$4M Raised $4M ARR in 6 Years - Thomas De Clerck - UserActive

$4M Raised $4M ARR in 6 Years – Thomas De Clerck

In this interview, we discuss Thomas’ journey with Cumul.io, how he pivoted to serving SaaS companies, why he raised a round of $3.5M, and how he opened a US office that generates a third of cumul.io’s revenue. Cumul.io has 2 other co-founders and they’ve raised $4M and are at $4M ARR in 6 years with a growing team of 45.

Transcription

[00:00:02] – Peter

Okay, so I’m here for another SaaS Founder interview, live with Thomas from Cumul.io. Hi Thomas, thanks for joining us. Can you give us a bit of an intro about yourself and tell us what you do?

[00:00:12] – Thomas

Sure. Hey, Peter. Good morning. Sure, yeah, my name is Thomas, one of the co-founders and heading sales here at Cumul.Io. We’re actually a SaaS company ourselves and focus focusing on SaaS companies by offering a building block for, we call it embedded analytics right into their own application to offer their end customers a seamless customer analytics experience. So really alleviating developers of developing dashboards by offering a building block like Stripe is doing for payments or Intercom is doing for a chat.

[00:00:45] – Peter

Fantastic. So SaaS companies use your analytics tools and dashboards in their product for their end users. How did you get to build this platform, this product? What was the need or the use case?

[00:01:02] – Thomas

That’s a great question because we actually started in a slightly different way. So we started about six years ago with my two co-founders, Kyle and Nahun, who are the technical founders who actually had the initial ID to set up a business user-friendly alternative for the techy players out there like Tableau, et cetera, for internal reporting. So really an application that nontechnical people can start dragging and dropping insights on the tools they use like CRMs, accounting platforms, et cetera.

And eventually, we were into selling to SMBs just to eventually go upmarket, but then after a year or two, we saw the SaaS market taking up and from the start already had an API-first approach, cloud-first approach. There’s a huge and also actually SaaS companies coming to us where we had a connector for internal reporting, hey, could we have this in our product? And we started thinking maybe there’s a better market and a better focus there for us to eventually turn that around, pivot that around and started looking towards SaaS companies to work directly with.

[00:02:07] – Peter

Great, well, excellent Pivot and I think that Use case seems to be working really well. We were just talking about how the wave of SaaS has been growing recently. So you’re able to pivot and ride that wave and grow in SaaS. Now you haven’t had a great deal of funding. Can you tell us a bit about your funding journey and how you built the business?

[00:02:26] – Thomas

Yes, for sure. We’ve always had a pretty pragmatic approach towards funding might be more the European mindset, not sure. So we took off, let’s say mid 2016 and then had two funding rounds so far, a very small one or limited one back in 2017 of half a million and another three and a half million three years later, end of 2020 kind of mitkovitz, which was an interesting one in those days. And we always had the mindset of hey, let’s raise money if we really know what to do it and invest in channels that we believe in.

That’s something we’re still doing nowadays. So we’re still like using the proceeds of that second round. And just to give you a perspective, in terms of ARR, we’re pretty much on par with the funding we raised. So in that perspective, it’s not something that we really, truly believe in, that raises what you really need and how you see the team grow. While we could potentially have raised way more, but the growth has been there with what we’ve done so far. So very happy with that.

[00:03:31] – Peter

So you raised about 4 million today. Your ARR is at about 4 million. You have a team of around 45 people now, right? What did you use that funding for when you raised the 3.5 million? Do you consider that a seed round?

[00:03:48] – Thomas

Yeah, there’s always stuff, right? If the market develops like a preseason or something like that.

[00:03:57] – Peter

What was your reason for raising that round and how have you been using that cash?

[00:04:04] – Thomas

Yeah, sure, for a couple of reasons. First of all, we saw pretty nice traction here in the European markets. We had, back in the day’s, first traction in the US. So we really want to kind of push the pedal there. We already had first two, three colleagues by then on the US ground, so that’s expanding. Also our footprint in the US and by now kind of one third of what we have in terms of revenues or ARR, is coming from there.

