Veronika Riederle of Demodesk

Founder Coffee episode 041

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 forty-first episode, I talked to Veronika Riederle, Co-Founder and CEO of Demodesk, one of the leading video solutions for sales demos.

Veronika studied all about becoming an entrepreneur in university. After spending about 7 years in strategy roles at Bain, Audi and Telefonica, she decided to make the jump.

She and her co-founder found a way to make the sales demo process more efficient, and they managed to enter Y Combinator with their startup. With a team of 20, they’re now working hard to build the product and the business.

We talk about why to focus very hard on the product first before starting to sell, how to properly organize a remote team, and how to know whether you’ve reached Product Market Fit.

Welcome to Founder Coffee.

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Jeroen:

Hi Veronika. It’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Veronika:

Hi Jeroen, thanks for having me. Great talking to you.

Jeroen:

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

Veronika:

We are the first intelligent online meeting tool for customer-facing conversations. And the key difference to tools like Zoom or GoToMeeting is our approach to screen sharing. Whereas existing tools would just record a video of your local desktop and stream that to the other party, we would not do any of this. We set up a virtual display instead that anyone can access by just clicking a link. And there are a couple of other benefits, but overall we help you automate the workflows, help you reduce all the frictions that you have when you talk to your customer, and provide sales reps and support reps with everything that they need in real-time to have a perfect customer conversation that converts and generates a happy customer in the end.

Jeroen:

So if I understand it well, you make sure they don’t have to install anything on their computer. It just works in your browser like a sort of WebRTC technology – just in the browser, the modern things, and you also reduce friction around the booking process, et cetera. Is that correct?

Veronika:

Exactly. So regarding downloads, there are no downloads for no one. So not the host and not the participant has to download anything. Just a click in the browser and the meeting opens. And we also do automate the entire scheduling process. So we offer similar functionalities like Calendly or Chili Piper to help you automate the entire scheduling process for yourself and also within the team. Afterwards, we also sync all the data back to Salesforce and to HubSpot, so there we help you automate the end documentation part as well.

Jeroen:

Yeah so, do you sort of capture data within the call as well, and what does that data look like? Can one take notes within your interface?

Veronika:

Yeah, you can. Exactly. Because you’re not sharing your local desktop, but you are displaying the content on a separate virtual display, we can basically show anything that we want on the sales rep’s side without the customer seeing it. So when you’re having a demo or a meeting with someone, everything that you want to present is being loaded on a virtual display. But in addition, only your side or the sales rep side should have all the content available that you want pre-loaded in your playbook that you need during the call. You have a window where you can make meeting notes, also write in the same meeting window without the customer seeing it. And then when you make those meeting notes, you also have the possibility to sync that back to your CRM in a structured way and directly push that to specific teams that you want.

Jeroen:

Got it, got it.

Veronika:

It would also work with Salesflare. We have an open API. I’m just building up the product and connecting it to more and more CRMs.

Jeroen:

Cool. Yeah, I’m looking forward to that. What were you doing at the moment when you started Demodesk? Where did the exact spark come from?

Veronika:

Actually, my co-founder started hacking together a new screen sharing technology. It was almost three years ago now when he had the initial thought that there must be a better way of sharing content remotely. We just thought that the screen sharing process, the screen sharing technology as it still mostly is right now is just very outdated. Imagine, everything is going through the cloud and moving through the cloud anyway, so if you present a software like Salesflare, basically most of the SaaS products, everything probably goes right in the cloud.

Veronika:

There are some extensions that are locally available, but mostly it’s hosted in the cloud. And if you want to share and send something, the only way of doing it is really just opening your local browser on your local desktop, pulling that website or that web application into your local browser, then again turning on the screen share, making a video of your local desktop, again uploading that video to the cloud and sending it to the customer, which is a very inefficient detour. So he thought why not leave in the content that’s already in the cloud where it is, and then share it from there. And that’s where the original idea came from.

Jeroen:

Okay. So what was it that you were doing when you came up with this?

Veronika:

My co-founder initially came up with this. He just also worked with a couple of other sales companies, also as a developer, and worked with sales departments and saw how inefficient the demo process in particular is.

Jeroen:

Yeah, okay. So it’s sort of a tech-driven initial start? There is tech, we should use it, and it makes sense to use it in sales.

