A conversation with Lift Relations and Seed Capital
Community is everything, and we strive to make the Matrikel1 community as valuable as we can for our members. We want our network to be open and provide extra value to our members. We’ve had a talk with Zenia W. Francker, Director of Platform at Seed Capital and Dan Hestbaek, the Founder and CEO of Lift Relations. Seed Capital is one of our very first members at Matrikel1, and Lift just recently joined our community. They have joined forces, and we are curious to hear about their journey.
Tell us about Lift. What’s the expertise? What value do you provide?
Dan: – Lift is a customer success platform, a software that predicts which of your clients are at risk of being lost and which of your clients you can sell more to. We provide this service within B2B and primarily within the MarCom, advertising and PR vertical.
– Lift is a predictive tool; we always talk about what will happen for clients in the next three months. So whilst we may use the past data, it’s always about the future and what you can affect. Lift isn’t about things you can’t affect. It’s like a weather forecast. If it says it’s going to be raining in the following days, you can do changes to get the proper gear and an umbrella. If you didn’t have that forecast and only knew the past – that it was sunny last week, you’d walk out in the wrong clothes and without an umbrella. So a big principle for us is to make predictions for things you can change.
What are your goals going forward?
Dan: – The overarching 2022 goal is to quadruple the number of customers. We need the right people to be a part of the journey to achieve this. So, therefore, our hiring plan is the most important thing. We’re looking for 40+ great people to join us within sales, marketing, customer success, and operations. That’s the theme for this year, and everything is built around that.
Zenia: – We’re very proud we closed our fund 4 and, on top of that, also a growth fund which will reinvest in our most promising portfolio companies and follow them all the way to success. Venture funds in Denmark do not have the funds to do that, so we’re very proud to raise this growth fund and be able to do this size of follow up investments. This also means our portfolio companies will have the same investor from late seed and all the way to exit or IPO, which is rare. You build the trust, know the history, have the connection, and hopefully, you get to continue being partners.
Dan: – The follow-up investments was one of the parts we looked into when analysing and understanding VCs. For us, it’s a very important part.
What made Seed consider Lift to invest in?
Zenia: – It was my colleague Niels Vejrup Carlsen who took lead on looking into Lift. In September, I met Dan at TechBBQ, and I remember he told me he was in fundraising mode. This is six months ago, but I still remember his revenue traction, which was impressive. Another part of the due diligence is customer feedback. The fact that Lift matters, it’s not a nice-2-product it’s a need-2-product. One of Lift’s customers told us that Lift helped them avoid a substantial revenue loss, as the platform alerted them to an issue with a key customer, which otherwise would have been lost. An issue that they did not know they had! That’s very impressive, few companies and platforms may claim to have that dependency with their clients.
Both Lift and Seed Capital are Matrikel1 members. How did it influence the ‘dating’ process?
Dan: – First and foremost, it was the first time going through the investors seeking process. I had bootstrapped the business until we got this fundraising, so it was the first time we were bringing investors on board. So there was a little bit of ‘tasting’ the process from my end. And at the same time, I could feel that, very quickly, most VCs, unless it was something off their radar or size or vertical of focus, gave us a lot of attention. So we ended up with a multitude of term sheets simultaneously, which was interesting.
– We selected Seed Capital for two reasons: #1 – Niels and his engagement, dedication and knowledge in the process. That was very much coming to light for someone like me, and because we were in the same house, here at Matrikel1, we could connect in between meetings, albeit we were still sitting at the opposite sides of the table at that point. This brought nuances to the conversations that weren’t necessarily there with other VCs. Initially, we were looking at some other VCs more attractively but then we got to know more of Niels, and what he was bringing from Seed’s side. It enriched the conversation and made it clear to us that Seed is indeed the right partner for us in the following 8-10 years, for which this sort of relationship is hopefully going to last.
So it was mutual interest from the start?
Dan: – It ended there. As in any ‘dating game’, it’s all about expectation management and intentions, which we were aligned on from the start. Now it’s up to both parties to deliver on that. The work is just starting now but I think we have a strong foundation that we’re aligned on thanks to having the opportunity to communicate a lot and well both ways.
Zenia: – I think Matrikel1 is quite unique because it’s very few physical spaces where you can both bump into your LPs (the investors of the venture fund), your portfolio companies (companies you’ve already invested in), and then also potential new companies that you’d like to invest in. Also, business angels might provide the next leads. I think a lot of coworking spaces are more genre-specific which gives some other synergies that are great, but I think what is different about Matrikel1 compared to other spaces is this diversity among the people here. I think a few of the members are also catalysts or maybe rather attractors of a greater network outside the physical hub. Meaning companies like Seed Capital, Techfunding.eu, Highbridge Law Firm, Advenio recruitment agency and others are all companies who meet with many tech scaleups and international investors when they’re in town or when they’re in hiring mode, which means they come to Matrikel1 for meetings, and then they stay here because they need to prepare for the next meeting, or debrief afterwards before they go back to their respective offices. At Matrikel1 you get to meet truly fascinating people, both scheduled, as well as and just as important, serendipitously.
Tips for startups applying for funding?
Dan: – To start with, I’m echoing the one everybody says; that would be to know your numbers and metrics. As a follow-up, my tip is to be yourself in the process. I was guided well by my chairmen and my existing board. But also, I am showing what we are and what we aren’t very transparently. You can argue that the area we are in, in the scale-up phase, it’s just the myriad of challenges that you haven’t fixed or solved or may not even know the path on how to solve but you should be clear about what goals do you want to achieve but not necessarily about all the path on how to solve them. You should talk about how you think, but that’s also where you expect that the VCs, or at least for us, didn’t just want the cash injection, which we’ve got a lot of other options for, but we sought the knowledge, too. That said, I think it’s about clearly understanding what you want, whether it is cash or knowledge, or knowledge or cash only, etc., and then being yourself.
