The Big Exit Show: Selling InSided to Gainsight: Insights to Exit, Robin van Lieshout on Building and Selling a Software Giant

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🎧Get ready to dive into the captivating story of inSided and the acquisition by Gainsight!

In this episode, we’re about to share the acquisition journey of inSided, straight from the CEO and founder himself, Robin van Lieshout. Join us as we uncover the strategic decisions, pivotal moments, and personal reflections that shaped the sale of inSided.

This episode promises to be a treasure trove of insights for aspiring tech founders and seasoned entrepreneurs. Robin will elaborate on amongst others:

  • The pivotal role of strategic decisions in driving valuation growth 💼
  • Insights into timing and market conditions that influenced the acquisition process 📈
  • Personal reflections from Robin on life post-acquisition and navigating newfound financial independence 💰

As always – hosted by Peak’s very own co-founder and managing partner Johan van Mil and Anke Huiskes founder & managing partner of NP-Hard Ventures 🕺🏻🕺🏼

You can find the episode on your favorite podcast platform, linked below. And, if you are really interested in listening to the big exit of specific founders – reach out to us so we can invite them for the next episode!

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You can find the transcribed version of the episode below:

Anke:
We just had a great interview, great talk with Robin, who sold his company Insight to Gainsight. And I think he shared some great learnings, especially about the ten year journey it took him to build this company.

Anke:
Yeah, I love how he was so transparent in what he thinks is important with building a company, but also to get to that point where you basically have different options, what to do next and why he chose and what he took into account with making that decision to, in the end, sell his company. So, yeah, an incredible story.

Johan: Yeah.

Anke:
And also what I found also remarkable in how he shared, let’s say, his personal endeavors.

Johan:
Right.

Anke:
Also his emotions, what he had when the company was not going so well when he walked back from, let’s say, the negotiation table and what it did to him on a personal level, also how he dealt with that.

Johan:
No.

Anke:
And I love when people are so authentic about what it did to them and how you show up as a leader. I think taking the pride of making certain decisions that might not be the most favorable are like easy ones, but in the end a huge impact in the direction of the company and also in the end how much money they got from the company. But at the same time also being honest and open about coming home and having real talks with your loved ones. I think, personally, I love when people are so open. You want the good guys to win. And he clearly comes across as a good guy and a very authentic leader.

Johan:
Yeah.

Anke:
So let’s listen.

Johan: Starting a company is easy, growing is harder. But especially exiting a company, that’s really hard. And that’s why we started the Big Exit show, where we talk to founders who successfully sold their company. And your host is Anke Huiskes, partner and founder of NP Heart, and myself, Joan van Mill, partner and founder of Peak. And today we have a special guest in this episode. Today we have a guest from Amsterdam called Robin van Lieshout. And he started a community software company after, let’s say, taking his first steps on the entrepreneurial career with, I think, a more publishing company. And after ten years, it exited and sold to Gainsight, the US biggest company, I think, on this space.

Johan: So welcome, Robin, and we would really love to hear your story and especially how you started the company. Where did, let’s say, the first idea came from yes.

Robin van Lieshout:
Thanks for having me. So basically I started my first entrepreneurial journey coming from like a hobby project. So I started this online website blogging talking about consumer electronics and that site basically grew to about 5 million unique visitors a month. So it’s quite big. And we started selling advertisements and affiliate doing affiliate deals on those sites and actually turned out to be a pretty good business. And one of our advertisers was T Mobile, and they were the first one in the Netherlands who were going to sell the iPhone and they asked to you know, we’re spending all that know on that independent portal you created. But could you also create some kind of white label version for ourselves to use on our own website? Basically. So kind of like a white label community solution.

Robin van Lieshout:
And we were thinking, hey, that’s actually a good idea. So we sold the first company, the publishing business, and started this SaaS journey, rolling into enterprise software where Community and T Mobile was basically our first customer.

Johan:
Cool.

Anke:
I was wondering when you’re talking about we, is that the same founder that you started a new company with and how did you get to know each other? I read somewhere that it was also like you having a knee surgery you set down for a few weeks. Is that during the same period?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, that’s a good question. So basically my first company, so the independent publishing company I started basically because I was home recovering from a knee surgery, so there was nothing to do first weeks I watched television but got quite bored after two weeks or so. So I decided to start using the computer more and started to learn myself programming skills and that worked out pretty good choice. So I created the first version of that website myself and that grew to like a big site with 5 million unique visitors. So that was the first journey and simultaneously I got to know another person who happened to be in the end, a good friend, vauta. And he also created this online website around electronics and mobile phones. And then at one time we said, hey, why not just join forces? So in my second company, so Inside It, we basically said, hey, let’s just do this together. So he also sold his publishing company, I sold my publishing company and we joined forces and created Inside It.

Anke:
And what did you do before the two of you decided like, let’s do this? Was it as easy as we worked on something similar in the past or nowadays you’ve got these interview questions, 50 questions that you have to ask each other before you join this path. How did you know you were a good match?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, obviously we knew each other already for a few years because we were already sharing thoughts and experiences and observations in this independent publishing business. So we were already sharing tips and tricks on how can you create money from website traffic? What are the best advertisers? How can you scale this to international levels? We were sharing even some small code language snippets stuff we created basically on our sites. So we already knew each other for a few years, just as friends, just as colleagues, basically in this space. And then in the end we said, hey, maybe we should just do something together. And that turned out to be a good choice.

Anke:
And there’s often a lot of debate probit not to start companies with your friends. In this case, you did it right. I think you met first professional, right? But also you were friends. How is it like, let’s say, what’s your learning on that? What you can share with the listeners?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, I think what is the definition of a friend?

Johan:
Right?

Robin van Lieshout:
I mean, me and Vaulter, we didn’t grew up together or so, and we didn’t study together for ten years plus or so. I also have a group of friends who I’ve been doing that with. I probably would never start a company with those friends, basically, but me and vAuto, we kind of collaborated, starting more from a professional angle and then from that angle became friends and hang out and we had dinner every week and stuff like that. So I think he’s probably a different bucket of friends, I would say. Then again, I wouldn’t necessarily give the advice to other founders to start something with your closest friends, but I think with router it turned out to be a good match. And I think it’s also good that you know each other a little bit better because then you’re also more receptive to feedback from each other. You have a better trust relationship. And as you know, a lot of startups fail because of the co founder dynamic.

Robin van Lieshout:
So luckily we had a good journey together.

Anke:
What’s the biggest difference that you had in view with your founder? Because he left at a certain point, right? You took the company forward and especially you raised funding pretty late. I think we’re also going to dive into that topic also. But what was the biggest difference between the two of you, especially in how you handle things and let’s say how you ran the company?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, so I think we both have a super entrepreneurial, agile mindset mentality, but we come from a different point of view. So I have more the business orientation, right. More in sales and marketing and commercial and strategy, and he has more like a product view, right. Running product and engineering and design and stuff like that. So I think we really were complementary, I would say, in terms of skill set. So I think that really helped. At one point in our ten year journey, walter decided I want to do something else, I want to start something all over again, which he did. He founded multiple companies after inside it.

