In this episode, Chris Hall – founder of Bynder – shares his expert view on what it takes to build a successful SaaS company. Chris explains why perfect product-market fit is not always a necessity for your product to take off and pinpoints the elements that determined Bynder’s long-term success on an international level. Read the highlights of our talk with Chris in this blog:

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What problem were you trying to solve with Bynder?


I like this question because this is the essence of any kind of business – ‘what’s the problem you’re trying to solve?’. With Bynder we were trying to solve the mess of dealing with ever-increasing file sizes and getting them to the right people, at the right time.

I always had a fanatical interest in SaaS as a business model, because the sky’s the limit, once you have that machine ticking.

Have you ever considered taking your product to a market that was more ready for you?


We already knew quite early, maybe with the first couple of customers even, that we should build our solutions in a multitude of languages, across various markets. We started with Dutch and English and then expanded to other languages like French and Spanish. I think that’s an advantage of starting a company in the Netherlands – you have to think global, because the Dutch market is not large enough to be able to create a big company.

Back when we were building Bynder, it was difficult to get into the US market, as the US was hesitant to buy software that was not US-made. I think Spotify was one the first breakthroughs from Europe that made it to the US. We had to get through that barrier as well, that’s why it was very valuable for us to have those big names in our portfolio.

One of our first US-based clients was Patagonia – a great, FMCG brand, essentially a pioneer in its industry. They understood that with SaaS, it doesn’t really matter where the company or the data is, you just need the best in class solution. We’ve been lucky with our US clients to be chosen based on our software solution and performance rather than our location. At the same time, it was much harder to sell into Germany and France.

While we are still on the internationalisation topic, was there a specific strategy that you adopted as to which country to have a physical presence in?


In 2014/2015 we opened an office in London, Barcelona, Boston, and Dubai the year after that. We knew it’s not that much work to set up a little hub office in a city, it’s pretty easy and fun. It creates that feeling of expansion. I’ve always been very ambitious with office space – it’s like growing plants. You put them in a big pot – they’ll grow big, you put them in a small pot, they’ll grow small. In a way, I’ve overinvested in office space, because when you see empty chairs around you, it incentivises you to grow your team even faster!

Since you were quite profitable from the early days, why did you decide to bring in an external, foreign investor?


There are a couple of reasons why you would need an investor. Number one is – if you can bring on money to grow faster that will create infinitely more value for the shareholders, if that’s what you are aiming for. You only want to bring in money if you know that you can grow even faster with that money, otherwise, what’s the point? Number two, additional capital allows you to be more competitive in the market. So if you don’t take that VC money, you’re missing out on an opportunity, because somebody else will do it.

We had big ambitions. For me it was never about getting rich, it was all about – where can we take this company? If you can’t invest in hiring more people, because you don’t have the cash flow, you’re just stopping your own growth. In SaaS, the faster you grow, the more money you are going to need, because of very high acquisition costs.

If you can show growth for every dollar we put in, there will be an infinite amount of money available.

Chris Hall, Founder of Bynder

How did you go about finding your investor?


I didn’t really know much about that whole investment scene, it was a black box. I didn’t even know what a VC was, so I had to look it up. And that was in 2009/2010 when we started getting some investor interest. I started reading more and more about VC funding and we got into more discussions with potential investors. I think it’s very important to have as many conversations as possible so that you can figure out what the exact needs of your company are when it comes to funding. It took a year or two to actually do a funding round, so it wasn’t a quick process, as we had to make sure we were ready to take that commitment. It is also very easy to underestimate the amount of cash you’d need. I remember I didn’t know what to do with $5m, and I’ve been told by investors that next year I’ll need much more than $5m. And that’s exactly what happened. So I’d say you can easily double or even triple the amount of money you think you’re going to need. This way you can get you through the first couple of years comfortably because you don’t want to go through that funding process over and over again. It slows down the business and is overall a very grueling process.

Were there one or two instrumental hires for Bynder?


I think it’s really important to understand that even the best hires of the time might not last more than a year or two. I made that mistake a couple of times. If people don’t grow with the company, then they should find something else for themselves (within or outside of the company). You might find the perfect CFO or CTO, but it becomes a completely different role as you scale. So it can happen that people that you hired a year or two ago will not be able to keep up with the changing role.

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