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21 April 2021
At the end of 2019, Russmedia Equity Partners (RMEP) acquired a majority stake from Jobiqo founder Klaus Furtmüller, who is still on board as minority shareholder and director. Martin Lenz, shareholder and CEO at Jobiqo also stayed to continue and support the growth of the company.
More than a year after joining the RMEP portfolio Martin is still convinced it was the right move to do and believes that this is a cooperation built to endure.
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When did you first meet the Russmedia Equity Partners team?
The first conversation started in late 2018, and it was because of a common partner of ours.
We were just recently signing a contract with one of the Russmedia Equity Partner’s portfolio companies, Der Brutkasten, for whom we agreed to build a job board. Probably this was one of the reasons why Russmedia Equity Partners (RMEP) became immediately interested, because Der Brutkasten was also looking at the Russmedia solution.
After we started working with Der Brutkasten we were introduced to Chris Wittlinger, one of the investment managers of RMEP and we started a very informal conversation: we shared our vision, we also shared our opinion about the market and who we think are the biggest players. And as far as I know, RMEP at that time was already looking for SaaS companies. And as we were already a global company and we had this growth perspective from the very beginning, was probably one of the reasons why it became interesting for RMEP.
Were you, at the time, looking for investments or external partners?
No we actually didn’t, but as we advanced, the conversation became quite interesting. And as we had some growth plans, we thought that a change in equity, combined with an investment could be a quite interesting way to have less risk-based growth for our company. We were growing profitably already and we were not a typical VC case, so it was basically kind of a sweet spot for RMEP.
We started the conversation in November 2018 and we signed the deal in October 2019, so it was a very low pressured and very intensive conversation month over month. As it became more interesting, we signed a letter of intent and then we started due diligence together. At a certain point it became more real, but in the beginning it was really just quite informal and just getting to know each other. It also helped that Jobiqo and Russmedia were both based in Vienna.
What would say was the winning argument?
There were various arguments that convinced us.
First of all, RMEP were immediately excited about our team and our product so that gave us the feeling they were convinced that what we have and our strategy is good. There were also very much listening to our needs. So I felt this is not just like: “OK, give me your numbers”, but they were listening to what we do and how we would do it. We talked about our future growth plans and they were interested to find if there was anything they could do to help us.
The second thing is that during the whole process, also when we started the due diligence and negotiation, we always felt like being treated like a partner. We never felt like there’s two opponents negotiating for something and someone is winning. From the very beginning, we had the feeling that if this becomes a cooperation, both parties will win. And this was important for us.
Another aspect was, that we knew, RMEP gives its portfolio companies the freedom to continue the management as it is, to build on that strategy, but that will be executed by the people in place.
The third part was really that we were able to talk to other RMEP portfolio companies, and basically everyone really agreed that they feel very comfortable in the portfolio. This was maybe the most important feedback we got, because on paper, you can draw anything and you can discuss ideas and what is happening in the future, but really, this experience from our portfolio companies, how it really feels to be part of the portfolio, really triggered that. We said, OK, this is the right thing to do.
How would you describe the onboarding process?
The process was handled in a very structured way. We communicated the change within our teams, to address any concerns or questions, but the fact that the leadership team and the structure itself didn’t change, made things much easier to understand.
We communicated internally but also to our customers that we will continue our mission and the growth that we planned for, just that now we are stronger than before because we have the backing of a private equity firm. Our customers also understood that they will also benefit from these investments, especially when it came to product management and customer success management.
RMEP also introduced a 100 day plan, and there were things that came across since due diligence: processes that we could improve, some technical things that needed to be fixed, some organizational topics…It was not a big list, but there was a list of items that we created together and than Chris, our investment manager, asked us to implement it. This was part of the onboarding process after the contract was signed and we were regularly meeting with our Russmedia investment managers to implement this checklist.
One of the items on the checklist was to introduce new reporting and this is also one of the big benefits that we saw. It just made things more structured in our organization. In the day-to-day operations there were no changes.
I would say the reporting was the biggest change and that changed in a quite positive way. Just to give you an example, we got down from two months, until we had the full cost and income transparency, down to two weeks after the month was closed. So this really made us more powerful and in control and it became especially useful when it came to the new Corona situation. I think being in the old situation would have been much riskier for us if we didn’t have this new reporting system.
We also introduced bi-weekly meetings with RMEP, and knowledge sharing gatherings. There are regular meetups, currently that are mostly virtual, but they used to be in quite nice cities like Barcelona or skiing trips. I hope that these physical meetings will come back. People in the team really appreciate these sharing sessions.
Besides the change in the majority stake, we also negotiated an investment. This made it possible for us to invest in some of our most important areas where we wanted to grow: product management and sales.
We were able to introduce a much more powerful and structured product management team to boost the product innovation and also to become even more competitive in the market.
The second thing was we also invested into customer success management. And the third part of the investment was our sales growth. We introduced a sales team in the UK and also in Vienna. Before we had a very risk-averse sales approach, mainly handling inbound requests. We didn’t have an active sales department in place, but with the investments, we were now able to structure this and to introduce real salespeople into the process.
Having the financial backing out of this investment was just very relieving, because we know that we have the backing of a really large corporation. So this made it easier.
Whenever we make decisions on how to proceed we also discuss this with the RMEP team and this gives us the confidence that it’s the right way. So we were really lucky that we almost even matched our revenue goals, even despite Corona.
For our customers, it was quite relieving as well because they knew that we will not just disappear out of the market because some of our customers are having a hard time. We are building job boards and recruiting was very heavily affected at this time. So it was a quite good combination of giving confidence in the market and also being able to give every one of our customers and potential new customers a perspective.
What happened in the beginning of summer really showed us that together we can manage this crisis much, much better. I wouldn’t say our decision making process changed significantly. We have quarterly meetings and we have a more planned perspective on what we do: a one year plan and the four year plan, not just doing this from month to month. So it becomes much more structured and future driven. But I think the overall strategy didn’t change.
If you were to talk to a company, to a CEO that is actively looking for investors, what would be your advice to them?
First of all, I think it’s always good if you have a partner that can also bring in a network. We now already have three RMEP portfolio companies as a client. I think that made it a little bit easier for us to grow because we knew that whatever we do, we can also multiply our efforts within the network. So it’s a strategic investment.
I would recommend if you seek out investment, first of all, talk to other portfolio companies. I think this is really powerful to get an understanding how, especially, critical situations are handled. I mean, everybody can discuss how did your partner handle the current situation? Did they just force you to let everybody go? Or did they work together with you to continue the plans that you have in a rational matter and also to discuss the flexibility that you have?
I think when you do a plan, market situations and assumptions can change. So how flexible is your partner to also adapt to this change or will they adjust? Very straightforward push through.
I think it was a very good first year so far. We are very happy in the process, our companies, our team, our product development and also our customers so far very much benefited from this partnership. It was a good decision for us to join this family. But I think it was also a quite good decision for RMEP to approach us, because it’s a very interesting market that we are in.
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