Veronika:

He just saw the process of the screen sharing, saw how inefficient that is, and what disadvantages it has. It’s slow. It’s laggy. You have to download an application. You cannot collaboratively work on it. There are just also a lot of other disadvantages that come with it. So he, as I said, started to think about a better way of sharing content remotely.

Veronika:

He basically also saw the biggest potential in sales customer-facing conversation. We were also looking at a couple of use cases when we started working together. My background is in consulting, so I had been working for a couple of startups before, but then I spent several years in management consultancy, Bain & Company. And then I also had a lot of clients that I was advising on their sales strategy. But also myself having to make a lot of pitches, like having customer conversations. In the end, every conversation is the possibility to sell something to the customer or sell yourself to the customer, so you’re basically always selling something, or having a specific goal.

Veronika:

If you could use technology to better achieve that goal, and we in our case, first that was sales. But if you can do that, I think that’s a very exciting use case. We are using technology to basically enable everyone to have a better customer conversation by providing you with everything that you need in real-time to have that conversation. Or to have a better conversation.

Jeroen:

Yeah. I’m looking at your LinkedIn profile here. You spent five years at Bain. You must have advanced there quite a lot in that time, I suppose.

Veronika:

Yeah, I left as a project leader. I was traveling a lot. Most of my time, I worked in Germany and the US, but also across Europe. I worked in Switzerland and the UK, so a very international job, very travel-intensive.

Jeroen:

Yeah, and before that, it seems you mostly worked in corporate jobs, Telefonica and Audi and Outfittery. That’s the one who sends you clothes, right?

Veronika:

Yeah, exactly. It’s the European version I’d say now. Back then, I also worked for Skylight. They were also a startup and there were only a few people. Now they are over 100, I think maybe over 200 now. I think they shrank again, but yeah.

Jeroen:

It seems like you started off your career in corporate, tried out some more of the startup atmosphere, went into consulting and then started to do your own thing.

Veronika:

Yes, exactly. For me, it was always clear that I want to build something, that I want to work in a startup, either have my own or work in a very small one, and then help build a product that really helps humans become better in what they do. I think software is the only thing that can do that, so for me it was always clear. Then I was also actively looking for opportunities and then talking with a lot of friends. That’s when Alex and I also started working together.

Jeroen:

Yeah. You were saying it was always clear to you, from what age do I have to imagine?

Veronika:

Say that again. I’m sorry. I didn’t get that.

Jeroen:

You were saying that it was always clear to you that you wanted to start a company. From what age do you think this was?

Veronika:

For me, it started a bit later. Not when I was very little, but more in university. I studied in Munich, and there’s an additional program at the university. It’s optional. You can take that, but you also have to apply. It’s called CDTM. It’s very founder-focused. They basically educate you to become a future founder. And a lot of great companies also did emerge out of the CDTM. That is actually where I realized that this is actually the thing that I wanted to do longer term.

Jeroen:

What was your idea then to start at Telefonica as your first job? Was that a way to learn more about business before going out on your own?

Veronika:

Well, it was actually before that, it was during university. It was an internship. So it was not a full-time job, but also there’re a lot of things that I learned there. I worked in the strategy department and was looking at new technologies in the competitive space, and together with the strategy team trying to think about a way of benefiting from future trends. And one of the things that we looked at, back at that time, was messaging as a trend. Right now it seems kind of funny, but back then it was a huge thing. Telefonica was thinking about also launching their own messenger to capitalize upon that trend. Looking backwards of course it doesn’t make any sense, when you have WhatsApp and Facebook and all the others. But it was that time. And it was also quite exciting. I also saw a lot there.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Your ambitions to become an entrepreneur, is that something that comes from your parents? Or was there somebody else who mainly influenced you there?

Veronika:

No, not necessarily my parents. It was more friends and just that I do find a lot of joy in building things. It just gives me a lot of energy building any kind of stuff, for instance furniture, being in the house with my dad when I was a kid. Just building something and creating something gives me a lot of energy. And I think that’s why a startup, and especially tech is the right thing, because with software you can make a lot of things in a very short timeframe, and also create a huge benefit for users. And save time and make their processes more efficient by actually creating that software. It’s just very motivating.

