or work with them?

Allan: So, there’s a couple of questions here. So let’s tackle the first one about venture or bootstrapping. I’m a huge fan of bootstrapping and starting out in a bootstrapped model. I think, unfortunately, if you look 10 or 20 years ago, the venture industry was really not-existent. Maybe we sort of saw the first wave of it during the dot-com boom, but really if you look at a lot of entrepreneurs today, and you ask them, “Well, how are you going to get started?” Very frequently they will say, “I’m going to do a few things, but then I’m going to raise some funding or I’m going to raise my seed ground.” And those things happen very early on in the company’s life cycle.

Allan: And I think that’s often the mistake, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs have unrealistic expectations on how much they can raise, and they don’t understand what dilution it is going to do to the future of the ownership of the company.

Jeroen: Mm-hmm.

Allan: So, I really am a huge fan and I massively respect companies that have been able to prove out a product, maybe pivot one or two times to really find a growth pattern, and have gotten to a point where they have a tremendous amount of respect for the customer, for the cash position, for efficiency. And I don’t think that you get that if you take too much money early on. I think you really need to work through a few of those things, have leverage, see growth and then only if you have the ability to accelerate the business through capital, that’s the only time that you should take funding.

Allan: Man sollte keine Mittel in Anspruch nehmen, um eine Idee zu testen.

Jeroen: Ja.

Allan: And a lot of customers, or a lot of VC’s invest in companies like that and take a huge chunk of the equity and a lot of early founders see that as a way to pay their salaries. Do as much as you can, and potentially even don’t take funding at all. I mean, there’s some amazing stories of big companies, like Atlassian who was incredibly cash sufficient, and grew, and grew, and grew, and only took funding, shortly before they did an IPO.

Allan: So, I think there’s definitely ways to do it and I would advise that 80% of the companies are not companies that should have venture-backed funding.

Jeroen: Mm-hmm.

Allan: I like the approach that we took. For the first 12 years of our lives, we bootstrapped and we bootstrapped because we didn’t have a model that was fundable. We simply didn’t have it figured it out yet. If we had put cash in, venture money into the company in the first 12 years, it would not have accelerated. It would’ve prolonged, maybe, our life, but it would not have accelerated the business.

Allan: We only took funding, and we’ve now done a seed, an A and B round, we only have taken funding when we could prove that the dollars invested would accelerate an already existing model.

Jeroen: Mm-hmm.

Allan: I think that’s really important.

Jeroen: Ja.

Allan: Und wie lautete Ihre andere Frage?

Jeroen: Meine andere Frage bezog sich auf die Zusammenarbeit mit den Mitarbeitern? Wie sehen Sie das?

Allan: Yes, absolutely. So, we’ve grown to about 100 employees, which is amazing and they’re amazing people. We very much have a face to face culture. I know that there’s a lot of companies that are very successful doing a remote culture as well. But, I think you have to choose whether you’re going to be remote and you have to invest in the technology or you invest in a face to face culture and you invest in that type of infrastructure or office space.

Allan: So, we’ve got an amazing team. We’ve got a relatively flat hierarchy. We spend a tremendous amount of time with engagement and culture, values, our guiding principles. We’re very transparent about the state of the business. We run employee surveys and we run these little slack questions that we get out to all the employees as well. So, we’re very transparent about all of that. And we also are very collaborative in everything – when we’re designing a new marketing campaign, or looking at the sale processes, or designing a roadmap, or determining what the roadmap is.

Allan: We take very much a design thinking approach and have collaborative and multi-functional teams that participate. And I think that’s important. I think that, that really builds respect, it builds inclusion. And I think it works. I think our employees have really valued that transparency and that inclusion. We have an incredibly low turnover, which I think is a result of that. So, yeah I’m pretty honored to sort of sit among all of these amazing people.

Allan: And I think the culture is a reflection of maybe something that we started, but it’s now bigger than just the founding team. The culture is now really, it’s embedded and the values are embedded, which I think is really important.

Jeroen: Ja. Ich habe, glaube ich, vor einem halben Jahr gelesen, dass Sie als CEO von Klipfolio zur├╝ckgetreten sind?

Allan: Yeah, that’s right.

Jeroen: Was war der Grund f├╝r diese Entscheidung?

Allan: So, that announcement came about, you’re right, about six months ago. But, we started thinking about that and putting plans in place probably more like a year, maybe even 15 months ago. So, as the company grows, I think it’s important to always, not only assess who your management team is, who your leadership team is, which we do and we have hired a new CPO, we’ve hired a new chief of strategy or head of strategy. But, I think as a CEO, you also need to always qualify are you the right person to continue doing what you’re doing in your current role, because there’s a saying, “What got you here, may not necessarily get you there.”

Allan: So, very much the same thinking. One of the things that I really, really enjoyed and still do continue to enjoy, is the vision of the company. Where are we headed? What are the market forces? What are the big trends? What is the roadmap? What’s the culture of the company? And so much of my day was starting to become just administrative, working with the board, a lot of things that prevented me from really executing on the things that I loved or really enjoyed most.

