Ever founded a company or worked for a start-up? Then you probably know the feeling: You develop the idea and business model. Then you validate your concept and start building your prototypes. Eventually, you’re finally ready to hit the market.
After you’ve made all those plans and put in the hard work, you now get a reality check. That’s when you realize: starting a company, even more so when you start a fast-track tech company, is a roller coaster in the best sense of the word.
I myself, Nina, joined Frontastic quite recently, actually just a couple of weeks ago. I had been in touch with Thomas Gottheil loosely for a while before talking about coming on board at Frontastic. I still remember the grin on his face when at the Internet World 2017 in Munich his answer to my question on how he was, was a simple: “I’m working on something cool but I can’t tell you, yet, what it is!” Give him that: he triggered my curiosity. I then spent the last 2 years working for another cool eCommerce software company, observing the story of Frontastic and its founders unfold. However, I never imagined I would join the roller coaster ride one day. Yet, here we are.
So, with a still fresh look on this crazy founders-bunch of eCommerce tech geniuses, let me give you the unspoiled, yet-to-become-insider’s look behind the curtains of Frontastic’s first year in business and the hell of a ride they reportedly have been on.
Also, it’s my privilege to lift the tip of the veil a little and give you a sneak peek into what’s on the agenda for Frontastic in 2019.
Some of you might know that Frontastic has been operating in bootstrapping mode for the bigger part of the year. Start-Uppers will know this: in bootstrapping mode, time, people, and money are always scarce.
Yet, despite the limited resources, the team succeeded in realizing a solid 6-figure turnover in its first full year of business, advancing product development towards a state-of-the-art Composable Frontend Platform, winning their first pilot customer, and getting a pre-seed investor with a 6-figure stake on board. At the same time, they built the partner network, filled the sales pipeline, and started to prepare to scale up the business in 2019. Pretty impressive, right?
I could blow Frontastic’s trumpet about how successful a year 2018 was, and it would all be entirely true. Yet, I’d be telling only half the story if I hadn’t also quizzed the founders on the challenges and learnings of their first year in business.
A lesson most start-ups, including Frontastic, have to learn is this one: Good things take time.
And this is true for customer conversion just as much as for product development, community building, or the search for a suitable investor.
With an innovative idea, a great product at hand, and a well-known, well-connected team of founders, I could witness from the outside since my first conversation with Thomas, that it was easy for Frontastic to create a fanbase.
However, when it came to convincing customers to go out on a limb and become Frontastic’s first pilot customers, the team found realizing actual conversion to be a whole different story. Not only did they have to prove that their Composable Frontend Platform was offering monetizable benefits to the business of their customers, but they also had to prove market-readiness of the software as well as their trustworthiness as a small team. What’s more, Frontastic offers a site builder for enterprises, however, if you talk to customers who don’t entirely understand the benefits and challenges the upcoming API economy will bring to their business, there’s a whole new world that you have to explain, too. For sure not the easiest task.
In the end, by creating high visibility for Frontastic and its founders in the eCommerce industry, demonstrating their unbeatable competencies, fully committing themselves to customer success and industry education, and also being a tiny bit lucky, Frontastic won their 1st pilot customer who was far-sighted, innovative, and open-minded enough to agree to realize their eCommerce re-platforming with Frontastic.
As often, you’ve got to get the ball rolling. And mostly, that takes longer than expected. But: Winning the first pilot customer added further credibility to Frontastic’s proposition. That in turn enabled the start-up to further build a promising sales pipeline for 2019 and lay the foundations for scaling up on all fronts this year.
As a result, realistically, (and here I am proud to switch to “we”) we now expect to triple turnover in 2019.
Largely the same learning as for business development is also true for finding the funding you need to grow a start-up on the massive scale you envision.
For Frontastic in 2018, it proved hard to find investors willing to bet their money on a young tech start-up (even though the founders themselves aren’t as young anymore?), as long as Frontastic was still in the process of converting their first customer. Most investors prefer to come on board at a stage where a start-up has already won a considerable number of customers who also preferably are already live with their platforms.
However, converting customers and realizing projects takes resources: time, people, money, all of which depend largely on the funding of the company. See the difficulty?
Winning pre-seed investor Aschendorff NEXT in August 2018, believing in Frontastic so much that they put in an early-stage 6-figure investment, triggered the interest of more Series-A investors. Obviously, I can’t reveal too much at this point, but Frontastic is happy to say that the next round of quite promising conversations with a number of potential investors is taking place, and the next round of funding is on track to be concluded in H1 2019.
With 2018 over and done with, lots of successes and learnings under their belt, 2019 looks to become yet another breathtaking journey: With investor conversations moving towards the closing stage and Frontastic well on their way to 300% turnover growth in 2019, we’ll now start to scale up on all levels.
There’s a lot of work to be done in 2019: We want to accelerate our product development, building more standard integrations, and extending our ecosystem. We want to win and service more customers in 2019 to realize our growth ambitions. We want to help businesses understand how they benefit from re-thinking their eCommerce infrastructure with an API first approach. We want to become universally known as the standard in creating groundbreaking digital customer experiences. Not to mention that we need to further solidify our operations so we can support our growing customer and partner base.
The plan is clear, now we just need to further strengthen the Product Development, DevOps, and Support Teams as well as reinforcing the troops by further expanding Professional Services, Sales, and Marketing and Operations. Easy, right?
Luckily, the fact that we’re set up as a remote native company has proven to be an ace up our sleeve when it comes to hiring new colleagues. Want to know more about that? A little patience, then. Next week, same time, same place, I promise, our blogpost will give you a little more insight into why operating as a location-independent business is a major advantage and crucial success factor for our company.
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