And then secondly, it’s also towards the product rights. We have a pretty tough roadmap, which is actually publicly available to mobile roadmap, where you can interact with it, and where we focused on a number of features, focused also on increasing performance, et cetera, towards gearing up towards the US as a second big geography and then spending there. This also means, like, certification programmes, like sock two type two compliance. Those are things we also already wrapped up by now.

[00:05:02] – Peter

Yeah, brilliant. Okay, so you opened an office in Brooklyn and you have about ten people there now. Ten people. Can you talk to us about the challenges and the process of setting up from a European base over in the States?

[00:05:18] – Thomas

Yeah, sure. So, very early on, we saw the potential within SaaS companies and obviously also happening in the US. So we started flying in regularly with the founders and the expanded team and then back, I guess it was in 2019, said, okay, let’s have somebody full-time on the ground. And there we use one of the local programmes, like funded programmes, to have an enthusiastic, ambitious Belgian professional with a couple of years under the belt tone to be our first full-timer on the ground, where we help them by flying in and being together.

There obviously was COVID, so a lot of times on the calls and he was able to expand our initial footprints with some nice new customers. Then our marketing manager also joins. Eventually, we start also hiring local native US people, first in the US office. And now we also have four people remote. It’s not all in Brooklyn, but also more and more remote also in Texas to cover some time coverage as well.

[00:06:22] – Peter

Okay. You mentioned there was a funded programme. Can you explain what is that and how that works?

[00:06:29] – Thomas

Sure. It’s actually a local programme that’s called the Prince Albert Fund, which is linked to our former King Albert in the days he was a prince, obviously. And it’s a fundamental government programme, I believe, in a way that, of course, we need to contribute as a company, but they select on a yearly basis 25 ambitious and skilled young professionals that are willing to help Belgium companies set first steps, eventually expand the footprint abroad. Typically, it’s a business development mission and one of those 25 back in 2019 was Stone. And after that year, we eventually decided together to proceed to welcome him in the team, which is not always the case, so we’re very happy with that possibility and with us, I guess, many other Deck and Belgian companies.

[00:07:19] – Peter

Hey, that’s a great initiative and helps get some of the talented Belgian businesses out and around the world. So you sent this member of your team over to begin operations.

[00:07:34] – Thomas

We had first operations already by flying there, having a robot, but he was a full first full-timer, let’s say, on the ground there, and he expanded that and eventually also start new initiatives that are still running right now. That’s great.

[00:07:48] – Peter

So it’s the best practice for this, taking members of your existing team, say, from Belgium, where you’re based, over to the States, getting the things up and running there and then building around with hiring some local people to build out that team.

[00:08:03] – Thomas

Yeah, that’s how we did it. And eventually, we’re happy with the approach, of course, before going in that route or in that direction. Talked with a lot of other founders and SaaS companies, and you have obviously different approaches. You can also potentially get more funding, and higher full-blown teen and Ryan build experience. I wouldn’t go that way, potentially not a second time. I would still take it more from a pragmatic note and see if you can go yourself or eventually with somebody who has been here for a while and then moves over. I think that’s for us, still the recommended way.

[00:08:39] – Peter

Yeah, because I’ve seen some SaaS companies, I’ve heard stories of companies that have tried to go from Europe to the States, open an office, and then eventually it hasn’t worked out and they’ve closed the office down and come back to Europe and decided to refocus on Europe. So how do you ensure that you get the best chance to succeed? Because it’s quite a big move and the time zone difference, the market difference, you’ve got some challenges.

[00:09:07] – Thomas

Yeah, that’s true. And eventually, we had to move over end of 2019 with only three months before really COVID hit. That was a surprise for, I guess, a lot of us. So that was also for us raising a lot of question marks. Okay, will this work out? And eventually, it’s showing that in the early days we’ve been also meeting customers or prospects face to face. But eventually, it turned out that we kept on bringing in new prospects which were eventually able to close over video call, which was rather strong signal that this is actually working in COVID and should also work when COVID starts fading away.

[00:09:42] – Peter

Cool, okay, great to hear about that process. Now, I know your chief sales officer right at Kim Elijah, so I’m really interested in how you’ve developed your sales playbook, your process and how you acquire your customers now.