Jeroen:

Yeah, understood. I hear this from a lot of startup founders that the main reason they became a startup founder is because they like building things and they get energy from it. Makes a lot of sense. Are there any startup founders that you look up to, or startups that you think are doing things right, and that’s where I want to go and I want Demodesk to go?

Veronika:

Well, I think YC definitely has a lot of amazing companies, and while we went through YC last year, we also had the chance to listen to a couple of other very successful founders that came by for founders’ dinners. And yeah, a couple of companies, right? For example, Stripe or Mathilde from Front is very inspiring. Then Peter Reinhardt from Segment, also a very inspiring person. And what I also find particularly interesting is the topic around Product Market Fit and the two biggest pieces in that space I think is the one from Peter Reinhardt from Segment describing Product Market Fit as kind of an explosion, and Rahul from Superhuman as a structured way of constantly asking customers what they want and what they miss about your product, until you reach a certain point.

Veronika:

And I think definitely, these types of founders, they had success with Product Market Fit. With us understanding how they got to Product Market Fit, I think that was particularly inspiring. Especially Superhuman and Segment are two great examples for this, and also do show you that there is not just only one way, but there are different ways to reach that.

Jeroen:

Definitely. Always good to see the two perspectives. By the way, for the listeners, Rahul of Superhuman was in one of the previous episodes where he also talks about finding Product Market Fit and how he works towards his yearly goals, what kind of processes they have to go towards that. I definitely recommend listening to that. Maybe a bit more about what you do concretely for listeners to understand. How many are you guys now at Demodesk?

Veronika:

We’re now 20 people.

Jeroen:

You’re 20 people, so in what sort of phase would you say you are as a company? And do you think you’ve hit Product Market Fit? Are you working towards it, or?

Veronika:

Yeah, that’s a good question. I think it depends on what’s your definition for Product Market Fit. That comes back to the question or back to the topic right? For Superhuman, you also wrote a blog post about it. It’s having 40% of the customers that at least would be somehow sad if they wouldn’t have your product anymore. He used a very strict definition. For Segment, it’s more hitting that landmine that basically causes an explosion. Having a Product Market Fit feels like an explosion.

Veronika:

I think it’s not as easy as that, because depending on who you’re selling to and the type of the product you’re selling, there are different ways. And I think we can also have Product Market Fit at one point in time and then lose it again. I also heard that, and then, if you do have a Product Market Fit, you also need to have a Product Channel Fit in order to basically sell your product properly.

Veronika:

But for me personally, the best definition for Product Market Fit in B2B SaaS is reaching 1 million ARR. And we’re not quite there yet, but we’re on a very good way.

Jeroen:

Cool. To understand, what is it that keeps you up at night lately?

Veronika:

Well, I think definitely the current crisis. Demodesk in particular is for sure less affected than other companies, because we also in some kind of way do profit for the over-trend to meetings being more remote, and also companies having to sell remotely. However, we also have a lot of customers that do themselves sell to retail and hospitality businesses, who are struggling, and also just the general economic conditions. And increasing depth and increasing unemployment rates, especially in the U.S. I think we’re now at almost 23%. I think that’s definitely something that does keep me up at night, if there is anything. I typically sleep quite well. But yeah, I don’t know how you see it, but definitely the current situation is somewhat something that I think a lot about.

Jeroen:

Yeah, it helps in some ways and it doesn’t in others, I suppose. What figures does it mostly affect for you? Is it mostly new revenue, or is it mostly churn?

Veronika:

Well, for now I think for us it was more or less fine. We did see little churn, so definitely there were a couple of companies that are not doing any sales at all at the moment, because basically the industry’s dead. Like hospitality and off-line retail. Off-line events, also the same thing. Yeah, it’s definitely a little bit tough at the moment. But no, I mean, in terms of new MRR, we definitely see new MRR coming from new types of customers and new types of industries. For example, we now have a new customer selling solar panels. And we didn’t actively target these types of products before. We were more focused on B2B SaaS companies that are using Demodesk for their product demos.

Veronika:

But now there are new types of customers also. Another example is a furniture store that also has a website, a web shop, and is now using their empty brick and mortar furniture stores. And the people in there, the sellers, meet the customers remotely, and showcase their product and their web shop using Demodesk. Just it has shifted a bit for us I’d say.

