How to Build Big Companies in Europe
From 2009 to 2014, Hardi Meybaum built GrabCAD into the world’s leading cloud-based collaboration platform for engineering teams to manage, share, and view CAD files. He sold GrabCAD to Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) in 2014, and continued to lead GrabCAD for the next year. With his team and community of 2.2 million engineers in good hands, he was ready to explore new things. These days Hardi is a General Partner at Matrix Partners. In his keynote at Latitude59 in 2016, he talked about his road to success and the lessons learned. This post will summarise the key points.
HAVE A CLEAR LINE OF SIGHT
According to Hardi, one of the most important things is having a clear vision about what kind of a company you want to build and what are your priorities. Based on that, it´s much easier to decide things like whether you should start your firm here in Europe or move to the States.
As an example, Hardi was also on his way to Silicon Valley to start his business, but made just a short stop in Boston. This short stop came out to be the best decision he could have made as he realised that for him and his business, Boston suits much better than the Valley.
The other thing that helped Hardi a lot was his passion to build a product, not a service providing company. From the beginning the priorities were set: first, the customer, then the team and investors. Focusing on the customer is largely what made GrabCAD successful.
LOVE YOUR CLIENT
As the customer was their first priority, Hardi made talking to the end user every engineer’s task. This made sure they were getting the feedback and developing a product that customers actually wanted. A great example is one user who had 76,000 conversations in GrabCAD with their team. “This is crazy, I talk more in GrabCad than in real life”, the user told them.
But talking to customers also led to new ideas – like Workbench, an environment for GrabCAD users for collaboration. One of Hardi´s favourite outcomes of that is a gourmet burger making machine that was manufactured thanks to the collaboration on the design done there.
CHOOSE RIGHT PEOPLE
The road to success is a hard one and if you´re a startup, its fighting for your life every day. This means you need to have people who you can trust, who inspire you and who can take it over if you need some time off. “Work with people you want to invite to your birthday party” is how Hardi puts it.This also goes for investors. To Hardi, choosing an investor who wants you to succeed was very important. It helps you a lot if your investor believes in you, not just wants to make money. “And go where the talent is - you need more experience when you reach certain scale” gives Hardi advice. Expanding to other countries is great for that.
TIPSAlthough those were the main three subjects Hardi talked about, there are some tips you can take with you:
You are in or out, there is no middle ground
You have to make up your mind whether you´re up to start a business or not. There are a lot of hard times to lie trough and this decision helps you to overcome everything.
Raise money when you can, not when you need
If you can, raise it. You will have a nice bank account and you don´t have to worry all the time. You can focus on the work.
Double-down on what´s working
Cut off the extras and focus on what is truly working. And make it better. This will make your business grow, not marketing.
- Celebrate victories
The first money Hardi made with GrabCAD was 25€. They spent 60$ on the celebration. But you have to do it, because it keeps your spirits up.
- Have a very, very understanding spouse
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