Robin van Lieshout:
And I think for him, it was just like, hey, we got this company to a certain stage. I love it, but I don’t want to take it any further. It’s become maybe a little bit too big. I need to manage people. All of these things, the traditional things you have when scaling a company. And he was more like, no, I want to be with a smaller team, being more agile, and be a founder of a new company again, which he successfully did afterwards.

Anke:
And how was it for you to measure partner in crime? And of course, by that time you had a bigger executive team, but did you take it pretty lightly, or was it a bumpy moment in the journey?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, for us, actually, we separated and between quotes, pretty well, actually. In fact, a lot of things didn’t change. I still connected with him a lot. We still had dinner, like, almost every week or so. We were still discussing and debating inside it, so we really left in really good terms, I would say he was just not active operationally anymore inside the organization, but it didn’t prevent us from just chatting and strategizing about the overall company. And at one point, I also saw that he just had a little bit less energy at the end. So I think it was also just good for him to move on and do something else. And I think everybody saw that, including me.

Robin van Lieshout:
So I think it was also just the most logical choice for the organization.

Anke:
Yeah, I think this should be something that people should also talk more about, like the way people can separate. I think we also discussed it in the previous podcast where there was a split up. I think, like one out of three or one out of four companies, they have a farmer split up. Sometimes it can be a very hairy journey. And in other ways, I think the way the two of you figured out how to find a new working relationship is a great example. I think if people want to have different things at a certain point in.

Robin van Lieshout:
Their journey, definitely maybe something for the big preparation show.

Anke:
Yeah, maybe. And I guess although in the preparation for this podcast, joel and I read a few of your interviews. We listened to a few of your podcasts, and my point of view is also that you seem to be something that and you also mentioned, right, like company culture. You initially already hired, like, Chief Fives officer. I saw somewhere that you did what is it, the Gallup strength finder test? So it also seems that you’re really aware of the personality besides running a company together. Can you tell us more about that side of growing a company.

Robin van Lieshout:
100%? Yeah, so we invested, I think, a lot in culture and team dynamics, I would say from day one. So we hired this person called Five manager, Anne, in our company. She’s still with the company today. She’s done a lot internally, not just like organizing events, but also codifying our core values, hosting these core value events, meetups brainstorm sessions about how can we improve our organization, how can we build trust among teams. Everybody in our organization did a strength finder test, so we had sessions in each individual team about each other’s strengths and how can you collaborate in a better way. In the executive team, we had like quarterly offsites, like two or three days on a location somewhere in the Netherlands, but without any Internet or phones, but just strategizing together, but also getting to know each other in a good way. So we invested quite a lot in just the fundamentals, I would say the building blocks of a successful organization. And, yeah, that worked out pretty well between me and my co founder, but also between me and the exec team and also in every single individual team.

Anke:
What was the reason, Robin, to spend so much time and effort on that?

Johan:
Right?

Anke:
Because a lot of founders, and especially early on founders, I mean, ten years ago, it was a long time ago. What was the reason that you spent so much time on it? Because you normally don’t see that with founders.

Johan:
Indeed, in this fase.

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, I think a lot of the early things you do in a startup is probably related to your own DNA, right? The startup DNA, the founder’s DNA. And I think me and know we already were a little bit like this, right? And if I speak for me personally, coming from Bravont, which has already this little bit more relaxed energy and vibe, and I just brought that to the entire organization, making sure that it was also just fun to work in the organization. We used to call it like, work hard, play hard.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
I think that statement has kind of evolved over the years or so, but that was basically how we operated the company. So I can still remember, for example, at the Friday afternoon, like four, five p. M. Or so, I told everybody, hey, now we should go to the bar and have drinks together. And if people would still be in their desk or would want to leave, maybe go home, or I said, no, this is also just part of the job. Basically, you should come and have a beer with us and close off the week and share some more stories. And that was just the default mode of how we operated this company.

Johan:
Cool.

Anke:
Good to hear. And then something changed, right, after six years, because then you decided to raise capital, right. And not from one investor, but from three investors. So want to dive into that a little bit later. Why the three? But what happened? And especially the way that how you ran your company, right? Because that’s the bootstrap phase, where you fully are, let’s say, independent and fully do it your way. And then you have three, let’s say, experienced investors also joining your board and probably also have their own views on how to run your company. What it changed for you also as a founder?

Robin van Lieshout:
For sure.

Johan:
Yeah.

Robin van Lieshout:
So at one point, we were doing about $3 million in AR. So a pretty sizable company without any external investors. As founders, we basically did our own seed round, you could say, right? So after $3 million, we said, hey, let’s kill this company faster, quicker, more international. We were selling to many different industries. We had our first initial sales a little bit in Belgium, maybe. We had like one or two customers in the rest of Europe. And we really thought, hey, this could be like a big horizontal product serving multiple markets, multiple geographies. And we also wanted to start in the US.

Robin van Lieshout:
And every founders knows it’s not easy to start in the US. You need a lot of capital, salaries are higher, cost structure is just higher. So we wanted to add a little bit more investment opportunities, basically, to the organization and then decided to go for.

Johan:
A series, a round.

Anke:
And what mainly changed for you at that time, Robin, from, let’s say, being the bootstrap company and also being a funded company, what was, let’s say, the personal change for you also in your role and how you, let’s say, acted as a CEO?

Johan:
Yeah.

Robin van Lieshout:
So I think being a bootstrap founders, you can decide everything by yourself. There is no real accountability, right? Maybe apart from towards your co founders, which you all know well and have a good relationship, but not maybe the edge which you maybe have with a venture capital investor. So it was maybe easy even being a bootstrap founder. And then after we raised our funding, things changed. We had, like, an official board. We tried to hire some independent board members even. We had like monthly calls where I had to go over the numbers, which I wasn’t used to. Right? Then we had our quarterly board meetings where we would talk about strategy, need a lot of preparation.

Robin van Lieshout:
I was like, hey, do I really need to prepare for these things? I’m just running this company. Why do these people want to know all these things, right? So it really changed a little bit, the dynamic, but also my own accountability. And in the end, I really was looking forward to actually to most of these board meetings because it also offered me a way to reflect and think a little bit more strategically, step out a little bit, get some external perspectives, maybe not all valid, right? I mean, not everything a VC is saying is the 100% the truth, which is fine, but it at least gave you the opportunity to reflect and think about these things in a different way. So I think for me, it was really a positive change and maybe to.

Anke:
Hone in on that a little bit because you spent so much time bootstrapping and also for Feces. Listen to this podcast, including me. What are the two or three main things that you really got out of having a board or these PCs at the table? Besides the accountability of getting your numbers in place and the priority straight every month or so?

Johan:
Yeah.

