5.6M Euro To Scale Klipfolio’s Metric Tracking Startup Dashboard

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Allan Wille, co-founder & CEO at Klipfolio talks about their Startup Dashboard, their 5.6M€ Series A funding & future plans for the metric tracking company:

Allan, in January 2012 your company Klipfolio launched the Startup Dashboard. How would you describe it in 50 words?

Imagine a world where you have super simple and real-time access to all of your business metrics. At Klipfolio we develop a cloud dashboard that helps users and teams at small and mid sized businesses do exactly that – and helps them get in control of their business.

What is your role at Klipfolio and how did you get involved?

I’m a founder and CEO. I started the company way back in 2001 with my co-founder Peter Matthews.

In 2001 we saw a big demand for desktop widgets such as stock tickers, news, weather, clocks etc that anyone with a PC could pop on their desktop. In a sense, we were very successful, reaching 1,000 downloads a day. However, content publishers, who were key to our sales model were going through turbulent times (and still are) and weren’t interested. None-the-less, we now had a few hundred thousand users around the world.

In 2004, Lufthansa approached us and wanted to know if they could deploy our widget dashboard to their 35,000 employees to better monitor business data. Of course we said an emphatic YES. This was a big moment in the history of our business – and it lead to a profitable number of years selling into many of the worlds biggest companies. We grew as a company – but it felt too slow. Selling into big business was difficult, often requiring custom deployments, and a long sales cycle as we navigated legal, IT, and procurement. This was not scalable.

How did you discover the need for the dashboard? What problem are you solving?

In 2010, the launch of the iPad changed everything. One of our existing enterprise customers told us that their executives and managers all had iPads and would like to run our product on them – which as a desktop tool we couldn’t do … but we were interested. They also had a few other requests, that included making our product easier to use and cloud-deployed so that IT did not have to be involved. They also asked us to make it “credit card affordable” to fly under the radar of procurement and legal. So we set out to re-architect our product and to reinvent our business model.

In 2012 we bet the company on this new product, direction and business model when we launched our cloud offering. Up until this point we had not seen enough product-market fit to take on external funding so were bootstrapped. But within the first year of launching the cloud dashboard we had 350 customers and by the end of the next year it was over 1,000. At the beginning of 2014, with good evidence of market fit, we decided to raise a seed round and accelerate our growth. The seed round in 2014 was 1.6M€ and managed to triple the business. A year later, in 2015, we raised a 5.7M€ Series A, continued to accelerate and are now 7,000 customers strong.

What metrics can startups and SMEs track with the product? Considering they’re left with a lot of data – how can they use it for their own purposes?

Startups and SMEs can track any metric they have the data to support. We have a library of pre-built metrics from 60 different cloud services that cover sales, marketing, support, development, finance and executive metrics. Beyond these pre-built metrics users can also build their own by mashing together data, calculating and choosing the right visualization using our editor.

Each department within a company can track their own KPIs, how can they be combined to see the overall performance?

Generally each department will have its own dashboard of KPIs and then the CEO will have a dashboard that tracks the most important metrics across each area plus ones that are CEO specific. But we do find users share many of their favourite metrics and visualizations with other users. It’s a great way to make sure the entire company is on the same page.

Klipfolio probably was the first customer of its own product. What metrics do you track and what are the most important ones for you?

We track everything!

Some of the most important metrics include our daily metrics: new monthly recurring revenue (MRR), new accounts, cancelled accounts, account expansions, new leads, # support tickets open, average first reply time, major and critical bugs, leads by channel and geography etc…

Many of our metrics that tell us how we are progressing against our monthly targets – for example, visualizing actual sales against a moving target for the month. For certain metrics, such as customer acquisition costs (CAC), lifetime value (LTV), and retention, we also like to see trends over longer time periods – using a comparative period such as last month or last year, or a rolling 90 day picture.

I know you also work with a metric called the “quality score”. Let’s explain this a little bit more:

Quality score is in reference to the quality of our trials. We have given different actions in our application a score. For example, if you add a pre-built metric from our library you get “points”. We push this score to our marketing automation and CRM systems so our success and marketing teams can understand a trial user better based on their activity. Trial score also helps alert us to low quality leads.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building the dashboard?

Challenges come in three flavours … acquiring customers, retaining them, and then scaling our entire platform.

Acquiring customers has everything to do with initial perceptions and promises and matching those to the expectation and experience. For us, this journey starts by understanding our target audience and the persona we are building for. This allows us to design compelling journeys that start by attracting the right people to what we do, further educating and helping them understand how a dashboard can help. This is where they would start a trial and the product experience takes over. We spend a lot of effort really looking at the first few minutes of a users trial journey – minimizing the steps needed to get to value. We have also invested heavily in supporting trial users by live chat, webinars, documentation and videos.

Once a customer decides to buy, retention is the next piece of the puzzle we need to excel at. And there is a window of time – customers need to feel confident and successful very early on. We have an on-boarding team that focuses on exactly that – and it works. We also have in-application tours and advanced webinars that help customers learn about different elements of our application.

The other element is scale. Scaling to thousands of customers, millions of formulas and calculations that all have to happen in real-time, 24hrs of each day is not easy. We have a world class team that has allowed us to make this happen.

At the moment Klipfolio is active in 84 different countries – what are your plans for the near future? Are you planning further expansions?

Klipfolio is a completely inbound business so expansion is a matter of expanding our outreach in paid advertising to new personas, new markets and new countries. Most of our business is from organic traffic to our website. There is no reason why we should not have customers in every country. One of the best ways we have found to grow a local customer base is through our partner network. We currently have over 600 partners globally – invaluable in being able to speak the local language and to help customers within their own time zone.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

There are so many. The nervousness of hiring our first real-employee – at a time when Peter and I were not even taking a salary. Or the confidence of our two funding events. But at the end of the day, there are two things that are really amazing. First, the fact that every customer (and we have many now) is paying us because they see value. That’s amazing. And secondly, the people I get to work with. The amazing team that makes everything happen. Those are the things I will remember for a long time to come.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

On family and friends: Family and friends are your biggest supporters – but they can also raise objections and be less risk tolerant. Listen to them. They will have legitimate concerns that you may not have considered – ones that you need to be able to address. Get them on board, particularly your spouse and make sure they know what to expect. Don’t sugar-coat it: It’s going to be tough.

On financial issues: Expect at least two years of financial hardship right at the start. Have savings to draw on while you build the business, and have a plan to cover your living expenses while you work at turning your dream into reality. Start earning some cash; they merely change shape. That’s because as soon as you have employees, you’ve got to worry about meeting payroll. Smiling bravely in front of staff when you’ve just seen all the red ink in the company books is crazy hard. But keep at it.

On facing fear: Every new business starts out in a burst of optimism; entrepreneurs are by nature an optimistic lot. But at some point in the process, fear creeps in. Always look for that little glimmer of hope, but be brutally honest with yourself. And if your product is not working, adjust it until you find your niche. It takes time to succeed. And it will pay off.

 

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