Jeroen:

Yeah, more businesses that didn’t used to do things online are doing things online now.

Veronika:

Exactly.

Jeroen:

Did this have a positive effect overall? I mean, in general, did your new revenue go up, or did it go down a bit with the crisis?

Veronika:

Well, our new revenue actually went up. We’re also growing a lot with our existing customers and the past B2B SaaS companies. But right now, everyone’s very careful and putting a pause especially on recruiting, and in particular on the go to market side. With existing businesses, we haven’t quite seen that these companies that previously had either two or three sales calls every week, have further scaled their team. They’re now just putting everything on hold. That’s definitely what the existing scenario looks like.

Jeroen:

Yeah. What is it that you personally spend most of your work time on now?

Veronika:

We do still spend a lot of time on the product side, and also I do spend a lot of time on the products. We are two founders. It’s Alex and me. And Alex mostly focuses on the tech part. Our product is technically quite demanding, I’d say. So if you develop an online meeting tool that includes scheduling components and also CRM components, you’re constantly syncing data out and data back in and it becomes quite complex. Both from a tech perspective and from the UX perspective. And Alex is mostly covering the tech perspective, and I am still doing a lot of the UX side and the product side and developing features, developing mock-ups, and trying to think about user flows and prototype features on the roadmap. And I’m working very closely with the customer. That’s basically what I’m doing most of the time at the moment.

Jeroen:

The two of you, the co-founders, are spending a lot of time on the product, you say?

Veronika:

Yes.

Jeroen:

But you’re a company of 20 people. What do they spend their time on then?

Veronika:

About half is in the engineering team. And then you have three people in marketing, four people in sales.

Jeroen:

Okay. Understood. Sort of half, half between engineering and marketing-sales, but with a slight tipping over, if you count in products as well.

Veronika:

It’s more in product engineering, yes, definitely.

Jeroen:

Yeah, okay. It seems like with this amount of employees, you’re probably venture-backed?

Veronika:

Yes. We are definitely. We had our seed round last year. So we went to Y Combinator beginning of last year. And then with the seed round before and during and shortly after Demodesk, we raised money from investors from Silicon Valley mostly.

Jeroen:

Yeah. I suppose back then you raised for 18 months or two years. What is your expectation towards the next venture round in the current situation?

Veronika:

Well, before this all started, the plan was to raise around, raise a series A beginning of 2021. Fundraising conditions have changed a bit. We do actually at the moment think about raising a bit more money in the form of an extended seed round to have some more leeway until Series A, just because the conditions are a bit uncertain at the moment.

Jeroen:

But that would be from the current investors, or would involve some more angels?

Veronika:

It would be a combination.

Jeroen:

Combination of those?

Veronika:

Yeah.

Jeroen:

Makes a lot of sense. Back a bit towards what you do operationally. You say that you spend a lot of time on the product. Is that 100% of your time or 40%-50% of your time?

Veronika:

I’d say 40%, which is still the biggest chunk, the biggest part of my day. All the other stuff is really spread out, business topics, management topics, finance, HR recruiting, bookkeeping, all the stuff that no one wants to do, lies with me.

Jeroen:

Okay. Partly marketing as well? Or that’s completely within someone else’s responsibility?

Veronika:

We do have a marketing team. It’s one full-time person and two interns. And they are mostly covering marketing, and they’re doing a great job.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Cool. What do you think of all the things you’re working on is for you the next thing you’re planning to delegate?

Veronika:

Well, we’re definitely planning to hire a UX designer. I’m also still doing a lot of design work, which I shouldn’t do anymore. We currently are searching for a designer, but also on the operations side. Chief of staff is probably a bit too early for us, but someone who would grow into that role and take away some more things on the operational side from my plate.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Where do you see yourself mostly working in the long run? What exactly are the skills you think you bring as a founder to the business? Where do you want to put the focus, let’s say, for yourself?

Veronika:

I want to give my team everything that they need to do the best job that they can do, and to provide them with all the resources they need to constantly grow and become better at what they do every day. That’s my priority number one. And second priority is just to make sure that we as a company go in the right direction and also have the resources, mostly in the form of money available that we need in order to realize our vision. And that’s the happiest, right? For me, it’s very important that the team is happy and that everyone also can do what they want, can achieve what they want here at Demodesk and like their job, like to come to work every day, and also can build their kind of own world together with the entire team.

