Susanne Klepsch of MeetFox

Founder Coffee episode 052

© David Bitzan

I’m Jeroen from Salesflare and this is Founder Coffee.

Every few weeks I have coffee with a different founder. We discuss life, passions, learnings, … in an intimate talk, getting to know the person behind the company.

For this fifty-second episode, I talked to Susanne Klepsch, Co-Founder of MeetFox, a platform for coaches, lawyers and other independent service professionals to schedule, meet and charge in one seamless flow.

After brief stints in the tourism and automotive industry, Susanne took on sales at her father’s plastics companies after he passed away. After assuming a leadership position in which she was suddenly responsible for 120 employees, she went looking for a coach.

That process took so long and was so transparent that she decided to launch CoachFox, an online marketplace for coaching services. She spent a lot of time developing the technology behind that marketplace, creating a seamless coaching experience. And then she spun out that product into a separate company, which is called MeetFox today. That’s the very short story at least.

We talk about how we got to love processes, why as a small business you should do things that don’t scale to compete, how difficult it is to convert freemium users, and why Susanne wishes she stuck with a niche much earlier.

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Jeroen:

Hi, Susanne. It's great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Susanne:

Hi Jeroen. Thank you so much for having me today. I'm really excited for our call.

Jeroen:

Yeah, me too. You're the co-founder of MeetFox. For those who don't know yet, what do you guys do exactly?

Susanne:

So MeetFox offers individual service professionals a simple one step solution to schedule and monetize online meetings. What we do is we combine online scheduling with video calls and payment processing into one product, thereby allowing those independent professionals to accept bookings from the clients and also get paid for their time.

Jeroen:

So it's scheduling, it's the meeting software, like a Zoom or something and it's the payment as well in one place. Correct?

Susanne:

Exactly. Yeah. I shouldn't be saying that, but simply put "Calendly meets Zoom meets payment processing". And what it says as a part is the fact that you can completely customize us, completely white label us. And you can also even host video meetings on your own website if you want to. And the fact you can integrate all of these different components of a meeting into one product, makes it just much more easy to set up and to manage your day-to-day.

Jeroen:

And, who is it that needs this solution with the payment processing also in the same place?

Susanne:

Yeah, so many people actually. So our biggest target group are independent knowledge workers. So coaches, consultants, lawyers, financial advisors, therapists, you name it. But to be honest, we also have a lot of clients who are using us for free meetings. So the payment pod is not necessarily obligatory. It's just a nice-to-have that in case you want to charge for meetings, you can do so, but it's definitely not a must. A lot of people are using us for sales meetings or recruiting calls and a lot of things. I mean, everybody's nowadays having meetings online and so we are making them more efficient and effective.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Because it's the scheduling and the meeting software in one place.

Susanne:

Exactly.

Jeroen:

I saw on your LinkedIn profile that, I'm just assuming now, that it started from another company called CoachFox, which is an online marketplace for coaches to schedule virtual sessions. Do I say that correctly?

Susanne:

Yes. You said it correctly. What we started off with is this coaching marketplace because generally speaking, we wanted to make our professional services more accessible. And we started off with coaching and built a marketplace where we connected coaches with clients. However, we have spent way too much time on building the product and building the technology than on actually the marketplace itself. And suddenly we woke up and our technology was very strong and our clients were asking us whether they can use our technology also for the existing clients outside of the marketplace. And that is exactly how we then turned it into a SaaS product that can be used by any independent professional to manage the day-to-day meetings. So we had a pivot quite early on because of that realization. And we're happy with that. And that's why we also have not been focusing on CoachFox any longer and we are fully focusing on MeetFox now.

Jeroen:

Is CoachFox still running?

Susanne:

It's still running. And we are having meetings that are being enabled there and people are being matched, but it's really no longer our focus. We're all considering maybe later on resuming that game but for now we have limited resources and we're putting every bit of our resources into MeetFox because that's where we see the biggest potential.