Allan: So, we started evaluating that and thought, “You know maybe Allan, you should bring in a COO as somebody who could take some of that. Or maybe you want to have a CEO/President type of relationship.” But, then we found Owen, probably about nine months ago, and we actually really liked him. He was very complimentary to me, he’s much more of a tactician, a process oriented leader and I think that’s exactly what we needed to take the company to the next level.

Allan: He’s somebody who really sits in finance, understands the board, can really put process and scale in place for us, and that alleviated my role and I’m now the chief innovation officer, to really do the things that I love most. I think it’s great. I really enjoyed it, its actually given me less stress and allowed me to think more about the future of the company, which I think is important and was lacking.

Jeroen: Mm-hmm.

Allan: So, yeah, it’s been really, really good and I’ve really enjoyed working with Owen.

Jeroen: Ja, das klingt nach einer perfekten Wahl des Lebensstils, w├╝rde ich sagen.

Allan: Yeah, I mean, you could ask my wife. There’s more of a balance in my life.

Allan: I think as the founder or co-founder of the company, I don’t think you ever stop thinking about the company. And everything that you do, there’s always a parallel, or there’s always something that you’re learning that you can take back to the company. Because, not being CEO anymore, but rather focusing on innovation and the future of the company, has given me a different balance and a different perspective, which I think is positive.

Jeroen: Richtig. Und was h├Ąlt Sie in letzter Zeit nachts wach?

Allan: I think what keeps me up at night now is figuring out where do we fit in a very quickly changing market dynamic. So, we used to be really one of the only players in the smaller, mid-sized business dashboard space. There was Geckoboard, who we competed with and I know Paul Joyce, the CEO there. I know him quite well, he’s a great guy. There were a couple of other players that were toying with the SMB space, but really I think we were the dominant player inside of that space and one of the only ones.

Allan: And all of a sudden there’s a lot of other players that have become interested in the small and mid-sized business market. Now, there are, depends on how you count it, there are 50 million to a hundred million SMB’s globally. So, hundred million if you count China and India. There is room for 20 winners in this space, plenty of room. But, nonetheless the market is changing. So, what do we need to do to really be a leader, to leapfrog some of the competition, to be truly seen as innovative and really deliver value? Those are the things that I’m now concerned about and actually right after this chat, I’m actually joining a two and a half hour meeting where we’re talking about what we call Vision 2022.

Allan: That’s really, I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that’s going to drive our short-term and medium-term roadmap. So, those are the things that keep me up at night, now. What are the market porous? What are the big trends? And how do we benefit from those?

Jeroen: Klingt cool. Gibt es Leute, die f├╝r Sie in einer Art Innovationsabteilung arbeiten, oder sind Sie der Alleinverantwortliche?

Allan: Ja, also ich w├╝rde es eher als eine Art Gilde bezeichnen, und wir haben viele davon. Also, ich habe wieder Leute aus verschiedenen Abteilungen, die ein Interesse an Innovation haben.

Allan: We are working together as a team, they report to their own managers, but again these are the folks that I want to draw in, who are themselves influencers, who are thought leaders. I mean, and it’s really cool when you start working with these people from different departments. One of the guys here actually did his master’s degree in something called speculative design. I had never heard of this before, but this is the study of what the future is going to be like and what the probability of certain things are inside of that future scenario.

Allan: So, I’ve got some amazing people that are working with me and helping me. So yeah, it’s very cool.

Jeroen: Cool. Wie hat sich die Work-Life-Balance im Vergleich zu fr├╝her ver├Ąndert? Arbeitest du auch jetzt mehr als acht oder zehn Stunden?

Allan: I mean, it’s blurry, right. It’s blurry, would say I’ve never really worked only eight hours.

Allan: And I would say I’ve also never worked 24 hours.

Allan: Aber ich habe zwei M├Ądchen.

Allan: Ten and, no sorry, 12 and 14 and when they were younger, I would go home and I would read them bedtime stories. And even though you’re completely focused on your child and you’re enjoying the moment, you’re reading a story about some princess and a unicorn and in the background you’re processing things that are happening at work. And this children’s story sometimes helps you solve those things.

Allan: So, you never really turn off. And I actually don’t know that it’s different now either. I mean, I work very closely with Owen and we complement each other. I think there’s perhaps a shared level of stress, so I think the things that I do, perhaps are, they’re less urgent maybe, or less, I don’t know what the word is, but it’s different. It’s certainly more enjoyable, the things that I’m doing now, even though I’m working way more than eight hours a day, I don’t consider it work. It’s an interest, it’s a passion, right, and if you’re passionate it doesn’t actually feel like work. And I think if you’re passionate, I think that also helps you not distract from your personal life.

Allan: When I’m with my kids, I’m 100% with my kids, but I still might be background processing. It’s hard to describe, but I don’t feel a lot of stress in my life, I can tell you that.

Allan: Und die Dinge, ├╝ber die ich nachdenke, machen mir Spa├č, wenn ich nachdenke und Probleme l├Âse, also ja, ich meine, du hast vielleicht auch ├Ąhnliche Erfahrungen.

Jeroen: Dass ich gerne Probleme l├Âse? Ja, sehr sogar.

