Takeoff Partners’ portfolio company CollectiveCrunch has jumped on an impressive growth trajectory in the recent years, profiling itself as the AI leader of the forestry industry. While this success amounts to many factors, above all a stellar team and product, Co-CEO Rolf Schmitz believes part of the success lies in the founding team’s willingness to seek external advice when needed.
When talking about the dangers of lack of diversity when it comes to insight,
CollectiveCrunch Co-CEO Rolf Schmitz has a story:
“I once spoke to a founder
whose startup was in a zombie stage and in deep financial difficulties. His
description of the situation was rather depressing. At some stage, I asked
‘what happened?’ He thought deeply and after a long pause he said: ‘Well, we’re
all engineers. We think alike.’ Of course it’s an extreme case, but this
conversation has stayed with me as a scenario to keep in mind as a warning. Building
a product takes effort, but generally start-ups don’t fail because of technical
abilities. They tend to fail because they miss something important, usually
along with other similar ones, has made Rolf pay much mind to ensuring
diversity when it comes to their own business, starting from the co-founders.
Himself, Jaakko Lipponen and Christof Danzl who founded CollectiveCrunch all
come from different backgrounds.
it’s very important to have more than just one founder. There’s so much
complexity involved in founding a startup, so it’s very easy to get blindsided
by something. It’s important to build a skill-set that goes beyond one person.”
startups, in their early years, go through iterative phases, and inflexible
thinking is not a recipe for success in that environment.
comes down to humility and being honest. If you’re too stubborn about your
vision and stick to it no matter what, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
of thinking seems to have paid off. CollectiveCrunch found its product-market-fit
within the forestry industry where AI-powered data can immediately not just
save time and money but improve practices and enhance operations, and this is
even without mentioning the carbon capture market which is only just becoming
aware of the opportunities presented by CollectiveCrunch’s AI. The startup—or
scaleup, now, rather—has established a solid foothold in the Nordics and making
headway in other markets including Southern Europe, South America, the USA and
External advisors can bring in important insights
internal team, finding the right advisors matters as well. Here at Takeoff
Partners, we have seen CollectiveCrunch handling this aspect of growth particularly
well, so we asked Rolf’s insight on how he and his team have approached the
highlights that it’s never realistic to presume you can find all the insight
you need in-house, no matter how strong a team you have assembled. That’s why you,
as a business leader, need to actively seek external insight. It can come from
investors, board members, external advisors or even in a more informal
capacity, through off-chance meetings and encounters.
that Takeoff Partner’s Markko Vaarnas contributed greatly to CollectiveCrunch’s
this company in a significant way. He helped us successfully through our first
funding round and even the next rounds were largely based on his network, the
people he introduced us to. I realize it’s a sensitive thing to do as a sponsor
because your own reputation is also on the line.”
network is Rolf’s answer to how one should go about looking for additional
insight. It requires proactivity and initiative—you need to really focus on finding
the right people.
same time, however, you need to be careful about solely relying on outside
vision. Sometimes young entrepreneurs come to us asking how we got where we
are, and I always tell them that you need to listen to advice but not take it
as face value,” he explains.
So it’s all
about striking a balance between retaining the vision and ownership of your
business but remaining open to advice and being ready to revisit your views
when deemed necessary.
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