Jeroen:

Looking at your LinkedIn profile, I don't completely understand how you got into the coaching business. It looks like first you were in a plastics company and then at the same time in another plastics company. And then all of a sudden CoachFox emerges. Can you explain a bit more about that?

Susanne:

Yeah, sure. It definitely looks a little confusing on my LinkedIn. So long story short, I studied international management and right after my studies, I was actually out and about to go abroad to Japan to start a job. But then suddenly life changed a little bit. My father unfortunately passed away and I suddenly had to take over his company. And that is why I was suddenly ending up in a plastics production company. And I was actually appointed a leadership position and was suddenly supposed to be leading more than 120 employees. And as I was in my mid 20s and I was completely lacking the experience and know-how of this industry, I was completely overwhelmed. I have no idea how to manage people, no idea about the company, about the industry.

Susanne:

And it was a pretty old fashioned company. So certain processes were just stuff in the last decades. And so it was very difficult to really implement changes and get going in this company. At that time I was then looking for a coach. And even though I really needed one in that instant, it ended up taking me five weeks until I found a coach and finally scheduled an appointment with. And I just couldn't understand why in an era where you can literally book everything at the push of a button, you can get an Uber with one click, you can buy a pizza with two clicks, but when it comes to professional services, it takes literally five weeks until you finally schedule an appointment.

Susanne:

And on top of that, the whole industry, generally speaking professional services are just very, intransparent and usually don't know how much you're paying. You don't know how exactly a meeting should take place. You don't know when the other person will be available. And so that is why the idea came up to make professional services more accessible. And that is then how CoachFox was created in the first place. But also with that vision in mind, that is how MeetFox was then turned into what it is today.

Jeroen:

I remember my wife at some point was looking for career coaching. After a lot of internet searching and stuff, we ended up going with the recommendation of a friend of mine, which was funny because if that is the best way to find that coach, then there's definitely something going on.

Susanne:

Yeah. And that's really the problem of the industry and of many industries is that you oftentimes don't have the transparency that you have with other services and products when it comes to professional services. And you still oftentimes end up asking people for referrals instead of finding somebody online, just because that transparency does not exist.

Jeroen:

Yeah. It's a big issue. You guys should come to Belgium as well. Of course, you're not focusing on it so much right now, but later maybe.

Susanne:

Definitely.

Jeroen:

It sounds like you grew up in an entrepreneurial family then. Your dad, was the plastics company his?

Susanne:

Yeah. That's why there were two in my CV. So he had one that he started himself and then he had one that his grandfather started and then he took over and grew. And so yeah, I definitely come from an entrepreneurial family. And that is, I guess also why it was much easier for me to take that step and just decide to do my own thing just because it was something I've seen in my family happen so many times. My uncle also started his own company. So it was just, I guess, a more regular thing to do or a more normal thing to do. And so I wasn't as worried as I probably should have been when starting my company, I was completely naive going into this. And so yeah, that was an interesting experience. And now in hindsight, I would have definitely done a lot of things differently, but it was what I thought was best at that time, and I'm happy that I made that choice regardless.

Jeroen:

Now it looks like before you were going the corporate track instead? What was the motivation behind that? What was your dream?

Susanne:

To be honest, I was in a management program that was very much targeted at a career. I did consulting on corporates and at that time, somehow the whole startup industry wasn't really that much on my radar. Even though I knew I wanted to start a business eventually, I was not very involved in the startup ecosystem at that time. So when working, besides my studies, I was always opting for jobs in a corporate world instead of going into the startup world. And then once I had the idea, I did not even think, oh, I'm starting my own startup right now. I just decided, okay, I want to build a product. I want to build a platform. And it took way longer until I finally was really part of the startup ecosystem. And that's only when I learned more and more about how startups work and how this whole industry is made up.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Despite the fact that you knew you wanted to start a company, why did you go to the corporate track? Is it because you didn't feel like you had the necessary experience yet?