Robin van Lieshout:
So let me give you one concrete example, maybe also to show that a startup is not always going in the right direction. I think a year after our funding round, we basically crashed as an organization. We were expecting to do a lot of sales internationally. We hired a lot of salespeople all across Europe, but results were not there. We were basically too ambitious in our overall growth plan. So our burn rate was pretty high. So we got together with our investors and what they did, they really pushed on, hey, this is not going to work if you continue like this, you will burn too much capital. If in the end you do find something, you don’t have enough capital again to do that rebound or invest more in stuff which is working.

Robin van Lieshout:
So you need to cut, burn. You need to basically reduce the amount of headcount you have in your organization. And I think as a founders, I was actually not ready, right? And I was actually pretty mad after that board meeting. I was like, who are they?

Johan:
Right?

Robin van Lieshout:
Why are they saying this to me? It’s my company. I want to make my own decisions. But they were really pushing on it, really pushing on it almost that we were basically shouting to each other right in the room. And I think that was one of the most valuable moments our investors had because I was not ready. They saw it from a different perspective, outside in perspective, and they were right.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So after a week or so, you know, let it all in and soaked it all in, I was like, okay, let’s think about it a little bit more. I got together with the exec team and said, hey, you know what, these guys are actually right. So we made a plan to restructure the business. Unfortunately, we had to let go of some folks. But it helped us, basically set us up for success for the next step in our journey. And I think it’s thanks to our investors who basically push for that in that board meeting. So that was a real big value add.

Anke:
Yeah. So it’s basically also like getting or having that uncomfortable conversations. So often I think especially angels think, like, I want to be their biggest cheerleader. But although having the conversation that you have to have, but it’s not going to be a fun outcome, maybe. And how was that for you? So you said you took a week to reflect, to dive into the numbers. Did you seek out feedback from other founders or was it really between you and the investors and some internal reflection.

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, it’s funny. If I would do it again, I would definitely seek for more advice from other CEOs. But I think back then, there was not like a huge support group, a huge peer group of CEOs. This was like five, six, seven years ago or so. I think things have changed. There are more communities now in the Netherlands supporting CEOs. So that’s really helpful. So for me, it was more like acceptance of that meeting and acceptance of the truth, I would say that has led me to accept that we just need to go into this direction.

Johan:
Yeah.

Anke:
Because now, these days, as you probably know, Robert, the burn multiple, I think, is the most used phrase, I think, now in board meetings.

Johan:
Right.

Anke:
What’s the amount of revenue that you’re adding compared, let’s say, to the cost level, those days? Because you raised funding in 216. So a year after it’s roughly 217. The burn multiple, I think, didn’t exist at that time. How could you also, as a founder, right, could know this at that time. Looking backwards, where did, let’s say, very specifically help you investor? In what kind of insights did they.

Robin van Lieshout:
Give you around the burn multiple or in a broader scale?

Anke:
In a broader scale, indeed. Sorry, but how did they help you to realize that the burn was too high according to the cost level? Right? Because I think that’s typically what an investor should do, right, to guide you also during that kind of KPIs. But how could you have seen this yourself, right, also as a founder, to learn from?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, what I’ve learned over the last few years is that there is a fine balance between being super optimistic about the business, right, and being super passionate and say, okay, we’re going to conquer the world and this is going to be a unicorn. And you have to have that also to your team, but basically to everybody, because it’s difficult.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So you need to set the stage and drive that ambition on one side, but also being super honest and realistic to yourself about where are you now, because, yes, we can all project that hockey stick in next year’s budget, but it hardly happens, right? So also just be super realistic. Where you are in terms of competition, in terms of your product, in terms of your people, do you have people who are already making quota or not? Can you skill lead generation? Do you have the signals for that or not? Is your development team cracking out new features, functionality in a decent pace? Or do you have a lot of technical debt which you first need to solve? Do you have that go to market fit already? Or is it still juggling for every single individual deal and there is no repeatability at all? So all of these signals and be really honest to yourself, I would say that aligns with that balance and I think your investors can really help with that because they’ve seen other companies, right? And that’s also what they did with us. And they could say, hey, I really love your passion and you need that in order to do this. But on this specific level, like repeatability and sales, you’re not there. There’s no repeatability from MQL to SQL to opportunity, win rate, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So that’s really helpful to see and understand and get some perspective on.

Anke:
And we’ll talk about the highlight with acquisition in a little bit. But I want to ask one more thing about this low light. I guess in the journey when you had to go back to the team and let people go. I remember when I was working at one of the companies, San Francisco in the US. You can get let go like the day after. And I remember so faithfully having that little hands meeting and then the same day the people who had been let go had to go to HR and then a few years later left the building with their boxes and their belongings. And to me that was so shocking coming from Europe. How was that moment for you to do the whole hands and in one hand, let some of the people go, on the other hand, be the cheerleader of their raft and keep them together, especially because culture is such an important thing in the way you build your company.

Robin van Lieshout:
To be honest, the day we had to do the layoff was probably one of the most difficult days in my entire journey as a CEO, founder to the moment, I basically almost had to cry myself.

Johan:
Basically.

Robin van Lieshout:
Luckily I prepared a lot and did the story in my head and I was a little bit in an acceptance state already. But it’s one of the most difficult things you can do with people you hired yourself and then have to say to the organization, hey, there is no room for you anymore. And it also feels like personal failure, right? Because you are the founder, you had the ambition to grow, you set out like a path, a North Star, a vision. You hired people for that and they rely on you, on your vision. And if that doesn’t materialize, then I had to look at myself, did I really make that right choice? Did I make the right investment decisions? Did I hire the right amount of people? So it was really tough, specifically on myself, that I had the feeling I just didn’t do well. I did know that this was, at this moment in time, the best decision for the company because the company needed to survive, go further. We had to restrategize. So there was no doubt about that this wasn’t the right choice, but it kind of felt like a failure.

Anke:
Definitely, yeah, we could do a whole podcast just about that topic, I guess. But for now, because probably still a lot of companies have to go through riff in the coming months. What will you tell those who have that big decision laying in front of them? And especially on like, for the people who stay, how do you because they all have emotions, they have to let go of their colleague friends. What would be your recommendation to after the big news came to build up that team again?

Robin van Lieshout:
Definitely, yeah. I think one of the biggest things you should not forget is that after you do a riff, you need to keep the company a great place to work for those who are still there.

Johan:
Right?

Robin van Lieshout:
Basically the survivors, those are the folks who you need for the next step in your journey. And it’s really important to think about that. So, of course, that includes great communication. So why are we doing this? What are the next steps? What is the vision going forward? It requires great communication to the people who are leaving, because the people who are staying, they will look at that and they will look at how you treat those people. So that’s super important. And then we need to make sure that the remaining company, that there’s basically a good quality of life, that the people who are still with the company, that it’s a viable company. So can they still expect raises?

Johan:
Right?

Robin van Lieshout:
Is there still travel budget? Can we still do internal events? Can we still have our Friday afternoon drinks?

Johan:
Right?