– Another tip could be to try and understand what the VCs are looking for. It’s not just about your business, of course, you have to be able to become a unicorn, decacorn, etc., but it’s also about their focus. Are you attractive for their portfolio? That’s often not about you as a company or as an individual, so don’t take things personally. It’s more about their strategy. My experience is that many companies that are trying to raise don’t necessarily put enough effort into the strategy of the VC, what does their fund look like, how is it organised. So that’s my point of view, do your groundwork well on the VCs.’
Zenia: – I agree. Way too many are shooting the same email to everyone. But you need to sit down and do your homework. You need to have an intriguing email, a warm introduction by someone that the VC knows and trusts as it will make it easier for you to get that first meeting. You need to have your pitch deck and data room ready, especially on the numbers’ side, and also on the vision side. Where are you heading and why are you even here? Then there’s nothing new; every VC looks for the team and market size, timing, business model and traction, as well as, technology and your ability to own a category or industry as the winner. Way too many entrepreneurs don’t take the time and do not understand they’re actually helping themselves by minimizing the investor target list that you’re going to reach out to rather than sending out 200 emails to anyone that states “VC @Venture Fund XX” on their LinkedIn profile.
Dan: – An extra layer which I think is the most important; everybody talks about the team and the vision, which is super important, but one thing is even more important. It is about understanding the timing of the market, which is super difficult to navigate. I’ve always been a visionary. I’ve had three businesses, Lift is my third one. I haven’t been successful on the first two, and that has been because it’d always been too early. You need to understand the timing. If the vision is amazing, the team is amazing, but the timing is wrong, you have no business. I think sometimes it’s being neglected, specifically in the startup scale-up. My tip is to understand your timing. It’s like an avocado. It’s always too early, too early… to eat and then it’s too late. Pow! It’s like this one day, the one day where you get to eat three avocados. That’s exactly the same with raising capital, hitting the market properly and scaling. The “avocado” timing.
Tell us about the growth strategy for Lift!
Dan: – We’re purpose-built for the US market, and 95% of our revenue comes from there. We’re in one vertical out of 15 in the professional services, the MarCom – Marketing & communications agencies. We want to expand that significantly within that vertical in the US and then enter into a couple of other verticals in professional services. For example, one of the key components of replacing the ‘Net promoter score’ in PS with the ‘Lift score’ is a much more predictive and future-oriented score and we want to drive that into all of the professional services umbrellas. That’s the dream, the vision.
Why did you choose Matrikel1?
Dan: – There are two reasons. First, I could see that we’re about to raise capital and the most important thing post-raising capital would be hiring the people because we were a small team prior to that. Tt’s already commencing the thought around how do I create an environment and a culture where people want to come and work? We wanted a place that would be relevant and interesting for other people. Whilst we’re not a big company, I want it to be a place where people are proud of coming in and being in a place where you feel a part of a community, part of a larger setup, with proper coffee and lunch. Our employees can be proud of all these things when they come home to their partners and family and talk about their workday.
– The other thing, keeping the growth strategy in mind, we started with two tables in the flex area and then we’ve grown into an office now, where we can be 10-12 people, and I know that when we grow into 15-20, we can very quickly adapt to another office. So there is this convenience related to that. To sum it up, the reasons are mainly talent attraction and the convenience of the space.
– We like that the facilities are very well managed. There’s strong community management around it, which I think is important, and people tend to think it’s given and only notice it when it’s not working. I think the community management part is really strong here and that coupled up with the facilities being proper and in place, clean and effective and that tools are supporting that from managing a meeting, ordering tea and coffee or the restaurant side of it, just makes it convenient. Essentially, the convenience. Plus, the location is important for the employees. Because we’re #employeesfirst company, it’s important when they’re not working from home they have a great place to come to, with beautiful surroundings.
Zenia: – There are more answers to that question. The main reason, we want to be closer to the Danish startup ecosystem. Right now, we’re surrounded by entrepreneurs, other investors, angels and community people. Then the other thing is, whenever you bring someone new to Matrikel1, it’s amazing to see this space through their eyes, the first time someone steps in and they go ‘Oooh!’ – 5 meters to the ceiling, beautiful marble pillars, great coffee, the people… My personal favourite is the culture and people at Matrikel1: I’ve never heard anyone in this house say no to helping another member. I love the ‘pay-it-forward-attitude’, that you can reach out to anyone and no one would think it’s weird. People ask and share their challenges on Slack, and people reply, not leaving them unseen
Dan: – Would it be fair to say that it would mean to fail for Seed Capital to become an extended version of a bank or a growth fund? Placing yourselves in a hub like Matrikel1, operating with tools like Slack with your team members or your portfolio companies, enables you, as a VC, to position yourself a little bit differently, like a growth fund at arm’s length. It echoes what you’re saying differently. For us, it was also one of the feelings that if they position themselves in a place like here, there’s a certain ‘oomph’ to them.
Zenia: – We have an open-door policy, so unless we’re having a confidential meeting, our office door is open at all times because we want people to pop in and say hello. It’s the same thing with international VCs. We invite them and even have extra desks available because they’re always welcome to crash with us. Matrikel1 provides the coffee, and we have additional desks, so they’re welcome. This also creates a different atmosphere.