Susanne:

Yeah, so I thought that it's something that I would want to do eventually when I'm much older. At that point in time, I just felt like I needed to make a career and I needed to get a stable income and all of these sorts of things. But then that life changed a little bit and suddenly I was in a corporate environment, even though in a smaller corporate environment, with my father's company. Because I was able to really implement changes in the company. I had more of the management experience in that company. It was still a very corporate environment. And so what I realized is that it's not what I want to do for the rest of my life while I was working in that company, but also in the corporate jobs that I have before, because I really hate routine.

Susanne:

And for me I just cannot take having the same or similar day and similar tasks every day. And of course that is also true because I was right out of university. So tasks that you are usually getting in corporate jobs are not as exciting, maybe in the beginning. But I just did not really like the environment of having not enough impact on the biggest scale. And I really wanted to have an impact. I really wanted to drive a company and to drive a company to change. Personally, I wanted the excitement, the challenge and I wanted to do different things every day. And so that is why I then somehow realized that's what I want to do for the rest of my life, or at least for the next few years and so that stopped.

Jeroen:

It then really feels like your actions had a direct impact in a corporate, but also not very much in the two plastics companies, because they still have this size and this history, and it was hard to push them in a different track.

Susanne:

Exactly. I mean oftentimes when presence already exists, it's just much more difficult. And especially when you're new in a company and are trying to advocate for a lot of change, it takes years until it's actually in place. And for me, the environment even though it was extremely interesting and I learned a ton, it was just a little too slow for my taste. I like fast paced environments. And that is definitely something I found in a startup, even though it's sometimes maybe a little too fast, but yeah.

Jeroen:

Yeah. In the different companies that you worked for, because it's like, I'm counting at least five or six or something, what was it that you learned that you then took into CoachFox and now MeetFox in terms of culture and processes? And what is it that you're implementing right now because of this experience?

Susanne:

Oh, that's a great question. I think that one thing that I always think back about is the processes that I've experienced in other bigger companies. And even though I really hated processes when I was working at those companies, I now, as a founder and CEO of a company, I really appreciate when there are processes in place and those processes are being followed. So I think that is something that I only learned to appreciate now that I have to implement it myself. And even though we don't have very strict processes and a ton of processes, I still really understand why big corporations need them in order to survive. And I think that is something that I was really learning from these experiences.

Susanne:

And at the same time also structures, not only hierarchical structures, but generally any structures within a company, and then also the politics within a company. I think that even though in a startup, you don't have them a lot. You still have to know how politics work and how corporates work when you are trying to sell as a startup to a corporate. So really understanding how politics within a company works and how hierarchies work in order to successfully navigate your startup or selling your startup into a corporate.

Jeroen:

Yeah, no, that's definitely a good experience to take away and then understand how that is not just the one person you're selling to. There's a lot of different things playing in the decision.

Susanne:

Exactly.

Jeroen:

But about the processes, what is it exactly that you now appreciate? Because we know that a lot of people, especially in startups, are a bit afraid of processes because they might make you less flexible. And, a lot of people had experiences in corporates and they know they hated the processes. Why do you think they're actually useful? And maybe also, why do you think you hated them in these corporates?

Susanne:

I think I hated them in corporates because I did not understand the reason behind them. I just felt like it was additional administrative work that had zero reason behind it. Now that I understand the reason behind it, that's the reason why I'm really appreciating processes. Because I think that processes do eliminate errors; not eliminate, but reduce errors. So even though you are doing a lot of things in order to maintain processes, they keep you from sticking to your processes and not doing things that are outside of the process that may waste time for example. In our company, as an example, we have put in processes in order to make product decisions.