Robin van Lieshout:
Is there enough supporting resource? Or did we cut everybody who needed to support the existing team and now everybody’s like, swamped with work, right? So focus on communication and focus on making sure that everybody who is still there, that their quality of life in the organization is still in a decent shape.

Anke:
Robert, what’s your experience? Because I think this topic is now on the table in a lot of companies, what I see myself a lot with founders is that it’s hard to cut in your own flesh.

Johan:
Right?

Anke:
It’s hard to say goodbye to people who you eventually hired. So I see founders also who are, let’s say, a little bit reluctant on this and really want to use the shave and do say goodbye to a few people, hope it discovers, and then eventually, if it’s not needed to say goodbye to some other people, right? Or to cut, that’s the second group to cut deeply at once. What’s your experience also in debt? What’s the right approach, especially if you look forward also in the company, what you want to build up again.

Johan:
Yeah.

Robin van Lieshout:
So in my opinion, there’s only one right approach, and that’s to cut only once, right? Because this process is already super painful for the people involved, but also for the people who are still there and for yourself. So just make a plan. Cut a little bit deeper than you initially thought because have some room, basically for additional expenses or things which go wrong or that drinks or that. Party or off site or whatever, basically. But I would do it once, and I would do it as deep as you most comfortably feel and happy with. But that would definitely be my recommendation. If you do it the other way around, people will be constantly living in a fear mode, right? Okay. When is the next risk? Am I still safe? You should do it once and make sure that the company understands that.

Robin van Lieshout:
This is it, basically.

Anke:
A last question on this topic from from me. How did you personally deal with this, Robin? Because I heard in one of your podcasts and I read of your interviews that you also, let’s say, are a very sensitive leader, right? I think you mentioned a few times that you sometimes had to cry even at home, right? Especially these tough times. How did you personally deal with this situation? Right? How did you let go of your energy or how did you spar with people? How did you, let’s say, maintain yourself in the situation?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, that’s super difficult. And indeed, there were lots of times in my journey running inside it that I had to cry at home and went back to my girlfriend, said, this is not going anywhere. What am I doing? There’s a lot of debt, which is also logical, I would say. I mean, a lot of people have that also in regular jobs. And then being a CEO or founder is even probably a more difficult job. So what I always said, it’s not about me, right? In the end, it’s about the company. What is the best decision for the organization? How can we make the organization succeed? What would I do? If I would not be running this company, what would then be the best choice for the organization? If I would look at it from the outside, what would I do? So their external perspectives obviously help, right. Just getting to know a few other CEOs or talk with your investors or people who are in the space, I think really sets some perspective for you.

Robin van Lieshout:
But you have to keep the company’s interest upfront.

Anke:
So after that bump, big bump tears, then you have this small team, and I guess, fast forward, you got to 100 million arr in 2022. That journey, how was it like hockey stick? Was it still with a bumpy ride? How did that happen?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, so we had a pretty significant ride, I would say, after that strategy change. So recap, we grew the company to 3 million AR. We did like a round of funding of about six, 7 million. Then a year after we crashed, and then we said, okay, we need to come up with a better strategy. So what we did is we made a strategic bet to focus on one specific customer profile only. And for us, that was B, two B SaaS companies. And we decided to focus on a trend which was called customer success. That was this big thing going on a few years ago.

Robin van Lieshout:
Everybody was investing in that, and we were like, okay, if that’s growing, let’s tie ourselves to that customer success trend. And these two choices basically, in the end led to super fast growth in two or three years, and in the end also led to the sale to Gain site specifically.

Anke:
And what is super growth? What is it like? What is the monthly or the yearly growth? I’m curious.

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, definitely. So let’s say we were growing to about 10 million AR approximately at the time of acquisition. When we did the Pivot, basically, or the strategy change, we were doing like 5 million AR. So it took us about seven years to get to 5 million, and then it took us three more years to get to 10 million. So there was a big acceleration, I would say, in the last three years before the exit. And well, the exit was also still up for debate at that time. That was not the intention, but because we were growing so rapidly, right? We were growing triple digit growth, and we had lots of interest from the market, lots of customers signing up. We were hiring people.

Robin van Lieshout:
We had a lot of interest from venture capital funds. So it was actually a pretty good period after that change.

Anke:
And how did you decide, Robin, to go for the B two B SaaS space?

Johan:
Right?

Anke:
Because indeed, I recall that your company at that time was focusing was, let’s say, a horizontal SaaS solution, right? So you’re servicing telecom companies, energy companies, different kind of companies, and then you decided to go for SaaS. And I think those days, probably SaaS companies were a very small chunk of your customer base.

Johan:
Right?

Anke:
So you took also, let’s say, a pretty big risk on that end to fully focus on the small part group. What made you decide, apart from, let’s say, the market dynamics that SaaS companies were growing and a lot of funding was put inside it, but what made you realize to focus on the small group of customers there?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, good question. So basically, the biggest reason why we crashed, basically as an organization and had to do the layoff and the restructure and all of these things is that we were selling to too many different segments, right? We were selling to energy banks, financials associations, software companies, and then we were also doing that in multiple countries. So basically we were just spread way too thin in terms of roadmap efforts, in terms of sales efforts, in communication, in messaging, in our website, in everything, basically. So we had to make a choice, and our choice was B two B SaaS. So how did we do that? Because from the $5 million approximately in AR, we only had like two or three hundred K in this B two B SaaS segment. So it was a tiny, tiny segment where we placed our bet on so what did We Do? We looked at that segment and said, okay. Or we Looked At Our overall customer base and said, who are the customers who Are getting most value from our products? Who are the customers who Are Least negotiating in sales cycles? Who are the ones who are implementing very fast or who are implementing themselves almost. Who are the ones who understand our communication immediately.

Robin van Lieshout:
Who are the ones who file the least support tickets because they are just happy with how it goes. Who are the ones who are adding new stuff. Who are the first ones to try out new features. Who are the ones who are giving us feedback on product ideation or innovation requests.

Johan:
Basically.

Robin van Lieshout:
So we basically look at, from all different angles what is the ideal profile? What is the ideal customer?

Johan:
Right?

Robin van Lieshout:
And this segment really stood out for that.

Anke:
And how much of that because you mentioned this truth, 50K was in revenue of Arr, right? So you didn’t have A lot of customers there, so also not a lot of data. So I assume it’s a lot of gut feeling also there for Robin, it’s.

Robin van Lieshout:
Definitely A lot of gut feeling. Obviously, you could look at data, but At that stage of the company, it’s Also About your Own gut feeling as A CEO, founder, as A founding team, and Think About, okay, what is the next Step in Terms of strategy? Of Course, we Try To Get as much data and talk to as much customers, but also prospects or friends or potential customers as much as possible. But in the End, it Was a bet. And in fact, it was a pretty big bet and also a pretty rapid bet, because I still remember the moment when we made this decision. I Think It Was, like almost the last week of the Year or so. Like, just before Christmas, I was in a strategy session with two of my advisors, and I was like, we should just go do this. And then we went into Christmas. And then the week after, we had our all hands, our annual kickoff with the entire organization.

