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Bootstrapping to $200 Million: Jorn Lyseggen, CEO of Meltwater (Part 3)

Posted on Thursday, Aug 27th 2015

Sramana Mitra: What happens next? You’ve been running this public company?

Jorn Lyseggen: Yes. I was a public CEO and experienced all the exciting stuff that it entails. After a while, I got eager to start a new company. I ended up starting Meltwater, which is the company I run today.

Sramana Mitra: Meltwater was started in 2003?

Jorn Lyseggen: Meltwater was started in 2001.

Sramana Mitra: Tell me what was the premise of Meltwater when you started. What were you thinking?

Jorn Lyseggen: The idea that I was very intrigued by was that almost all of the information was published on the Internet. It was pretty clear to me that it was too difficult to manually track all that information that you’re interested in. Maybe, there are different websites you want to visit. It’s just too cumbersome to do that manually. What you need is a software that can do that automatically for you and find out if there is information that is relevant to you. The product vision is really that when executives come to work in the morning and have their normal cup of coffee, within seconds, they want an update on what has happened in the last 24 hours with respect to their brand, customers, and partners. That was the vision behind the company.

We were two guys by the coffee machine. We started very humbly. We built the company on $15,000. We bootstrapped it in the Norwegian market and also grew it on the Norwegian borders to where we are now 1,100 employees and 50 offices across the world. We are the global leader in our space. Since the original start in 2001, we expanded beyond news to also social media. What we offer to companies today is analytics on news and social media to help companies understand their brand, clients, competiton, and the overall industry.

Sramana Mitra: When you started the company, did you self-finance it or did you raise money off the ground?

Jorn Lyseggen: It was self-financed. The company has been built on $15,000.

Sramana Mitra: We’ll hear more of that story. Let me ask you one other question before we proceed. How did you validate the idea of Meltwater. You just explained what you were going to build. How did you validate with customers that this is worth building and that customers were going to pay for it if you built it?

Jorn Lyseggen: That’s an excellent question. The truth is we didn’t validate it. We poured our heart into building the technology platform that was required. One year later, we were ready to start selling. Initially, the vision of Meltwater was to create the smallest software company world. We just wanted to be four engineers and then sign up resellers. Then, just lean back and see how revenue was going. That was the initial plan. After pouring our hearts into this technology for a year, we signed up two very strong resellers in the Norwegian market. They went out to the market and presented it to 1,500 companies. The result was very discouraging. We got 1,499 no’s and one maybe.

With respect to your question on client validation, in many ways, we got the opposite. In fact, it felt like a kick in the teeth. We got nothing. We got no positive feedback from the market. I was starting to analyze the underlying data and trying to understand why companies won’t buy this service. We were able to find information that would be valuable to potential clients. We needed to point this out. It became clear to me that we approached this the wrong way. We focused too much on the technology. Clients don’t really care about technology. They focus more on their pain points.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Bootstrapping to $200 Million: Jorn Lyseggen, CEO of Meltwater
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