Susanne:

And even though as a startup, you should be flexible and you should be going after what the customer wants in a product, we now have processes almost like a checklist of certain things that need to be true in order to start developing a certain feature for our clients. And that is for example, one process we had to implement, because what we were doing in the past was just getting customer feedback or customer feature requests. And we just started building it because we wanted to make that one customer happy. And we were just very flexible. But we weren't really following a process. Nor were we doing the right thing. And in that example, it really helped us stick to what is important in a company. Also in sales, for example, what I really appreciate in terms of processes is what we've implemented very, very strictly, is note taking and documentation, which is something that I hated in my previous job experiences.

Susanne:

And I'm definitely not a great note taker or a person that likes to document things. But what we've realized is that if your day to day becomes super, super busy, you just simply forget things. If you don't write them down, you simply forget what you talked with a client, if you don't write it down. So these processes that you just need to stick to in order to keep the company going and growing, are just really important. And we definitely learned that the hard way, because sometimes we had meetings with clients and completely forgot what we talked about the last time, because we forgot to write it down. So those sorts of things.

Jeroen:

No, that makes a lot of sense. I think processes help you stick to what's important because you decide together how you are going to shape them. And they're grounded in some reason hopefully. Of course sometimes you need to redo them and that's maybe what does not happen in corporates. And then you have this feeling that there's a disconnect between the processes and what's really important. But I think they also, generally for us, they reduce communication. We collaborate much more smoothly because we know exactly why we did stuff. We document things well which is, this is not a good point, both in sales and in product development. If you don't keep track of every interaction and decision, then it's very hard to backtrack why we did certain things and built on top of them.

Jeroen:

I actually remember there was a time in a previous company where I worked. It was a management or Marketing consultancy, let's call it. And in the beginning we didn't have processes. And that made it very hard to keep everything organized. It was a little bit of chaos back then. It was a good chaos. We were growing and all. But nonetheless chaos and actually another good reason there then to implement the processes was that things didn't seem too repeatable. And it was also hard to sell the company because of this reason, because it just seemed like we were doing stuff that was working, but we didn't really know how.

Susanne:

Yeah. That's exactly what happened to us as well. And the other thing is that I definitely am guilty of having implemented processes that later on turned out not to be really useful. And so we had to kill processes along the way, many times as well. And I think that's where it's really important to also keep conversations up with your team members and always ask for feedback as well, whether a process is actually helpful and let everybody understand why certain things are being done because that's the other problem. If you are implementing processes, but not telling everyone why you're implementing processes, or why it is useful and people don't get them, then I think it's creating a lot of frustration for the team. And so definitely happened to us before where we just either miscommunicated our processes or implemented processes that actually turned out to be useless. So I think questioning your own processes, sometimes that is also quite important.

Jeroen:

Definitely. Yeah. We actually have a bi-weekly meeting, which we call the team meeting and we discuss what went wrong and what's going well in the past two weeks. And a big part of that is identifying how we should change processes because we try to make sure that negative stuff doesn't happen again. And if it's positive things, they happen again. So a big part of that is seeing how we can change once and for all so that this happens less or more, which is usually changing a process. And then indeed, it's important to know why you're doing it. It's important that it's useful obviously. That there's some output. But also that the input is not too big, that it doesn't take too much time to run the process. That it's just a simple enough thing.

Susanne:

And luckily there's so much technology and so many tools that they can use in order to make processes work for you without requiring a lot of manual time.

Jeroen:

Like our SaaS products?

Susanne:

Exactly.

Jeroen:

That's indeed an interesting thing. And one of the reasons why we probably both sell to SMBs is that SMBs can align processes with software and they don't need the software to align to their processes. Processes in software somehow meet. While in an enterprise, they set the process and then the software needs to follow the process. That's why a company like Salesforce exists and why there's so many consultants customizing is basically because the software needs to follow the process. And there's no flexibility to follow the software to a certain extent.

Susanne:

No, definitely. And that's a very good point. Even though it's sometimes SMBs that really have strict processes that they want to follow, then they're looking desperately for companies that are matching those processes. The high maintenance clients that we probably all know, are happy with a general SaaS product.

Jeroen:

Maybe there should be some matching service for the processes and the software.