Robin van Lieshout:
And during Christmas, I completely rewrote the entire all ends covering this new strategy. And even my executive team was like, at the all Ends, what is this guy Doing? We Kind of Now Completely Have a different strategy, but I Just felt this Was the right approach, this Was the Right direction we should go. And of Course, it was a bet. It turned out to be a good bet. But yeah, that’s, I Think, the power, of course, over CEO, but also one of the few decisions you can actually make which have a big impact.

Anke:
And how did you get your executive team along with that?

Johan:
Right?

Anke:
Because you rewrote it all hands into the full, folks, on B, two B Software. Then they heard it sorry, that they Got it presented at all Hands. How did you get them along in this, let’s say, big feature, right? Because culture is so important for you, and also the team is so important for you. How did you do that?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, I think the culture basically brought us to a point where they at least accepted it and said, okay, let’s try it out. I still want to work here. I believe in you. It’s a great organization, so I’m willing to try it out. But the real acceptance of the management team and the rest of the organization only came after the initial proof points.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So culture can bring you so far in tough times, which is helpful. That’s also why you need it. That’s basically the baseline. But then the real proof, of course, needs to come from real results. If you never achieve real results, then you can have a great culture, but in the end, people will not stay or don’t believe in it. And luckily for us, after a few months, we got some initial traction and we got some proof points and we had some initial sales. So that worked out to be good for us. But I still remember a lot of discussions internally.

Robin van Lieshout:
For example, one of our senior people in marketing, we hired that person to focus on lead generation on one of the older segments. And basically in the second week or so, he came into our organization, he realized, oh, the complete profile of the company changed. What am I doing here? So for him, it was really like, okay, I need to switch to a completely different market, a totally different thing I basically got myself into or subscribed to. But he kind of accepted it because of the culture and the vibe and the energy and of course, a few months down the road because of the initial results.

Johan:
Cool.

Anke:
And the question I’m curious about is how much was like outside in versus inside out approach? Was it you in that room with the amount of data that you had, or did you also really look into what other companies were doing within your space, maybe outside of your space? Did you travel to different hubs in Europe, maybe outside to validate your assumptions? Or was it all you within the data that you had?

Robin van Lieshout:
It was mainly us and the data. So the exec team, some of the advisors looking at things like, who are the most ideal customers to date? And then it was just like, what is our North Star? What is the mission? What is the vision? Where do we want to go towards? And we were like, okay, customer success is probably growing. B, two B SaaS companies are growing. The data shows some initial traction, and then you just need to make a bet.

Anke:
Cool. Yeah. So fast forward. You had a few customers, one of them was game size. And then we read in 2019 that you started a partnership together. How did that come along?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, so basically the situation was that we were pivoting towards B, two B SaaS. We were thinking about Customer Success and tying ourselves into that. So one of the first things I did, I sent a message to the CEO of gameside because they were the leader in customer success. And I said, hey, I see that you guys are organizing this user conference in London. I’m there. Would you be willing to meet up? I wasn’t planning to go, but, you know, I can jump on the plane. It’s only like an hour. If I get the opportunity to meet him, let’s just do it.

Robin van Lieshout:
And he accepted. So I got 20 minutes. So I flew to London for a 20 minutes meeting and I basically presented some high level slides on what is inside it. Where do we fit in this customer success landscape? This is where Gainsight is. This is where we are. And I just painted that vision towards him and he was like, okay, that’s interesting. And nothing really happened after that meeting, but it was the first point of contact, the first trust building connection point, I would say, with him. Which in the end led to a recurring cadence where every time he had a conference, I was like, hey, let’s meet up.

Robin van Lieshout:
So we gave each other updates, basically, let’s say twice a year or so for a period of two or three years. So that was really valuable.

Anke:
And this was when that conference in London?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah. So this was like, let’s say three years or so before the exit. Three, four years before the exit.

Anke:
And if you’re honest, did you by then have a little light bulb? Like, oh, they could be our future acquirers or not at all.

Robin van Lieshout:
Definitely. Of course. I mean, when we made the choice specifically for B, two B SaaS and customer success, we’re like, okay, this could be a potential company to Indiana Choir inside it. We were not really busy with that or so it was not like a deliberate strategy for me. It felt was just intuition, basically. But that’s definitely maybe jumping too fast, but that’s definitely one of the learnings I had, is that I would probably set up more strategic relationships earlier in the journey. So you at least have that existing connection, email address, phone number when you need it.

Anke:
Yeah. And you only went with them or you sent the same similar message to other of your favorite customers. So it was not betting on one horse, basically.

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, I did with two or three other companies, I did approximately the same, although most were a little bit smaller. So it was not necessarily for exit potential, but more for, hey, let’s become strategic partners, basically, in the ecosystem.

Anke:
And how did you deal that, Robert? Because we see that often, right, that companies are being bought by either clients or companies that they work with, at least as an existing relation.

Johan:
Right.

Anke:
So that’s I think a very smart way to do. How do you deal that, let’s say on a personal level, also during the discussions when you met him, probably also at some time, the topic was raised, right. How do you deal with that sensitive when you start building a relation and during the years that you got to know him.

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, so I think the connection I had during those years was more from an intellectual point of view. So every time I just brought two or three slides with a vision, with a point of view, with how we were doing, but also how we saw the world, how we saw the industry, how we saw the ecosystem. So basically, I became just a valuable sparring partner in the industry to him.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
I didn’t say, hey, in the end I want to sell my company to you. Right. That’s not the approach I took. I just wanted to build this relationship. And to be honest, every meeting I had like two or three questions also for him, obviously, right. So I could understand the industry better. And all these things also helped me shape our strategy in a better way.

Anke:
So you gave him some content, right? And also some intellectual power also. And he shared that also with you. Did you also share, let’s say, early on? Because that’s a question that we get a lot numbers with him also with how you at Insight were doing at that time, what were your growth, your MRR customers, et cetera?

Johan:
Right.

Anke:
How transparent were you, especially in that early phase?

Robin van Lieshout:
I was actually pretty transparent, to be honest. But I’m probably also leaning towards more transparency versus less transparency. And that’s also how I do it internally in my organization. So every Olens or quarterly or whatever, I just present the data, also the financial data, as it is. And I just trust people that they treat that confidentially. And I did the same with Gamesight. So I just shared our progress, the amount of customers, average deal size, approximately how big we were in terms of arr, and I’ve seen that they actually value that a lot.

Anke:
Yeah, if you give openness, you also get openness back.

Johan:
Right.

Anke:
So probably he also shared numbers, insights with you, right?

Robin van Lieshout:
That way, 100%. So he also shared with me how big they were, right. And how many customers they were acquiring and how he saw the size of the industry, for example. And this is like super relevant data also for me to establish my own strategies, basically. So, yeah, that really helped, I think, in building that trust relationship with him.