Jeroen:

Yeah. What I’m hearing is that you do team strategy and fundraising.

Veronika:

Longer term, probably. Definitely, yeah. Right now, it’s still like a wide set of also very operationally heavy tasks that no one else wants to do, and also a lot of product work. But over time, I hope that goes away.

Jeroen:

Okay. Do you have a lot of customer conversations as well? Or is that mostly delegated to your sales team?

Veronika:

No. I also do work with customers when it’s needed. We do have, of course, a sales team. We also have someone in support, but whenever it’s needed and whenever it’s something where I can help, then I definitely also will jump into that.

Jeroen:

Cool. Are you guys remote working now at Demodesk?

Veronika:

Yes, we are now working full remote. We are spread out across Europe and the U.S., so also working from different time zones, different countries.

Jeroen:

Yeah, but before that, you had an office somewhere in Germany as well?

Veronika:

We do have an office in Munich, yes. We also plan to open an office in San Francisco, or at least have more people there. But I think also now the environment has definitely changed a lot. We’ll see whether we get back to the original plan, and after the new normal has arrived. Currently we do have an office in Munich but are working remotely.

Jeroen:

Cool. What changed mostly for you guys with everyone going remote and being at home instead of in the office? Did it have a big effect? And if it had only a small one, I’m also interested in knowing where it mostly had an effect for you.

Veronika:

We were also working remotely before, not as a full remote team, but partially. Alex and I moved to Mountain View during YC. And so last year we spent four months in the Valley. And then I was also traveling back and forth most of the time anyway. So back and forth between Mountain View and San Francisco. I was partially working remote, and Alex had also moved to San Francisco at the beginning of this year. He now returned back to Munich, given the current situation. We also in some kind of way were used to working remotely. However, working fully remote, the entire team definitely had some challenges. For us, it was super important to set up reporting lines and team structures.

Veronika:

We actually built teams that align every day, every single day, every morning. And also every evening, we would align with the news teams, with the team leaders, to make sure everyone’s in sync. But what’s definitely a challenge for us is working with working students or young members of the team. I had the feeling that especially for them, it was sometimes a bigger challenge to keep themselves motivated than for full-time employees and employees that are a little bit older.

Jeroen:

What are exactly the things you do for these interns? Is there a daily standup meeting in the morning, if I understood well?

Veronika:

Yes, daily standup meetings in the morning, peer structures, Slack channels, clear guidelines on how to report what and when, and also setting up an internal company wiki and company processes and Notion group of slides just documenting all the processes to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Jeroen:

Did you make any changes to meeting processes?

Veronika:

Yes, we did. We have four teams. Our teams are tech, product, revenue and growth. And these four teams do have daily standups. And also the team leads together with me and Alex do have a meeting every day at the end of the day to make sure that we stay in sync.

Jeroen:

You know where everybody’s going in a meeting.

Veronika:

Yes. We discuss them every day. I also took that away with me from Bain. When I was doing a lot of due diligences and working in private equity, what you do there is consult a private equity company on a decision whether to buy a certain asset, a certain company or not. And you need to make a decision, or you need to give them that recommendation within a very short timeframe, four weeks or so. It’s a very intense project and very important that you spend every single day in the most efficient way.

Veronika:

We also had every morning and every evening a battle call, we would name that. And in the battle call, we would discuss what our priorities for the day in the morning and in the evening looked like, also discuss what your achievements of the day were and what’s still outstanding. And then would together prioritize the things that are important and de-prioritize the things that are not. And I also took it away with me from Bain into the startup world. I think this definitely helps to keep everyone in sync.

Jeroen:

Are you doing the two meetings or just the meeting at the end of the day?

Veronika:

Two meetings. Meeting in the morning is within the team, so just the growth team or the revenue team. And meeting in the evening is with the team leaders.

Jeroen:

Yeah, understood. That’s quite an interesting system. We are only doing the morning thing, and mostly over Slack. And we do the planning biweekly or weekly, depending on the team. But this is an approach I hadn’t heard yet. For me, it seems like a lot of meetings, but I can see the point of it.