Susanne:

New business idea.

Jeroen:

Direction, perhaps. Yeah. For anyone listening, if you want to start a SaaS business or a marketplace in this case, I guess this might be an idea. To completely change gears, what was your first job about exactly?

Susanne:

My very first job. I was, actually, always working a little bit in my father's company, just helping out in some of these areas. But my first job, it was, I mean, babysitting the typical teenage job – nothing on the IT side.

Jeroen:

Yeah. But after babysitting?

Susanne:

At my father's company. I was going into the hotel industry. So I was working as a receptionist and doing my studies and then going more into the tourism industry. Then I realized that's not where I belong. Even though I love tourism and I love to travel and I love everything about tourism, I didn't want to work in tourism and that is why I then decided to go more into other areas of business. And then I actually ended up going into the automotive industry and gained some experience there. But it was not exactly what was making me super happy. I think that I was always super interested in software and optimization and making things more efficient, making processes more efficient – back to the processes. So that is what really made me motivated and interested. And that is also why starting my own thing was then making me so excited.

Jeroen:

Now what makes you so excited about the processes behind MeetFox? What is it that drives you there every day, where you say, "Yeah, we're going to implement this extra feature because it's going to bring us better to goal X." What is that exactly?

Susanne:

Actually, it's a big trend that is just there right now. More and more freelancers out there, more and more people making a living with the services that they provide independently. And at the same time there are many people that are doing a side hustle with selling their own time, their own expertise, their own services. And as this trend is exploding right now, especially it also accelerated through the pandemic, there is just a huge population of people who are struggling every day, figuring out how to set up their processes in order to make a better living and to be more successful in order to grow their business. And that is what makes me excited is the fact that, I truly believe that with our software, companies can focus on growing their business without having to deal with administration every day and without having to deal with back and forth emails every day. But instead they can really lean back and watch their calendar fill up and watch their bank account fill up at the same time. And that is what makes me excited.

Jeroen:

For all the loners out there that want to make a living?

Susanne:

Exactly, yeah.

Jeroen:

And if you think about waking up every day, what feels most exciting about what you're going to do that day? Is it being in touch with customers, is it building something, is it optimizing the next thing, is it leading the team? What is it exactly that drives you there?

Susanne:

I think it's really a combination. It definitely depends on the day. I love working on the product. So I really love thinking of next features, next improvements to the product that will make a difference to the clients that we serve. And I also really love getting feedback from clients. So most of the time I really enjoy client conversations, unless they are very unhappy. Then I don't like them as much. But usually that's what is really the most exciting part for me, is working with clients and looking at the product. And then the third thing is definitely working with our team and we have an incredible team and I'm super thankful that I can wake up everyday and have a fun team around me that is just as motivated as I am to bring this company to the next level. So it's been a real fun time. Those three aspects of what I really love about working on my own thing.

Jeroen:

Now, how big is the team right now?

Susanne:

We are 10 people full time.

Jeroen:

Ten people. What are the traits you select people with and the culture you're trying to cultivate?

Susanne:

Oh, we've made so many mistakes when hiring but finally I think we've really figured out what people we want in our team. And we've recently done an incredible job of finally having a really good team that I'm super happy about. One of the biggest traits that I'm looking for in a person is, if the person is willing to take initiative and is willing to work independently. Especially as we are a remote team, I think that it's impossible for a founder to be hand holding team members. Just because you're not in the same office but also because as a founder you should not spend your time handholding anybody. And so looking at people that are self-taught and are interested in creating things and in guiding things and leading things is really important. So, I'm always looking for people that have demonstrated in the past experiences that they are intrinsically motivated to create things and to set up processes, features, tasks for themselves.

Jeroen:

To improve things without needing anyone to tell them how to do it?

