You know when you meet an INSEADer…
When you reach the 3rd floor of their building on Derry Street in London, the first thing that strikes you is this impression of being at home – this je ne sais quoi that makes you feel like everything’s right. INSEAD is a family and you can recognize its members in the snap of a finger. “You must be the guys from INSEAD” says Mathijs Eefting, MBA 2014, co-founder of Moteefe with his characteristic Dutch accent. “Yeah, how do you know?” we ask; “The way you sit” comes the answer, making us conscious.
Lesson learnt dear INSEAD readers: you ARE INSEAD, its present and future – you can’t hide from your peers and even the way you sit can betray you.
An INSEAD story
The good thing about this family is the instant connection it creates. Even though we didn’t know Mathijs and Lev Kundin (co-founder and CTO), 5 minutes in we were immediately transported to a “P2 end-of-the-day, @Freddy’s Bar” kind of moment, chatting like old mates.
Their story seems like an INSEAD fairy tale: Summer 2014 in London, 2 Singy starters with entrepreneurial ambitions start working on business opportunities around e-commerce. They lack technical skills until one of them, Olivier Stapylton-Smith (co-founder) says “I know this guy – he’s Russian, he’s very smart and he’s a techie, let’s fly him in!”. That was Lev. After overcoming the usual apprehension of working with a guy who chose to live in a forest full of boars and black magic witches, the team had a first lunch in London. They then met in Paris for a 3 days ‘workathon’ that was key to evaluate if and how they could work together, to start a company. That’s a lesson we have heard several times: you team is SO important that you want to see, try, and taste how it feels like to work together before thinking about splitting equity of a company worth about 0.00 €£$.
Listen to Lev speaking about it.
Summer ends and they’re back in INSEAD to really got started. The manage to build an ISP (Independent student project) around their project, doing whiteboard sessions after class, leading a coding team in Russia AND still going to class to get necessary credits. By mid-December they had an MVP running, astonishing their professor, graduation time came and thanks to all the hard work they were able to launch Moteefe just 1 month after the MBA program ended!
The sponsorship curse
Before going to INSEAD everybody’s looking for a way to be sponsored and when your company announces that you’ve been selected to do an MBA financed by the firm, it feels like you hit the jackpot. Sometimes however, if you develop entrepreneurial ambitions during the program, what was a blessing can turn into a sort of curse, as it represents another obstacle preventing you to get on the route to entrepreneurship. Olivier and Mathijs had to face this issue and think seriously about it. They drank a few beers and made a decision. Listen to Mathijs speak about it.
First steps and pivot
When they started their business, Moteefe founders were hungry for revenue. They needed to prove their concept was right, get some traction and…eat. They were pitching Moteefe as “Everybody can design t-shirts and if they sell it, Moteefe will produce it”. That was a very functional approach: we give you a website, a payment tool and production, you just need to sell. They looked for their customers and they thought exactly how you or I would do. They went after the usual suspects: bands, charity, sports team and…INSEAD clubs. They still remember their first campaign for a charity event when they worked non-stop a whole weekend from design to shipping for not-so-much business, listen to this story here.
It quickly appeared non-scalable and as INSEAD MBA students they looked for a better USP. They soon started to target marketeer-entrepreneurs seeking to create business for themselves, without the hassle of back-office work. They pivoted from selling to end-customers to acquiring users – people who know a group of customers, who know what product will sell, what people will like and buy.
Listen to Mathijs explaining the Moteefe business model after the pivot.
Encouraging traction obtained by sweat and tears in the first months allowed them to close a seed round by end-2015. Next year results explode! In 2016 Moteefe was dealing with millions in revenue thanks an aggressive approach of the market and Lev’s team implementing new functionalities requested by users in 1 or 2 days. Those users are still there now, and that’s another lesson of this story: take very good care of your users and they will remain loyal to you.
Their team grew up to 10-12 people and that fantastic first year enabled them to raise a second seed+ round (comparable to Series A) last March.
The bottom line is that Moteefe is growing fast, in revenue and headcount. Let us share with you the funny answer we had when asking how many employees were working for Moteefe:
“We now have…hmm I’m always scared not knowing…over 20 now ?”
“Hmm I don’t know”
“Just full time?”
“… I don’t know, I’m not sure”
We hope that all future entrepreneurs among our readers have this “problem” one day, of forgetting how many people work for their company. A true sign that you’re growing fast!
Thanks to Lev, Mathijs and the entire Moteefe team for their warm welcome. We wish them all the success they deserve!
Additional gift from Moteefe: Their advice to future entrepreneurs
- Choose to work with people you can trust in good a bad times as this life is like a roller coaster
- Find a tech co-founder if you want to build a tech company. That will give you the necessary flexibility to adapt your product/service constantly
- Start early to create relationships with VC/Business Angel because it takes forever !
- Same for recruiting people for your team, it takes forever
- Value your time – you can’t do everything and nobody will do what you haven’t done