Jeroen: And I also enjoy the part you’re doing now, often more than the administrative CEO part for sure.

Allan: Yeah, absolutely. But some people really like the administrative part, right? And I think understanding what your strengths are and complementing those, I think is something you’ve always got to look in the mirror for and assess.

Jeroen: For sure, for sure. Yeah, it’s nice that you have the opportunity to kind of give it to someone else and still do the things you’re passionate about, I think.

Allan: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Now, what it does mean, is it means I need to be conscious that I am no longer the CEO. So that, that is something that, and it’s also a learning experience, so I need to support the CEO in the things that I’m doing. And I actually think that, that’s been quite interesting as well, because it’s offered me a different perspective on the company. So, if and when I start another company I think I’ll actually have benefited from being the CEO and then being not the CEO as well. So, I think there’s always learning in that as well.

Jeroen: Ja. Sie haben erw├Ąhnt, dass Sie Ihren Sitz in Ottawa haben. Ist das ein guter Ort, um ein Startup zu gr├╝nden?

Allan: I think it’s a great place. I mean, I mentioned that for us, Cognos is one of the big companies. Back in the day when we started the company, Norchill was a massive employer here, so lots of high-tech talent. Norchill went under, but what that did was it spread a bunch of talent throughout Ottawa, they were starting to do new things and explore new things.

Allan: We have two really good universities, a number of colleges that we have built amazing relationships with from a recruiting point of view. I think geographically we’re close to Toronto, Boston, New York, Montreal. We have good access as far as daylight time to Europe, to the West Coast, so California is concerned. And from a city point of view, Ottawa is amazing, like it’s a city of a million people, but it’s very livable. I love cycling, I cycle to work almost every single day. It takes me 40 minutes and I don’t live that far away. I think it’s an amazing city, I think there’s lots of talent here.

Allan: The only thing is it’s too cold, like in the winter. That’s the only problem that I have with Ottawa.

Jeroen: Ja.

Allan: So, that’s something that I’m always cursing, but the rest of it, the positives definitely outweigh the fact that we get lots of snow and it’s like minus 25.

Jeroen: Mm-hmm. Slowly wrapping up, what’s the latest good book you’ve read and why did you choose to read it?

Allan: So, I mean I’ve read a lot of business books, and I tend to switch between a business book and a non-business book. I can’t read two business books back-to-back, too much. The latest one that I actually just finished yesterday is a non-business book and I highly, highly recommend it. It’s called Red Notice and it’s about Bill Browder, who was an investor in Russia and exposed all sorts of corruption, murder, legal issues and has really become a harsh critic of Russia and Putin. So, it’s a true story and it’s just an amazing read. It does have a little bit of a business angle to it, because he grew an amazing business and was one of the biggest investors in Russia. So I would highly recommend that to anybody, who either wants a good story or is interested in business and relations in foreign countries.

Jeroen: Ja, also Red Notice von Bill Browder.

Allan: Ganz genau, ja.

Jeroen: Cool, ich habe es auf meine Leseliste gesetzt.

Allan: Yeah, now there’s tons of other amazing books and the ones that I always recommend are the ones that start with ‘why’.

Allan: That’s an absolute must. I’ve often found myself citing Good to Great, I’ve enjoyed that as well. Even the book, The Hard Things About Hard Things.

Allan: So I’ve read those as well. I recently read one that talks about OKRs, I forget exactly what it’s called but we’ve implemented objectives and key results inside of Klipfolio.

Allan: There’s lots actually and every time you read one of these books, it’s inspiring. You learn something different, so lots of good stuff out there.

Jeroen: Is there anything you know now that you wish you would’ve known when you started out?

Allan: There’s probably a million things, like you learn something, you see something almost every day and I enjoy chatting with our co-ops and I enjoy chatting with startups in Ottawa or elsewhere, because there’s always stuff that you learn. I think the one that I continue to think we should’ve done more in the early days, is that we should have taken more risks.

Allan: Wir h├Ątten uns wirklich gr├Â├čere Tr├Ąume erf├╝llen sollen und uns dann einfach eingestehen m├╝ssen, dass man mit gr├Â├čeren Tr├Ąumen auch ├Âfter scheitern kann.

Allan: Okay. I really think, I mean there’s a quote that I saw, I was watching a movie on a plane back from California, and it wasn’t a business movie, but there was a quote or a line in the movie that was, “We spend our lives being told to be safe and not take risks, yet the people that we look up to and are motivated by are the ones that push the bounds.”

Allan: And it’s true. The ones that are going to change the world, the businesses that are going to change the world, are the ones that thought big. And they took the risks, so I think that’s really important. I think there’s a lot to be said for thinking bigger and taking more risks.

Jeroen: I agree. Well, that’s all I have for now Allan. Thank you, we’ll wrap up here.

Allan: Fantastisch.

Jeroen: Nochmals vielen Dank, dass Sie bei Founder Coffee dabei waren. Es war wirklich toll, dich dabei zu haben.

Allan: Ja, es war mir ein Vergn├╝gen. Das hat Spa├č gemacht.


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Jeroen Corthout