Susanne:

Exactly. And I guess it really takes a certain personality to see things that are broken and wanting to fix them. Because I think a lot of people know what's broken but they also don't want to take the effort to actually fix them. And I think those people that really make an effort to fix things or improve things or even implement new things are the ones that you want to have in a startup. But they're difficult to find of course and so it's definitely a struggle to find exactly those that will move your startup forward but once you find them, they really move the needle.

Jeroen:

These people are hard to find and might start their own company.

Susanne:

Exactly. Yeah. I've always wanted to find people that want to start their own company but haven't done so yet because they still want to learn from another company. But they have that intrinsic drive to one day start their own thing. Though it's also risky because you may lose them sooner than you think. Because they actually go down that road and start their own company. But until then, I mean, I found great people that have joined our team and I think most of the people in our team right now would want to start their own business later on.

Jeroen:

Yeah. That's cool. And how do you keep them in the meantime?

Susanne:

I don't know. That's a good question. I mean, those people that want to start their own thing, I believe, are satisfied when they get a lot of autonomy and when they can take on a lot of responsibility and leadership as well. Because we don't have a huge hierarchy, it's really easy to do so in our company.

Jeroen:

And if I would ask you where you would want to take MeetFox, are you thinking of taking it a bit slower and more of the bootstrapped way or are you thinking of launching it into hyper-growth at some moment and reaching VC funding or is there another track here you're thinking about?

Susanne:

So we are currently still at the, in a way, bootstrapping phase. I mean, we did get investment but we are really trying to grow sustainably for a while until we really feel like we know exactly who we are serving and what our acquisition strategy is because we're still a little bit in that experimenting phase or trying different things and some work, some don't. And so that is where we are currently at. Ideally I would like to see money next year and then really grow it from there. And so that is where we are right now. The thing is that the competition has, especially during the pandemic, has become really, really strong. And there is a lot of pressure from competitors who have raised a ton of VC money. So surviving in that space is sometimes a little more difficult if you are just trying to grow a sustainable business. Which is why on one hand, we would like to go into the VC direction. And at the same time, I think we are kind of forced to go into that direction as well.

Jeroen:

So it's also the only way to survive you think?

Susanne:

Yeah. I mean, I'm sure there are many companies that would disagree with that. And I think that if you are creating a product that is really loved by customers and it has a very strong differentiating factor, then probably it's also possible without that. But in our area, at least, there's a lot of competition from very similar companies. So even if you're creating a differentiating factor, you still need some deep pockets in order to make people aware that you have these differentiating factors.

Jeroen:

Yeah. That seems to be actually a wider problem in SaaS because there's so much and people don't know exactly where to look. They might go to some review site which will then rank stuff in a very, how can I say without giving too much, site info into how it's ranked. Just either people pay to be ranked or you just have a lot of reviews and then they put you more towards the top or whatever. It's very hard to keep communicating your differentiation in a great way, unless you have the funds to splurge everywhere. But then even with all the marketing messages out there that are sometimes a bit overdone. It's hard to make that point.

Susanne:

Definitely. How do you do it at Salesflare? What's your go-to market?

Jeroen:

We definitely can't compete with the huge budgets that some of our competitors have. They're really huge. So, we are always trying to look for other channels, focusing more on relationships with our customers but also with partners of all kinds. I'm getting on a lot of podcasts which may not seem like a scalable thing, which is why most of our competitors don't really do that but it is relatively scalable. I actually have a guide about it on our blog. My colleague Keri wrote it.

Susanne:

Yeah, I read that actually. It's a great article. I shared it with all my team.

Jeroen:

Cool. That's one of the ways. Other things we do is just making customers really happy, always communicating back to them when we do something that they asked. We're thinking of lots of different ways. It's really focusing on onboarding and offering great support. I think we're even ranked number one or two on G2 for support across all CRMs. It's focused on these kinds of things, instead of the VC funded ads splurging, which would never be profitable for us. Because to compete with other systems who in some cases earn like 10 times more than we do on a customer per year, we would have to bid so high that in the end, it wouldn't even be profitable to run those ads and sure we can get VC money for it and all that but I don't think it would even make a huge difference considering the scale of some of the other companies.