Anke:
So moving forward, then, you came to this point that the company was growing, customers coming in, you nailed down your ICP, you were ready for raising a Series B. That didn’t happen because you decided to get acquired. Can you take us through how that process was? It seems like almost being a psychopath, doing like two different things without giving everybody the sense of transparency that I think is very close to who you like to work, how you like to work, like internally. How was that process for you?

Robin van Lieshout:
Definitely. So, situation was we were close to 10 million AR. Our new strategy was rapidly growing, right. We wanted to raise funding. We said, hey, let’s move on to the next level. So we prepped data room, a pitch deck, all the stuff you do if you want to raise capital. And at the same time they also told gamesighters, look, we’re doing really well, we’re going to raise capital. And then they said, hey, is it also an option maybe just to join forces basically, right? And for them it was great timing because they just became the first unicorn in customer success.

Robin van Lieshout:
A big private equity firm basically invested in them about a year ago or so. They hired like this corporate development person and inorganic growth. So M A was basically part of their strategy. Right, that’s also part of the Vista Equity strategy. So the timing for them was great. So basically in our board meeting we decided, hey, our initial plan was to raise funding, we also have some interest from gain side. Okay, let’s just run this dual track then. And in the end it became a very difficult decision because we had some good interest basically from venture capital firms.

Robin van Lieshout:
We had in the end also like concrete offer basically on the table from gainsight and we were in discussion with a few others and in the end we decided to go for the exit path, various reasons, but it, it was a complicated and interesting process.

Anke:
So Robin, when you decided to go with Gamesight, knowing that you also had multiple offers out there as an alternative, can you tell us more about the due dynamics and what happened behind the scenes? The stuff that we never read at the TechCrunch? Really curious about that and some juicy details here.

Robin van Lieshout:
Definitely, yeah, it’s a very intense process. You need to go all in. I was working almost 24/7 or so. You also get super nervous every single day because of the next step. So it’s a really tough time. So let me tell you one anecdote so in the letter of intent, Gamesight sentence, there were basically two numbers. One number was with the currency in euros and the other number was in the currency with dollars.

Johan:
Right?

Robin van Lieshout:
And of course that number was the same. The value was the same at the time of closing because it was that specific day. However, during the process, the dollar and the Euro currency were diverging a lot.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
And at one point we noticed that we were like, hey, actually there’s quite a big difference. And Gamesight actually had to acknowledge the Euro number every week. So our point of view was, hey, the Euro number is leading. Right? But of course at some point they also realized it and they were then all of a sudden communicating the dollar amount. So that was quite a big thing. In the end we had a meeting about that and we were way off because in the end it was like one 2 million gap or so. So it’s significant thing, it’s not ten k or so. And in the end they said, okay then we’re not going to do it, right? So then we had like pencils down for about two or three weeks which was a nerve wracking period.

Robin van Lieshout:
I was like, oh no, they’re going to get back, they’re going to come back. And they also probably thought the same. So it was a super unproductive two or three weeks because I couldn’t get anything done basically because I was just waiting every single day for an email or an update. So in the end I decided to call the CEO and asked, hey, do you still want to do this deal? He was like, yeah, of course. I was like, yeah, same here. So then we got the lawyers and all the negotiation people back into the room again and in the end decided in a situation where we both felt comfortable with but it added significantly overall to our deal. So it was a fun but also a very nerve wracking process and also.

Anke:
Interesting to learn that as a person you came back together and then the lawyers came into the room. So it was again, I think the.

Robin van Lieshout:
Personal connection that helped driving this in the end. Deals get done between humans, right? And especially deals like the size of this, the CEO is just involved, right? They have to be. So build up that relationship with the CEO early in the process. So there’s always an escalation path, there’s always a text message you can send basically or maybe just a quick call to make sure you feel comfortable again or the other party is comfortable again. It’s all about humans in the end.

Anke:
And it’s also about also what I learned is that you have to walk from the table at one of the moments, right? I think every deal has a moment that the parties walked from the table and then indeed you have that personal relationship to reach out again, right? So that’s I think a very good advice.

Robin van Lieshout:
You hear that very often that you always need a moment to go away basically. However, now I work at GameStop so I now can look at all the data and also the process, how they experience it basically, right? And in the end they did cancel all the stuff basically internally. So they’d say, okay, this deal, we’ve written this off to one of the power.

Anke:
That’s what they did.

Robin van Lieshout:
So Corpdev decided, okay, we’re going to go on to the next. And I was like, no, they’re just playing games with me. But in fact they did say so yes, that relationship with the CEO got it back on track, but if I wouldn’t have done that, they wouldn’t have continued.

Anke:
Regarding the funding, you had a few preemptive term sheets also on the table, right? I think a few VCs said, we’re so interesting, we don’t wait for the official, let’s say, fundraising, we got to do this round. And I understood from one of the, I think, podcasts that I listened that the valuations of these term sheets were also higher than the valuation eventually that gained side bought. Right. Because that says also something about the valuation of the company. How did you make that decision, right. To not go for that VC path with a higher valuation and probably a different outlook, but go in that case for that exit option.

Anke:
And if you want to share numbers, that’s like, very welcome. I’m curious to know what these numbers are, but it’s up to you how transparent you want to be.

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, I think you guys can guess probably what the valuation would be. And I’m happy to comment on that in the end was very difficult because exactly on the day we received the letter of intent from gameside to be acquired, basically on that same day, we also got like a term sheet for a valuation which was probably 50% higher. So that was an incredible gap and for us was super difficult because we were planning to go for the gain side route. But of course, I had a duty also to my board and shareholders to also present the other offer.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So we had a board call in the weekend and said, okay, what are we going to do? In the end, we decided to go for selling the company different reasons. The standard ones, it was good for the team, they had more stability. A lot of people could go into leadership roles within gameside. So I think was good step for the team, was good step for the product. It became one of the three core products for gameside. So it was not that it was just a small add on or they didn’t pay attention. It was really strategic for them. And it was also not that you get the opportunity a lot that you can sell to a very nice company, right.

Robin van Lieshout:
A Unicorn, which was growing, which has a big brand name. And I was thinking, do I really want to sell my company to this super unknown brand, which is not growing, but it’s like owned by private equity and we need to do M A because else we will struggle or there’s nothing. So this was also just it felt like a good match. However, having said that, truth be told, also for here, for your listeners, there was also other things. Obviously, one of the things there is that we had a lot of legacy customers, right, because we started our journey in a lot of other different industries. So we had five $6 million in revenue from customers, which was not growing that segment. So that was also holding us back, basically, in terms of overall growth profile. So although a lot of investors could really look beyond that, I could say, okay, I see that that’s one segment of your company, the other segment is growing rapidly.

