Growth & Financing: The Immediate Effects of Investments on One's Own Business

December 21, 2022

How does a well-running startup differ from a scale-up? By definition, the latter is a very successful startup that is growing extremely quickly and may still have further growth potential. Swiss entrepreneurs are annually scrutinized for their "Next Unicorn" potential, assessed, and placed on ranking lists – such as the TOP 100 Swiss Startups list. Making it onto this list means having done quite a few things right in one's entrepreneurial journey so far. According to a study by Goethe University Frankfurt, only 4 percent of companies founded make the leap into being a scale-up.

The right mix of risk, diligence, and financing

This year, four companies in Switzerland are being traded as the next possible unicorns (with a future valuation of 1 billion US dollars), including the SaaS company Beekeeper from Zurich. What began as a dating app for students, after three pivots and some time later, became a leading software company in the field of digital internal employee communication, operating in around 30 countries internationally. But how was this achieved? Passion, know-how, and a very healthy "risk appetite," as Beekeeper co-founder Flavio Pfaffhauser describes, could not alone lead to such a steep growth curve in the business. It was primarily the investments from outside. With the new capital, revenue alone increased by about 90 percent between 2014 and 2017. After each round of financing, the number of employees doubled, and customer inquiries increased. And with that, the enormous demands on the founding team grew simultaneously. Keyword: People Management – with what felt like "overnight" 200 employees.

"Our first seed invest of 1.6 million CHF was a true game-changer moment," recalls Flavio. Suddenly, a completely different focused work became possible. With the smart money from investors, significant progress in product development and market penetration could be achieved in the shortest possible time. This, in turn, convinced more venture capitalists of the business model, and the seed rounds increased from time to time. In 2019, Beekeeper received 45 million dollars – a considerable sum that could further boost the company's growth in Europe and the USA.

Since the founding of Beekeeper, a total of around 90 million dollars has flowed into the company. It is mainly American investors on board. Even though there has been some movement in the Swiss companies in terms of sponsorship in recent years and the startup scene here is gaining importance, it was predominantly international VCs that invested first in the early days of Beekeeper.

With business growth, one's personality must also grow

And what is the next milestone? By 2024, the break-even point is targeted, and with the same headcount, even more customers are to be addressed, and internal processes optimized. Personally, Flavio also hopes to be able to handle stress and growth phases better in the future and to deepen the so important look for innovations.

He approaches his targeted "personal growth" together with like-minded executives: He is a member of the Entrepreneurs' Organization, a peer-to-peer network without equal. Yet, business topics are secondary or even tertiary. It is more fundamentally about a personal exchange of experience from which each member can benefit. And Flavio especially appreciates the trustful connection to the others in his group, who are also focused on their own development and continuous learning. About concrete business numbers and SaaS systems, he can also talk very well with his Beekeeper team and investors. At EO, on the other hand, personal challenges and the next steps in life are in focus. And what Flavio puts into the regular meetings in terms of input, he gets back from the members in insights and impulses many times over – a thoroughly rewarding, invaluable investment.

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