In our series on startups from Cologne, DueDash is interviewing Evolute Founder Anselm Zebner. His product enables craftsmen to provide feedback to the producers directly to ensure that they can improve their products according to what users actually need. Anselm tells us how he met his co-founder, how his former sales experience helps him with B2B clients, and more. Learn all about it in this interview.
Hello, my name is Aseln Zebner and I’m from the Duesseldorf Cologne region, and I’m the founder of Evolute. We are building a B2B customer experience management system for manufacturing and construction companies. Our special angle to that industry is that we bring the audience with us so the industry and corporates who use our software as a service will have instant benefits from it
How did you validate your business idea?
We validated our idea through several steps, and for that, we also went through an accelerator, which helped a lot. In the beginning, we did a survey about the problem online as a quantitative survey, by telephone and also by visiting people, meaning qualitative interviews and the next steps.
We had a presentation and we were invited to corporates and customers, which showed us a good interest in our idea. As a next step, we had an MVP developed and we have seen how people liked and used the MVP, even if it was not the full-blown product yes. And in the end, we bootstrapped the company. We knew we were imperfect, but still, people used our product. And this was a strong signal that this product and this solution is needed in the market.
How did you finance your business?
So we are currently bootstrapped and this is what I did before working full time as well. So validating the idea and doing the first work can be done besides a normal day job, which also helps a lot, but also sometimes brings challenges. This is our current state, but later on, we will surely also look for angels or investors because I don’t believe in bootstrapping as a culture.
It just helps you at the beginning. And even if you show traction, it’s easier to have funding than to come at a very early beginning to investors. You have to do so much presentation work and if you have traction, it’s easier and you do less presentation, you just show your traction.
How did you find your co-founder?
The question of a co-founder is a typical question, and I myself, studied so little on the technical side, but then worked and knew I needed a technical co-founder. Still, I knew from my job I did before how to work with technical people. So it was just a very widespread approach to talk to a lot of people to put our job advertisement in front of a lot of people because you need to build a funnel for everything. So you need about a thousand or ten thousand people to see your job advertisement.
Then you need one hundred people to think about it, to ask a question. Then you need ten people. You meet, ask questions, exchange material, and at the end, you find the co-founder of your heart because you really need the right person that likes you and that you like both in character and skills, but also in the right state of mind, mindset and willingness to go through the funding process of a startup.
In which way did participating in a structured accelerator helped you as a founder?
So I participated in an early-stage accelerator program: Founder Institute. They call themselves an Idea Stage Accelerator, and it’s a very good program that leads you to a process with helping materials, having the right question, having a schedule, giving you tasks to do, and having a peer group who goes through the same process. That helped me a lot to put things forward because often founders struggle with having so much to do. And if you have a program that leads you to that, it just helps a lot.
How did you get clients as a B2B startup?
Luckily, I as a founder worked ten years before as an enterprise account manager and enterprise sales manager in B2B companies. So I’m used to the B2B sales process and for me say it is a mix of skills and a mix of mindset. But you never want to underestimate doing it because it’s very much important for us as a startup and we develop a platform and we try to bring value first.
But in the end, it’s a cold calling, cold emailing. It’s doing follow-ups. You need to follow a process. But if you are having a product that people need, you will succeed at one stage. One of the most important pieces of advice, at least for me, was talking to users, customers, and the people that actually should use the product should have the problem you are solving.
If you have contact with your customers and with the users, you would solve the problem in any kind of way. It’s not about the features. It’s not about the solution. It’s always about having contact with the customers. And at the end as well, finding the superfans.
And this is the most important advice. Even if you’re working full time within hours, if you’re working eight hours a day, or if you’re working part-time on it four hours, two hours or just one hour a day, talk to customers, talk to your clients. This is the most important advice.