Robin van Lieshout:
We did came to the conclusion that because of that, we couldn’t necessarily raise from tier one US. VC funds.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So that that was just not possible due to the overall growth profile. So we had quite a few term sheets, including high valuation term sheets. But it was mostly from investors where we felt like, okay, we’re not 100% sure, or at least we started our ambition with going for a tier one US fund. And when we came to the realization that that wasn’t possible, that was one of the reasons why we didn’t go for the VC route. Another one was more on a personal level. I was doing this for ten years, right, which is a long journey. And in hindsight, if this would be a different company, which was which was starting to sell to B, two B, like three years ago, I would have never sold.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
Because we were growing really rapidly, and this was a new segment and was lots of excitement. But we also had that other business which was not growing so rapidly. So basically, in that ten year journey, we almost created two companies in one, and that was quite a stretch, also for me personally. So I was like, hey, maybe this is just good timing.

Anke:
And we did do a guess in terms of what we think the acquisition price is. We have one of Joan’s colleagues doing the math for us.

Anke:
May I ask one question before we dive into that? Because, indeed, I was looking it up at the moment, because you got an offer from Gainsight, right. And you mentioned right on the same day, you got, let’s say, the term sheet in question. One is, did you use that also, let’s say, to renegotiate the offer with insider? Because that’s typically what I would do.

Johan:
Right.

Anke:
Because you have another offer on the table.

Johan:
Right.

Anke:
And secondly is, how did you please share again what you can share. How did you deal with, let’s say, other players in the market.

Johan:
Right.

Anke:
Because one thing that we learned as a VC is that you always want to have, let’s say, multiple offers on the table to get, let’s say, the exact value for the company, what’s supposed to be worth.

Johan:
Right.

Anke:
If there’s one term sheet, then it’s not how did you deal, let’s say, with these two instances?

Johan:
Yeah.

Robin van Lieshout:
So when we got the term sheet for that higher valuation, because we had some other term sheets were approximately the same valuation, so we got a higher valuation. We did not use it to renegotiate the deal with gameside, also, because we were already pretty far in the process.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
Because they did like. A letter of intent with a certain valuation already some time ago, we declined that also negotiation wise, obviously, but also because we thought, okay, this was not the right price. Then Gainsat came back with a different updated letter of intent with a higher valuation. So we were already probably too far to now say, okay, do we really want to jeopardize this whole process by renegotiating that deal? And in fact, the deal certainty Gainsight gave us, because they are backed by a large private equity firm, they have a huge track record of doing these type of deals. They guaranteed us to do a deal in 90 days. It was a full cash deal, basically. So there was 100% certainty in any outcome for every investor out there. So we also prioritized stability and reliability, I would say, versus going towards a path with a VC.

Robin van Lieshout:
We probably still needed to negotiate that term sheet, and then you need to look at the terms underneath all of these deals. Right? So in the end, we didn’t do it, but it again was definitely a tough choice.

Anke:
Clear Robin on the valuation.

Johan:
Onto the valuation beds. The first release announcing insided acquisition by Gainsight was made public in January 2022. However, the amount of the acquisition was not specified. You started the company in 2010, and fundraising wise, it took some time as you raised a 6 billion Series A in July 2016 with Bentech, Hank and Fortune Capital Partners, and then nothing until the acquisition in 2022. Pricing wise, I couldn’t find any indication on your website, so I had to make a few assumptions. I also went on Fever B to get a sense of the reviews of its I did and found some pricing insights. It stated, for instance, that pricing depends on the revenue of your customers, and that if you have between one and 3 million revenues annually, then the pricing range is somewhere between 35 and $75,000 per year. It also stated that different pain models could be added, like a CRM integration for 12,000 lots dollars, for instance.

Johan:
Then I tried to define some assumptions about your customers. I found out in different articles that you had many large ones, like Sonos or TomTom, for instance, and that you grew a lot in 2020, adding 52 new customers to your portfolio with the 220% AR growth. I made the assumption then that two thirds of your customers were enterprises with contracts of $100,000 per year, with additional pen models of $15,000 per year. For the third remaining, I assumed a yearly contract value of $20,000 and additional models of $10,000. So assuming that you had 150 customers for 2021, that makes a revenue of $13 million. Now, if we look at the average revenue multiple in acquisition for that year, 2021 was the record year, if you remember correctly, in terms of number of transactions, fundraising sizes, and valuation. So according to Adventist Advisor, for instance, the average public SaaS market valuation was 19.5 times the revenue. The Scar SaaS capital index that focuses on private companies is estimated to have a revenue multiple, most about eight to ten times for that year.

Johan:
So taking an assumption of time eight, it would mean $13 million revenue time eight, which would make a valuation of $104,000,000. So are we too high, too low, or very close?

Robin van Lieshout:
Well, you guys are really close. Let me tell you a story about timing and strategy related to this. So let’s use some rounded numbers to make it easy to understand. So let’s assume it sold for $100 million, as you suggested, right? Let’s assume we were doing approximately 10 million in AR. So 70% of the value created. So the valuation was created in the last three years because of the move to B two B SaaS companies, the focus on customer success. What we’ve also seen is that there was a different multiple paid on the old versus the new segment, right. So the older segment, which was not growing, had a multiple below ten, and the B two B SaaS business had a multiple above ten.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
And then the new business, therefore contributed significantly.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So going back to that choice you need to make as a CEO in terms of direction, if I did not make that choice, then maybe in all be positive. It would probably be worth half this overall company because the value created in the last three years, we wouldn’t have done that basically, if we wouldn’t have done that strategy change.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So remember, this is like a CEO choice. This is where CEOs can really make a difference, right. A single choice in terms of strategy is probably half of the valuation.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So that’s one. And the other thing is about timing. So we sold, indeed, in the first week of January 2020 or so, and of course, it’s a three month process or so.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So if you compare the Mcloud index or just General SaaS multiples compared to two years ago, those multiples have decreased with, let’s say, 50% or so.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So that’s another 50% of your valuation. And nobody wants to sell when everything is going well, right? All founders are like, no, we’re growing. We have ambition. We’re going to reach for the sky. We’re unicorns. We’re not going to sell. And everybody wants to sell when it’s shitty, right? Going, well, let’s try to sell this company against the highest possible multiple. Well, that’s just not how it works.

Johan:
Right?

Robin van Lieshout:
So going back to the 100 million, which is pretty close, this 100 million would be times 50%, times 50%. So 25 million without those two decisions, timing and strategy choice in terms of ICP, which is incredible, if you realize.

Anke:
Remarkable, especially the value that you created, right, last year by these choices.

Anke:
Amazing story.

Robin van Lieshout:
And it also is on a positive note. There’s a lot of CEOs and companies who are once in their lifetime are struggling, right? They’re not growing as fast as they expected, they’re not hitting their milestones, they’re not hitting their budget, which was accepted by the VC in the know. I think this story also shows there’s always a way. Just come up with a good strategy and there’s always a path towards towards higher valuations.

Anke:
Would you agree? Thanks for sharing that, Robin. Really great story.