Veronika:

If you don’t see each other and you’re working full remote, I mean, it’s just very important to have a lot of touch points to really make sure everyone’s working on the right things, no? Or don’t you think it’s very difficult to just have the full picture of who’s working on what, if you’re not seeing each other in the office?

Jeroen:

Yeah, true. No, you definitely need to communicate more. We started noting things like after each meeting, something we didn’t do before. We started a bit but not really much yet. But to really summarize what has been said in a meeting, so that we can keep the whole team up to date on everything that gets decided in a more summarized way. It sort of takes away the need to always meet with team leads. I sometimes meet with my cofounder, so that we’re aligned on things, but not on a daily basis.

Veronika:

Yeah, I mean, it’s always a trade-off, right? Of course, if you have a lot of meetings, you also spend a lot of time in these meetings. But also one other trick that we used to make it shorter is for standups in the morning and the evening. Everyone before the standup needs to summarize what he wants to share in a few bullet points. And just by doing that, you really focus and force yourself to just mention the three most important things, rather than everyone as a download of what’s going on in your head.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Just in case you heard a lot of snoring in the background just now, that wasn’t me. That was my dog. Just that he found that it was a good idea to snore very loudly.

Veronika:

Cute. What dog is it?

Jeroen:

It’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Veronika:

Good.

Jeroen:

You know how it looks?

Veronika:

No. I love dogs, but I don’t know how it looks.

Jeroen:

Fluffy.

Veronika:

Okay, awesome.

Jeroen:

Towards learnings a bit perhaps. I’m interested to know, as a final question before we go into learnings: how is your experience going from Munich to Mountain View? What were the differences you saw in how startups operate between Germany and Silicon Valley let’s say? That’s my question.

Veronika:

Well. While you were asking, I was just thinking whether I should answer the question from a perspective of how it was at YC, because that was our experience, or whether I should try to answer the question without taking the YC network and the YC experience into account? But probably the latter one, I probably can’t do, because it’s just easy for me to speak about how it was in the YC network. And I think Silicon Valley in general is connected in a better way than the European partners are. Once you’re in Silicon Valley, you have all these successful companies around you.

Veronika:

But when you’re in YC, that’s even more intense, because there are a lot of great companies that did go through YC, and you’re immediately connected to an incredibly valuable network of successful founders and investors and ventures. And so for us, it was definitely a bit biased. Even more biased than for someone who would go to the Silicon Valley without YC.

Veronika:

I can only speak from that perspective, if that makes sense. And taking that perspective into account, I think that there are three main differences. The first one is just a mindset. In Europe and in particular in Germany, people always like to think about the problems rather than how big something could be, which people are more thinking about in the U.S., especially in Silicon Valley. They just, I don’t know, are thinking about the question, how big can this get, a lot? Whereas in Germany, if you talk to investors, in particular also you tend to get a lot of questions of what obstacles you’re facing, what could be in the way, and analyzing numbers and detail. So you can say you get the big vision that everything is possible. And that’s the first major thing.

Veronika:

The second thing as briefly touched before, is the network. It’s just a very tight network. You can basically speak with almost everyone if you just want to and ask. Because almost everyone is just around, just lives in San Francisco. Most of the successful B2B SaaS companies do come from San Francisco and are there. And that’s definitely way more spread out in Europe and therefore, it’s just less dense. That’s the second thing.

Veronika:

And something that’s also probably connected to the first and second part is, fundraising. That is for sure a bit easier, because most of the investors and most of the money, especially in the startup in the SaaS space is available in Silicon Valley. Most of the successful investors do have an office in Palo Alto or San Francisco. It’s just way easier to reach out to them, speak with them, and meet them.

Jeroen:

Yeah. But you raised in both places, you said. Both in Silicon Valley and in Germany.

Veronika:

Well, we did raise in Silicon Valley, honestly, because demo day back then was still on site. Now it’s virtual, but demo day is in San Francisco. And all investors are just there or most of them. And then, afterwards you would also meet most of them in person. We also did take the German investors on board, which we obviously also saw when we were back in Germany. But the fundraising process for us took place in Silicon Valley.

Jeroen:

Yeah, these others just tagged along?

Veronika:

The other three investors were investors that we already were in contact with before we went to YC.

Jeroen:

Yeah, but the lead investor was the one in San Francisco, or the lead investor was in Germany?

