Jeroen De Wit (Teamleader): deoxyribonucleic acid
Jeroen De Wit, CEO of Teamleader, says a team that lives and breathes the same DNA is an essential building block for a successful start-up. Focus on a firm that now spreads throughout Europe.
Can you present Teamleader in a few words?
We are a SaaS scale-up founded in 2012 in Ghent. We offer an all-in-one platform for CRM, project management and invoicing, built with SMEs in mind. We now help thousands of SMEs all across Europe work smarter. During college, co-founders Willem Delbare and Mathias De Loore and I, a group of 3 friends, started our own web design agency. A customer's request for project management components prompted the idea to build a standalone software application - from the ground up. We’ve been growing at rocket speed: in just five years, we opened offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid, Milan and Paris - and we raised three funding rounds. We have set some pretty ambitious goals for ourselves: we want to become the absolute leader in our industry. Today, our team consists of more than 170 people and is still growing strong.
Which challenges did you face from starting the company to getting 7,000 clients?
For starters, scaling in Europe involves a lot of hurdles. There’s no such thing as a single digital market. For example, in some countries official documents need to be signed in person so I had to fly back and forth a couple of times to our other offices, just to sign something. Secondly, we’re growing incredibly fast - not just in terms of numbers but also in staff. We have a lot of young and talented people on board that are incredibly eager to learn. But we also needed to bring the necessary expertise on board to get in the crucial knowhow to take our company to the next level. That was - and is - not always easy. Thirdly, innovating our product remains a challenge. In the early beginning, we could switch gears at a rapid pace. But as our international customer base grew, maintaining that same level of speed was no longer feasible. Our product releases are now much more focused on quality and a long-term, sustainable solution.
Many startups fail. What are your three main pillars of success?
What is really important is that we’ve always remained true to the same values and mission which started this journey in the first place: helping SMEs to grow and digitise their business, so they can work smarter and focus on what matters most. We invest heavily in making sure our team breathes those same values. In the end, it all comes down to your own people: they’re a big, if not the biggest, driver for success. Building a team isn’t just about recruiting people. I also try to look for advice with the right external people, with a proven track record, from various backgrounds, to get that fresh, new perspective. Another pillar for success: once we find out that a certain strategy was doing the trick, we document them in “playbooks” so we can copy them in different countries. We tend to experiment a lot, and kill what isn’t working. In essence, we still have this go-getter start-up mentality. Even though we’re a scale-up now, we still keep this as part of our DNA and I’m very grateful we still have this.
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
Tough question, in such a fast-changing environment as ours. In our mission to have as many Europeans SMEs as possible work smarter, we want to expand to more countries. Not only to acquire customers, but also to build a community of European entrepreneurs that help each other and connect with each other. Obviously, we also want to build a top-notch platform which SMEs can use to integrate with all the tools they’re using.
On an internal level, we want to build a company with a great company culture, with people who love their job, feel the ability to grow and take responsibilities and who feel they can offer real added value to customers.
To be honest, it’s just really simple: building a great product together with great people that’s used by happy customers. That’s all I really care for.