ChillBill: “As A Startup Resources Are Tight, So Making Good Decisions Is Crucial.”

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Co-founder of the SaaS startup ChillBill, Clemens Helm on success, pivot and the company's mission to solve accounting troubles.

Describe ChillBill in 50 words or less.

ChillBill automates your bookkeeping and facilitates the workflow with your tax advisor. All your bills are automatically processed, so you don’t have to type data into your accounting system anymore.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

This was not a choice. It was an urge, similar to being hungry. You can decide not to eat, but for sure that’s not a good idea in the long run.

I’m passionate about developing products which make other people’s lives easier. Nonetheless I never felt entirely satisfied when I built products for other companies. Probably because my vision for the product was never entirely aligned with the company’s vision. To me it is important to have the permanent feeling of moving in the right direction.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

Accounting is completely automated and ChillBill customers can focus on their core businesses. They don’t have to spend time on accounting as everything is handled by ChillBill automatically. Paying an open bill is a matter of one click.

At the same time, they have their live financial data at hand all the time. They can make strategic decisions based on daily updated data instead of waiting for reports from the tax advisor at the end of the month.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

Our most important success metric is customer satisfaction, measured quantitatively in months that our customers stay with us. We regularly talk to our customers and ask them for feedback on the current product and upcoming features. This way we make sure that our product stays aligned with our customers’ needs and our customers stay satisfied.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

There is no such thing as a typical working day. There are days full of meetings with tax advisors or potential investors and other days that I spend entirely in front of the computer. It’s this mix of activities that makes my working days exciting.

I usually arrive at the office between 8:30am and 9:00am and leave the office between 7pm and 7:30pm. Whenever possible, I try to commute by bike. It gives me energy in the morning and relaxes me after leaving the office.

Already pivoted? Did customers use the bookkeeping service like you imagined it in the beginning?

Initially we imagined ChillBill to be only an interface between customers and their accounting software. So customers would send us their bills, we would recognize them and make the data available to their accounting software. But soon we discovered that the problem we were solving was very limited and didn’t attract a lot of customers. Therefore we decided to pivot. Now we’re a web platform that automates financial workflows of our customers.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

At the moment we’re participating in the 5starts incubator in Vienna. 5start provides coachings as well as money, so at the moment we’re good. Still it will be hard to completely bootstrap our service, so we’re also talking to investors and we’re applying for public funds as well. But goal number one is of course getting more revenue from customers.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building your startup?

One of the hardest things is making good decisions. A bad decision can result in weeks of unnecessary work and thousands of Euros spent in vein. Especially as a startup resources are tight, so making good decisions is crucial.

But making good decisions is a skill which needs to be trained, so you can only improve it by experience. That means making bad decisions is unavoidable to a certain degree, especially if you are a first-time founder. But the longer you survive, the better your decisions become.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

Many software-as-a-service companies focus on being global and reaching their potential customers through the internet only. We’ve got another approach: We try to reach people in “real life”. For example, we organize tax coachings in Vienna and Graz. Although we keep increasing the frequency, registration numbers go through the roof: we’re receiving more than double as many registrations as we can accept. These events are the first touch point with ChillBill for new founders and many of them become ChillBill customers afterwards.

What do you look for in team members?

I must be able to share an office room with them each and every day. So being personally compatible is certainly the most important criterion.

Another important quality is being positive. Most things we are afraid of turn out pretty well in hindsight. Therefore worrying less saves you a lot of energy and keeps you motivated, which will get you closer to your goals.

Why would a talent join your team?

Because they care about the problems we solve and they care about our customers. Caring gives your work meaning. It’s no longer only a job, but it becomes your mission. That’s the feeling I’d like everyone who joins us to have. Besides we’re a lot of fun and we always look on the bright side of life 🙂

What was your most memorable moment so far?

Getting our first customer. And the second. And the third…

It’s like you’ll always remember the moment when your child is born. This feeling that you’re solving a problem that others are willing to pay for. One of the greatest things as an entrepreneur is the feeling of being needed, the gratitude of your customers who never have to experience the problem anymore which you are solving. Every new customer is a confirmation of the effort we’re putting into ChillBill.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

Don’t panic.

There are situations when it feels like everything is lost and your brain might tell you to play it safe and to give up. Don’t be a fool and ride the dead horse, but don’t give up easily either. Most “valleys of tears” are great chances to move on in a better direction based on what you’ve learned so far. Unless you’re copying something which is already proven to work, you’re exploring new fields. And exploring never means moving in a straight line.


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