Veronika:

We didn’t have a lead investor in particular, but the two biggest investors were Founders Club and GFC. And Founders Club is in San Francisco, and GFC is in Germany.

Jeroen:

Okay. Cool. Slowly wrapping up with learnings, what’s the latest good book you’ve read, and why did you choose to read it?

Veronika:

The latest book and also one of the greatest I’ve ever read is The Great CEO Within. And it’s an incredibly helpful book, especially for founders. And Matt Mochary I think is the author, but he also had some other founders contributing to it. One of our investors actually gave it to me, the Cubit founder. And I think it’s great. It gives you a lot of tactical advice on how to build a company, how to prioritize your work, how to hire, how to fundraise, in a very dense and compensated way. And I’d say really some kind of way, a founders’ bible. I like the book a lot, and I can recommend it.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Just put it on my Goodreads to read list. Have you read books like, I have to think a moment, the one from, oh God, give me one second, “Lost and Founder” by Rand Fishkin?

Veronika:

No.

Jeroen:

Or “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz?

Veronika:

Yes, I read that one, yes.

Jeroen:

How does it sort of compare to the one in Ben Horowitz?

Veronika:

Well, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, he’s more telling stories from his life as a founder or an entrepreneur, just telling stories from his own company. And The Great CEO Within is really just a tactical guide describing concrete steps that you can take to structure your work, to fundraise, to hire people. It’s more of, I’d say, a guideline of how to found a company, whereas in The Hard Things, he’s telling his own story.

Jeroen:

Stories and ideas, yeah.

Veronika:

In a very appealing way.

Jeroen:

True, true. Cool, now I look forward to reading it. Last question. If you were to start over with Demodesk, what would you have done differently?

Veronika:

Good question. I really think that some things you have to go through on your own in order to really learn them. I think sometimes it’s just impossible to make a shortcut, and I think being a founder and finding a company might be one of these. Probably, so far I can say all of the things that we did right, in a sense that of course, they were not always right at that point. But we learned from these, and then the learnings that we got from going through these processes helped us to become better afterwards. I think really embracing the process, and also taking everything in the process as a necessary step to get there where you are at this particular point in time is super important.

Veronika:

It’s always how I like to see it also when I’m working with my team and especially with younger team members. Sometimes I can tell them how I think things should be done, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Sometimes I just know that they have to go through it on their own in order to really learn it, because some things you can’t just read or teach someone by just telling them. You know what I mean? Does it make sense?

Jeroen:

Yeah, it makes sense, but I have a follow-up question. You’re saying basically that if you were to start over with Demodesk, you go back in time, you don’t regret all the steps you made because they were needed to get to your results?

Veronika:

Yes.

Jeroen:

In your current state. But what if today you would start Demodesk again with everything that you learned already from these things? What would you do differently?

Veronika:

Well, I would probably raise money earlier. I would recruit a great team earlier with that money, and then first fully focus on the product. And then after I have at least a decent version of the product, only then I would actively approach customers and sell. Because back then, when we started with Demodesk two and a half years ago, I remember being at the first SaaStock in Dublin. And back then we had nothing, but honestly I tried to approach almost everyone and pitch our product and try to sell something that we didn’t have, which didn’t make sense. But still, we learned from that process, right? That’s definitely something that I probably wouldn’t do again.

Jeroen:

Yeah. You’re against customer interviews, or is it on another nuanced level?

Veronika:

No, definitely customer interviews are important, but also we had some kind of expectation that, if we pitched a product, they would just immediately say, yeah, it sounds great. I’m going to buy. Like it was not realistic, the expectations that we had back then. And sometimes I think you also have to be a bit naïve, otherwise, you probably wouldn’t start with building a company. That’s extremely hard. And it’s a lot of challenges that you have to solve on your way, so maybe you sometimes need that naivete, I think. But definitely if I would do it again, I would be less naïve and more realistic.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Cool. Thank you again for being on Founder Coffee, Veronika. It was really great to have you.

Veronika:

Thank you. It was fun talking to you, and hope to speak soon.


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Jeroen Corthout

Co-Founder at Salesflare
I'm Co-Founder of Salesflare, the simply powerful CRM for small businesses. I love growth, automating sales, and building beautiful products.

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