Anke:
And then the day after, so you signed, it was an all cash offer. What did you do and how did it impact your life, if I may ask?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, for sure. So, I mean, the day itself was not like super special. In fact, my girlfriend was on holiday to Bonaire with some friends, so she wasn’t there. And it was also in the middle of Corona. So I was basically sitting in an office with two or three other folks from the company exec team and we were just waiting for the DocuSigns to come in. So once they came in, of course, we opened up a bottle of champagne, but it was like Friday or so, and we were going to introduce or to announce the entire acquisition the Monday after. So basically, we had a few glass of champagne, but then we just started working again because we need to prep for the communication on the Monday. So, yeah, it was not really a fancy moment, that specific day, but then.

Anke:
Afterwards, it is life changing. I don’t know how much ownership you still had at that point, but did it change you? Because you seem to be like a very conscious leader person. Did it change the way you live your life 100%?

Robin van Lieshout:
Of course, yeah, I know it’s difficult because it’s like first world problems, right? At one point, you can get a lot of cash on your bank account and you feel really happy with that, right? Which, of course I am, but it also changes my energy level at some point, saying, hey, was this it? Basically, right? Did I make the move of my entire career now? Is it from now on getting only worse, basically, right? So although it’s great to be financially independent, it’s also like, hey, running a company also brings a lot of energy and excitement and positivity and you’re contributing to the world, basically. And of course, that also changed a bit right after that. It’s a different life.

Anke:
It’s funny because you can also answer this question more on the monetary side, like, oh, and then I changed, I bought a house, all that stuff. And for you. And we read somewhere that one of your core strengths is winner mentality. And what you’re now saying is this it? Is this the highest Achievable goal, I think, if I understand you correctly. So it’s a really interesting perspective, I guess. Like, what this big milestone that the majority of the people will never experience in their life? Change your perspective, definitely.

Robin van Lieshout:
And don’t get me wrong, I mean, my end goal was always to sell the company against the highest possible price, because that’s the game. Right. That’s what I signed up for. That was my ambition, and I like that. But in the end, it was never about the exact amount or the money or things like that.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
I mean, the first thing I did is I bought a piano for my son, right. Because he was just starting with lessons.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
And I also feel sometimes it’s difficult to talk about these things because, again, by norms of general public, these are basically rich man’s problems.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
Which is true, but doesn’t necessarily mean that personally, it’s always easy because I really enjoyed the journey with Inside It, right. It was a really fun period of my life, and now I need to readjust and see where do I get my energy from, which is going well, so don’t worry about it. But there was a period after the acquisition where I felt like, oh, yeah, and what’s next, basically?

Anke:
And did you find a crew of other founders who experienced similar things? It’s probably like a very small WhatsApp group, but almost like peers, like, hey, how do we handle this?

Robin van Lieshout:
Definitely. Yeah. And everybody is kind of in the same spot, and people are thinking, hey, what to do? Am I still going to work at the company who acquired me? Am I going to start something new? There’s also high expectations then, right. If you want to start something new, a lot of people start investing. I did that as well. Investing in startups or private equity funds, but also trying to contribute to other founders.

Johan:
Right.

Robin van Lieshout:
So I started already, way before the exit, peer group with other CEOs. So I now try to contribute more towards other founders who are maybe in their journey towards, like, 10 million, or in their journey towards an exit. And that’s also really gratifying.

Anke:
Last question for me, Robin, the journey of insider took you ten years. So if we now, let’s say, fast forward over ten years, where are you then?

Johan:
What are you doing?

Robin van Lieshout:
Yeah, that’s very good question. I have no freaking idea.

Anke:
Okay.

Anke:
Coming out this month, I guess that’s like a thing.

Robin van Lieshout:
I did a lot of cool stuff in the last two years, so I decided to stay at gameside. Not because I had to. There was no earn out or it was not mandatory, but I was like, hey, let’s play Champions League and SaaS. It’s a company doing a few hundred million in AR. I’m responsible for the overall strategy for M A, for strategic partnerships. I just bought a company myself, right. Which is as part of my role, which is fun. To be on the other side, I wrote a book which is published by Wiley.

Robin van Lieshout:
It’s on Amazon, I think, this week. So I did lots of great stuff. I did a lot of investments. But ten years from now, I don’t know, I think the question for me is how long do I still want to be an operator in an organization? Do I want to start something new with a group of people again and really be excited about a new problem I can solve? Do I want to be more turning towards the investor side and helping other founders as an advisor, board member, stuff like that? So that’s something I need to figure out. I haven’t spent any time off yet. After the acquisition, I immediately continue to work at gameside. So I think the first step I should probably do is maybe take a few months off and see what comes next, because I’ve been in this action to do mode for the last 20 years or so. So that’s probably the first step, but that’s probably not going to take ten years.

Anke:
Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I guess my last question, because you’ve had a very remarkable path and also selling to US based company where you stayed, not because you had to, because you want to. So you’ve seen how companies there are being run. What is your wish for the Dutch ecosystem? Because ten years, like, a lot changed, I think your wish and what you like to contribute, if anything, definitely.

Robin van Lieshout:
So now working for a US. Based company, in the executive team there, things move really fast. They have high ambition. They’re spending a lot of cash fast to make sure that they can grow. They place their bets. Data analytics is like super high standards. I think the biggest thing I would say if I look at what Gamesight is doing, what I’ve done with inside it, and if I look at the Dutch ecosystem, is maybe more ambition. I think founders should really strive for more.

Robin van Lieshout:
Don’t settle for one, two, $3 million in AR. No, go way further than that, right? Build a $10 million company, $50 million company, 100 million dollar company, and really strive for excellence.

Johan:
Right?

Robin van Lieshout:
Spend a lot of time on performance management, expect the best, drive a huge sense of urgency. That’s also something I miss in the Netherlands sometimes. Like, no, oh, we can do it tomorrow. No, why not today?

Johan:
Right?

Robin van Lieshout:
Time is moving very fast. So more ambition. That’s what I hope for the Dutch ecosystem.

Anke:
Cool. Now you can take a break. Whatever you decide to do, if you take some time off and I think come back, because I think your experience is extremely valuable to the ecosystem. So anything that we didn’t ask that you still want to share or did we cover most of the key points of at least this part of your journey.

Robin van Lieshout:
I mean, there’s so much I can tell also about the deal dynamics and how such a negotiation process goes and some funny anecdotes around that so happy to share with any founder who’s in the same process can always connect with me. And I can help support, share some of my experiences, because selling your company is not something you do a lot, right? So getting perspectives from others who’ve done that before, I think is really helpful.

Anke:
And buy your book, right? Which is available via Amazon this week.

Robin van Lieshout:
Buy my book. It’s about building your own online or your own customer community, I would say. And I think that’s the next growth strategy for all of tech companies. So this is definitely high on the list, I would say, on your reading list.

Anke:
Okay. Thanks a lot, Robert. Thanks for sharing your story.

Johan:
Cool.

Robin van Lieshout:
Thanks for having me.

Madelon:
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The Big Exit show. We hope you enjoyed today. If so, please subscribe to our show on Spotify or your favorite podcast platform. If you have feedback or suggestions for guests that you want to see on the show, please send us a message to podcast at peak capital. Thanks again for listening and hope you join us for the next episode.