11 minutes | Oct 8, 2020

E122 – Trustpilot CEO Founder Peter Mühlmann – 3 of 3 – Market beats Team beats Product

Peter Mühlmann: It takes 10 years. it takes two years or three years usually just even to know if you’re right about it and if it actually works. Stephen Cummins:  Yeah. Peter Muhlmann: Like you’re not going to figure out if it worked or not in five or six months. If you think you do, then… then that’s usually not enough time. And then you’re just failing by default. And so, so you need to mentally prepare yourself for that. And then, I will say that… the market beats the team, beats the product. In the sense that picking the right market is often more important than anything else. But then getting the right team in place is… is more important than you having a good idea or not because it’s the initial idea you have is very long. Well, it’s going to evolve. It’s not like you’re sitting in the bathtub with the rubber duck and saying this is what the company is and what it’s going to do. It is rather the sum of a 1,000 ideas. And then 990 of them are not yours. Stephen Cummins: Welcome to 14 minutes of SaaS! The show where you can listen to the stories and opinions of founders of the world’s most remarkable SaaS scale-ups! This is episode 122 of 14 Minutes of SaaS, the last of 3 episodes where I chat with Peter Muhlmann, CEO & Founder of Trustpilot ======= Peter Muhlmann: But what we do see for software in general…. is that if they have thousands or tens of thousands of customers, Stephen Cummins: Yeah. Peter Muhlmann: We are generally a great tool for them to invite their customers to tell them what they think about us. Stephen Cummins: Okay? Peter Muhlmann: And… and we also see that it’s a growing market for us… because they have relied on case studies and they have relied on their own websites to sell their product. Stephen Cummins: Yeah. Peter Muhlmann: But I definitely think the evolution of this is going to be to rely on your customers to sell your product. Stephen Cummins:  Absolutely. That’s a big part of the buying decision. So, yeah, reviews. So how… tell us a little bit more about how Trustpilot makes money? Peter Muhlmann:  So we’re a freemium SaaS service. So, that means that for free, you can invite your customers to tell them what they think about you. Stephen Cummins:  Okay. Peter Muhlmann: You can respond to reviews. You can flag them to our team that will look at the reviews Stephen Cummins:  Yep. Peter Muhlmann: And add a little bit about your company. So is there anything I can just get started and use the platform? So then we have various pay services. Where you pay for example, for insights into your business. So we have some rather sophisticated… software that can actually read all the reviews. And what’s… what’s fantastic about that is that you find out what’s good and bad about your business in real time. Stephen Cummins: Okay, Peter Muhlmann: So for example, we’ve had some great examples where we were able to tell an online car rental company that you are now beginning to get bad reviews. It’s an Italy and it’s because when people return their cars, their staff is rude, Stephen Cummins: Okay. Peter Muhlmann: that goes directly to the CEO..and… and automatically. Stephen Cummins: Yes, Peter Muhlmann:  And two weeks later, we can now tell them; whatever you told them that worked. The staff is no longer rude. Stephen Cummins:  Okay. Peter Muhlmann: And… and being able to monitor that… And whereas people usually do that and surveys and so on. And it can be very reactive and slow. The other thing that we charge for is embedding the reviews into all your systems and onto your website so that potential customers can see them. So, for example, if somebody is monitoring how… customer service agents are performing …or what customers are calling you about… being able to connect that and knowing have they submitted a review or not is powerful? Stephen Cummins: And I guess they can decide to have that internally or externally if you… Peter Muhlmann: Yeah. So it’s like I’ll… I’ll give you an example. So, so, for example, we have postal companies where they say, we’d like to know how every mailman is performing and how every delivery center is performing. And we’d like to know that instantly being able to see that is powerful. Stephen Cummins: Absolutely. Peter Muhlmann:  And… and then there is the ability to showcase your reputation to visitors visiting the website and embedding that into… into your website and… and make it in a way that makes sense for that website Stephen Cummins:  Absolutely. So you’re very much a B to B to C in the majority. A case here that your business really is… is really there? And, you know, when did you really start to, I suppose, you know, you know, pick a brand new, when did you hit ten million A&R like how long… how long did that move up to nearly 100 million A&R really taken you? Peter Muhlmann:  God, I don’t even remember. I have to think about that. It definitely is the first couple of years we were really small and… and really slow and didn’t know how to just sell it. And then I think when we raised, we did a five…four or five million dollar round in 2011-2012… is when we started to… to get real traction. Stephen Cummins: Yep. Peter Muhlmann: And so it’s probably been between that and a couple of years into the future. Stephen Cummins: Okay. Very good… very good. So taking it back to your good self, Peter, do you find it difficult to keep a good…Maybe I should’ve asked somebody else to give it to… to balance your life in terms of physical and mental health when you’re you know, driving a rocketship like this. How do you do that Peter Muhlmann:  Yeah, that is the ultimate challenge I find is… is staying sane and healthy. Yeah, because the… the business will always be able to take more from you then you can give it. Stephen Cummins: Yeah. Peter Muhlmann:  There is never a time when you say I’m done.  