Susanne:

So your advice would be to do things that are maybe unscalable in the eyes of competitors but do make a difference and provide the best customer support and other things that they can’t provide.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Do the harder stuff and also think about what they can't deliver. For instance, they can't deliver great customer support, that is personable and where it's like we're communicating with friends and it's always the same person communicating with them and all these kinds of things. If you could compete with a big company, they most likely have a huge customer support team with a very variable quality where you always get a different person that doesn't know what happened before. So, it's relatively easy to compete with that on that level. Then on some other levels, it's harder – on ads, for instance, it's just almost impossible.

Susanne:

But do you think that by providing incredible customer support, you are attracting more people that are requiring more customer support because they're not maybe tech savvy enough and therefore it's more effort to really get them and maintain them and spend time with them.

Jeroen:

There is definitely a balance there. I know of some companies that went way too far into that direction. Yes. But that didn't happen to us. I think the way you go about your products, whether you make it simple enough and customizable enough in there and how you deal with your product development and prioritization, because you can definitely go that route. But then it's probably not such a great fit for SMBs. You will never make it if you keep doing that more for enterprises. So you have to make a choice there, I think. Am I going to go to offer all this customization and consultancy and go for bigger companies or try to do it better, the real product approach and go for SMBs.

Susanne:

Yeah. It's an interesting point.

Jeroen:

Yeah, it's not easy. And I'm sure that it affects a lot of SaaS companies, this conundrum.

Susanne:

Right, apparently.

Jeroen:

What is it exactly that keeps you up at night lately?

Susanne:

As such really the monetization piece that is keeping me up at night. So the good thing is our clients really love our product and they are using it very actively. And we are seeing a good growth in new users, but I think that the biggest challenge is really figuring out how to monetize, especially small businesses or even the independent professionals that oftentimes are also just starting off with a business that may not have the deep pockets to pay for a software. And that are also a little spoiled because there's so much software available for free. So that's why we have also given away our product for free, for a large extent. And we have a free tier in order to give people the chance to use MeetFox without having to pay for it.

Susanne:

But really converting people into a paid tier has been one of the biggest challenges for us which is why we are more and more forced also to acquire more of the medium enterprises to use our system or even larger enterprises. And so that is the struggle that we are having is to, while we have our vision to help these small businesses and the independent professionals, we are in a way forced to look at the bigger ones just because we need to monetize more and more of our traffic.

Jeroen:

Yeah. They're needed to fund what you're doing for the small businesses.

Susanne:

Exactly, yeah. And then figuring out how to think about alternative ways to monetize and eventually make MeetFox a successful and profitable company. Maybe without even charging for the SMB. So those are the things that I'm constantly considering and thinking about and that keeps me up at night, is how can we help those independent professionals without charging too much for us.

Jeroen:

Yeah. And while somehow competing with these, these big players out there might take a slightly different approach there. Do they take a different approach?

Susanne:

In comparison with big players?

Jeroen:

No, towards small businesses where you're trying to make a difference?

Susanne:

Yeah. I mean, we are also actually doing a lot of what you also just mentioned in terms of really helping our clients. We help them with the setup. We give them a lot of help and support throughout their usage. There's always somebody available and it's usually the same faces and same people. And I think this personal approach is really something that they appreciate a lot. And is a reason why people have shifted away from the big players to us. But I am worried that this is not going to be something we can sustain for the long term as we grow. And as we get more users, we have to figure out ways to automate certain things and then slowly but surely you end up becoming more and more similar to the big players. So I'm trying to figure out how to best maintain that notion of putting the customer first, putting the customer's needs first and building a product and a business around that instead of building a product and a business around growth and around just making more money or showing more, better numbers and better metrics for VCs.

