HelloMasters Podcast Episode 009: Sander Nagtegaal – CEO of Unless.com

Episode 09 - Sander Nagtegaal

Sander Nagtegaal About CTO Vs. CEO, The Difficulty Of Building A Good Team & The Hardship Of Fundraising

“The hardest thing about raising money is constant disappointment.” – Sander Nagtegaal

HelloMasters

Together with co-host Willemijn Schneyder, Founder & CEO of SwipeGuide, we speak to Sander Nagtegaal, CEO of Unless.com, about his experience as both CTO & CEO, the difficulty of building a good team and the hardships of funding in this new episode of the HelloMasters podcast.

The Importance Of Teams

We discuss the importance of teams with Sander; something that seems inseparably linked to startups. Sander explains that his first reason for a hire would be a missing skill within the company, but that the personality of someone should definitely be considered: If you have three really timid people, you need to have an anarchist to compensate for it.”

From experience, he states that finding the right hires is essential for a startup: “Hiring, especially in the early stages, is the most important thing that you can do wrong.” He elaborates further: “If you dislike going to work because of the people, something is seriously wrong.”

Finding The Right Culture

The role of a stimulating work culture is essential in this: “I like rules, and therefore I like process. But at some point, when you work together nicely, process will leave the room.” Practically, Sander tries to encourage his employees to present their ideas. There are no boundaries in this: “We have regular meetings, every two to four weeks, called idea meetings. Anyone can present any idea that they have been thinking about. It doesn’t really matter what.”

Fundraising Challenges

When discussing fundraising, it becomes apparent that Sander took a somewhat unconventional fundraising route at his last company. “We basically made a giant list of 50 people who all had value to us […] And we basically called them.”  This worked exceptionally well: after only calling 30 people on their list they were able to close the round. But, Sander continues on a more serious note, finding the right investors can be an incredibly challenging endeavor. He learned how to deal with it over time: “The hardest thing about raising money is constant disappointment.”  Even doing a good job can mean that you receive thirty no’s and only one yes.

TOPICS

[00:00:00]    Intro

[00:00:28]    Introduction Louise & Sander Nagtegaal & Willemijn Schneyder

[00:01:12]    Sander answering: “Why do you do what you do?”

[00:01:50]    His early career & digital agencies

“I really like to build things that I can consider my baby for a while.” – Sander

[00:02:38]    From CTO to CEO

“Basically the title that was left was CEO.” – Sander

[00:04:05]    Sander about what he likes the least about being a CEO vs CTO

“I really don’t enjoy the administrative stuff, the numbers.” – Sander

[00:04:42]    Skill set for these roles

“The different part is that you get interviewed more often, go to presentations and go to events.” – Sander

[00:05:48]    What type of background do you need

“It’s about the mix of co-founders that makes it perfect or not.” – Sander

[00:06:25]    Sander about his startup Unless

“We make websites respond like humans would. We change websites depending on whomever is looking at it.” – Sander

“Because of my injury, I lost the ability to captivate people. So I really had to learn again how to make sure that people would actually listen to my story.” – Sander

“I just want people to communicate better.” – Sander

[00:10:00]    The importance of teams / how do you build them

“We basically looked at the things we did not have. And then we got them.” – Sander

“I like to look at a team like a menu. It has to be balanced. If you have three really timid people, you need to have an anarchist to compensate for it.” – Sander

“Every decision you make ever, will come at a cost.” – Sander

“Hiring, especially in the early stages, is the most important thing that you can do wrong.” – Sander

[00:12:40]    What area do you have the most mishires?

“That’s an easy answer. It’s sales. They are probably the furthest away from my personality type. Plus they’re trained into selling themselves, which makes it confusing.” – Sander

[00:13:44]    Hiring people that are similar to you/look like you

[00:16:35]    Building a culture: experimentation vs growth goals

“We have regular meetings, every two to four weeks, called idea meetings. Anyone can present any idea that they have been thinking about. It doesn’t really matter what.” – Sander

[00:18:55]    Importance of process

“I like rules, and therefore I like process. But at some point, when you work together nicely, process will leave the room.”  – Sander

[00:20:55]    Fundraising – Why crowdfunding?

“We basically made a giant list of 50 people who all had value to us […] And we basically called them.” – Sander

[00:23:23]    Pressure for growth compared to investors

“The investors so far just feel that the vibe is pretty much what they want it to be. So there are no real issues there.”  – Sander

[00:25:25]    How do you decide how much to raise & when to do it

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t be too late.” – Sander

“If I have 6-7 month runway left, I start raising. Just to be in the clear.” – Sander

“VC’s like stories even more than they like tangible businesses.” – Sander

The hardest thing about raising money is constant disappointment.” – Sander

[00:28:00]    What’s important to you in selecting VC’s.

“It’s mostly gut feeling, I have to like them. I like it when they’re smart in areas where I am not so smart.” – Sander

[00:29:35]    Start an advisory board

[00:31:00]    Hiring for marketing

[00:32:10]    Knowledge in the founding team

[00:34:00]    How to decide where to play and how to play

[00:37:30]    Personal PR

“It helps to align people vision wise. The more I talk about that, the more clear it is for our employees and stakeholders.” – Sander

[00:41:30]    One thing that Sander would change about marketing

“I would probably like to have a proven marketing strategy for basically the channels. Because we have two channels for sales (sales & marketing).” – Sander

[00:42:50]    Prediction for the year

[00:44:00]    Outro

We understand that you sometimes need a burst of quick and specific marketing knowledge. We can help you with that! Go to www.hellomaas.com to learn more.

View All Podcasts