[00:09:58] – Thomas

Sure, I can tell a bit more to that. So very early on, one of our first team members was actually a marketeer, an online marketeer who’s still with us, still doing a great job. Eventually, that’s the person who moved to the member who moved to the US. She’s really been driving also content generation, eventually some paid channels. So a lot of the leads that we’ve been driving over the years has been coming from Marketplaces, has been coming from Inbounds. So that’s still like a very strong source to us.

In parallel, I’d say that also after the second round, we’ve been focusing on bringing outbounds to the next level. We had some initial initiatives, initial successes, but never really in a scalable way there. We had some new team members joining who had some expertise setting up a new process, especially also in the US and ours in Europe where we see a very complementary channel. So we keep those to us as being our two most important ones. And then lastly, I’ve been experimenting last year with partnerships on the products and on the services side that’s still running, but it takes time. I’ll be very open about that.

[00:11:09] – Thomas

We have first partnerships, I’d say in the proof of concept stage, but it takes time. So it’s something you should again approach from a Pragmatic approach, instead of really going full blowing, I would say, but mainly in bank and outbound. Also think about Community now with our new VP of Marketing. And then partnership is something that we’re step by step growing into building.

[00:11:33] – Peter

So you started would you say your first acquisition channel was really inbound through Marketplaces essential? So how does that work? You’re listing cumul.Io on Marketplaces of other tech companies or other large products.

[00:11:53] – Thomas

Yeah, I’m referring also to the days where we were building our own connectors and we had internal reporting capabilities. So we’re focusing on that. That was logical to be on HubSpot and the other CRM players out there. Eventually, we stepped down there but kept on being available on the Capterra, the G2, et cetera. So really making sure people could find us there. We have also been trialling with some G2 sponsored programmes in the days, but right now that’s still something we’re doing, but also mainly focused on generating content and using that content to reach out and bring the message out towards potentially interested parties.

[00:12:33] – Peter

Yeah, fantastic. Okay, well, I know our audience mostly. The SaaS founders, Facebook group, and the channels that we usually share our interviews on are mostly, like I say, SaaS founders or people working in the industry. How would you recommend if they’re interested in cumul.io, how would you recommend they cheque out the product or get to know a little more about how they could make the best of it?

[00:12:58] – Thomas

Sure, yeah. There’s a lot of material available on just a landing page or website. We do have a free trial programme with all features enabled if you want to sniffle around and then feel free to engage on the chat or reach out to myself, thomas@cumul.io or hello@cumul.io, if you like to have a human interaction, so to say. But trial is something that we would highly recommend if you’re interested.

[00:13:25] – Peter

And what’s a great example of a use case for a SaaS company.

[00:13:31] – Thomas

Sure, yeah. We have a couple of verticals where we see a lot of traction. It could be in the HR space, in the marketing space, but also in the CRM space. One of the players there that I’m thinking out loud is a French player, Celsi. Some of you might know them. It’s a kind of Facebook salesforce platform, and they use us for a number of use cases. Is it on deals on invoices and time tracking and also, for example, also facilitates the possibility for their users not only to look at the dashboards in the platform embedded but potentially adapt them to their liking inside their product.

[00:14:06] – Peter

Super. Okay. So they get some really good data visualisation representation on that. Awesome. Hey, Thomas, thank you so much for joining me. Really enjoyed our chat and keep in touch. We’ll see you at the next SaaS conference, I’m sure.

[00:14:21] – Thomas

Good pleasure. Thanks for having me, Peter.

[00:14:23] – Peter

Thank you. Take care. Bye.

Final Words on $4M Raised $4M ARR in 6 Years

Check back here regularly to find more interviews like “$4M Raised $4M ARR in 6 Years”. If you want to upgrade your UI/UX, book a call to get free advice from a product design specialist.

Sarah Stratton

Sarah manages the social media at UserActive as well as other marketing activities. She also writes blog content for UserActive.

If you’re struggling to deliver a great product experience, book a 15 min Strategy Call with a SaaS expert. We’ll share free advice, give you a steer on your project and see if we’re a good fit to help.

Book a Call