Susanne:

I would rather do the first thing. So I would rather build something for our clients and really put them first. But it is also, of course, difficult to scale as quickly as you need to as a company in order to maintain that notion of it.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Your vision almost seems incompatible with the VC approach. Excuse me, that is my dog barking at another dog. But if you find a VC, you would really have to make sure that they follow this vision because otherwise you'd quickly be going off-vision.

Susanne:

Exactly. But I think as a lot of examples of companies that have grown really quickly and really well with providing so much value to the clients and really putting the clients first and by doing so, having clients being so enthusiastic about the product, that they start referring, that they start talking to everybody about it. And so there are definitely some incredible examples of companies that have done a great job by just doing that without spending a lot of money. But yeah, definitely a big challenge to face.

Jeroen:

Yeah. We're closing in on the one hour mark. So let's move into learnings. What is the latest good book you've read and why did you choose to read it exactly?

Susanne:

To be honest, I've been a little too busy and oftentimes I just fall asleep the moment I go to bed without even being able to read one page of a book. I guess that's the startup life. But what I do read a lot is just Blinkist, small summaries of books because they do give you a quick intro and some quick key learnings, which I like, and I like to think about different approaches to business. Interestingly enough, the last book that I read was The Lean Startup. I mean it has been around for such a long time. But I actually never came around to read it until recently. And I think that the whole notion of testing all the time and learning quickly and moving on quickly is one thing that I've really been putting into practice in our company recently as well. I mean, we've also been doing that but we've been going more into that direction recently because of that book.

Jeroen:

Cool. It never hurts to read some classics, I guess. Even if it is way after it was written; that always happens. The books that stay relevant for a long time are the ones to read, I think. Last question. If you were to start over with MeetFox, what would you have done differently?

Susanne:

I would have made a better decision upfront on picking a niche and then I would have stuck with that niche. I think one of the problems that we were facing was that we, in the beginning started off with Coaches, but then we decided, oh, actually there's so many other independent professionals that also need our product. And so we decided to go a little broader into any kind of independent professionals. And even though you would think that they all have similar needs, their needs are actually completely different and they all are looking for completely different products. And so that put us into the difficult situation that we had to constantly change our prioritization because at one point in the beginning, we had Coaches as our biggest target group and then it suddenly shifted and suddenly there were more financial advisors and then lawyers.

Susanne:

And so we always had to shift our product a little bit to make the next target group happy. And I think that was a big mistake in hindsight, that we could have avoided if we just decided on one target group and made the best product for that target group until they all use us. And then we would have gone to continue to the next target group. And I think that is one piece of advice that you always hear from mentors – focus on a niche, pick a niche, don't go too broad. Even though we did hear that, we did not believe in it until I think recently and now we are at a spot where it's maybe a little too late but we're still trying to figure out how we can niche down a little more.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Do you think it would have been Coaches?

Susanne:

I don't think so. But I think if we had done a better job in market research upfront, we would have figured out a better target group than Coaches. There are many coaches out there because there's a bit of a supply demand problem where you have way too much supply of Coaches and there is just not enough demand, which leads back to the fact that a lot of the Coaches that are out there, don't really make a living out of coaching. And if you don't make a living out of coaching, it's rather difficult to justify spending money on software if you are not earning that money back easily. And so that is one thing that reveals to us that this market is a little difficult in that sense, especially when it comes to monetization and also frequent usage.

Jeroen:

Yeah, makes sense.

Susanne:

And professionals that just have meetings all day, day in, day out that are dying for a software that helps them manage their meetings in a more efficient way. So I think doing a little bit of a better job of market research upfront, and really talking to all professionals and not having a self-fulfilling prophecy where you ask the right questions, and then you hear that the coaches really need your product. And you hear that coaching is a great market, but actually questioning your findings and looking at them in a critical way. And then maybe changing direction based on your findings is something we should have done better.

Jeroen:

Thank you for being so open about this and thank you for all the wise advice. It was great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Susanne:

Thank you so much for your time as well and thanks for having me today.


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