There was never a time when you say, when you say like, is there really nothing you can do that it will improve something here or there? No, that list never runs out Stephen Cummins: Sure. Peter Muhlmann: And sometimes… even… there’s just not the question about what you could do… there’s also one you absolutely must do for the business to continue to exist. And… and I find that… that initially you don’t appreciate what a long run it is… that… that this is not a three or five year thing and it’s not even a ten year thing. This is a twenty year thing. And 20 years is a very… very long time. And… and so, so what I find is the trick is that I really need to focus on maintaining a good cadence. So well, I obsess over what I eat. When I eat. When I sleep. Stephen Cummins: Yeah. Peter Muhlmann: That I sleep well. Stephen Cummins: Yep. Peter Muhlmann: That I get exercise and… and that I stay balanced. And also because I find that as the company grows, it is better that I take fewer decisions but take those decisions well. Stephen Cummins:  Okay. Peter Muhlmann: And so, so, so I think we’re now at a stage where it’s slightly less about the hours I put in and slightly more about the quality of those hours. Although I will admit that when you are in the early stage, it is the grind. Stephen Cummins:  And there’s… there’s of course, a lot of extreme opinions either side of that, but extremely, you know, we’re growing up and we decide how long we’re going to do that, burn the midnight oil for them, and we decide how to… how to sort this out there. If there’s one personal quality that you have, Peter, that you feel has helped you succeed over time what would that be? Peter Muhlmann: I think I’ve been good at giving space to others and recognizing what they’re good at and then letting them run with their ideas and their professionalism. And so I was never afraid of hiring somebody who was better than me, or smarter than me, or more experienced than me. And so that means that I have brought some incredible people onto the business and that I think that’s also part of the reason why they love working for the company is because they feel trusted. Stephen Cummins: So you’re a pilot that’s invested trust into your passengers and as a result, they’ve become a lot more than passengers. Peter Muhlmann: Exactly…No, but I thought, I find I’ve… I’ve been very… very good at creating a place where people feel it’s also their company, Stephen Cummins:  Yeah. Peter Muhlmann:And it’s a place that they care about and that they care about improving, you know? Stephen Cummins: Okay. Excellent. I’ll… I’ll just take up one more minute of your time. I have one last question. If you were to give a little bit of advice to anyone coming over to you and saying, “you know, what I’m thinking of leaving this company and setting up my own business” What’s something you feel you’d always mentioned to them as something to remember when they do that Peter Muhlmann: It takes 10 years. Stephen Cummins: Okay? You’re not the first person to tell that actually, it’s kind of a magic number that 10 years isn’t it? Everyone thinks it can take three or four. Peter Muhlmann: Yeah. Yeah, but… but… but it… it takes a, it takes two years or three years usually just even to know if you’re right about it and if it actually works. Stephen Cummins:  Yeah. Peter Muhlmann: like you’re not going to figure out if it worked or not in five or six months. If you think you do, then… then that’s usually not enough time. And then you’re just failing by default. And so, so you need to mentally prepare yourself for that. And then, I will say that… the market beats the team, beats the product. In the sense that picking the right market is often more important than anything else. But then getting the right team in place is… is more important than you having a good idea or not because it’s the initial idea you have is very long. Well, it’s going to evolve. It’s not like you’re sitting in the bathtub with the rubber duck and saying this is what the company is and what it’s going to do. It is rather the sum of a 1,000 ideas. And then 990 of them are not yours. Stephen Cummins: Yeah. And of course, market beats team beats product data… data, backs that up market is really timing. So fantastic, Peter Muhlmant. Thank you so much for giving us your time on  14 Minutes of Saaa. Peter Muhlmann:  Fantastic. Enjoyed being here. Pleasure. Stephen Cummins: Thanks a million. You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thanks to Mike Quill for his creativity and problem solving skills, to Ketsu for the music and to Anders Getz for the transcript. This episode was brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins. If you enjoyed the podcast, please don’t forget to share it with your network, subscribe to the series, and give the show a rating. *Also big thank you to Hallie Therrien for proof-reading transcript! Listen to 14 Minutes of SaaS on Spotify / Apple podcasts / Google podcasts / TuneIn / Stitcher https://twitter.com/AppSelekt
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