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The company giving e-commerce entrepreneurs a strong start

Q & A with Carl Waldekranz CEO, Tictail

Carl WaldekranzHT: What is the concept behind Tictail?Tictail e-commerce entrepreneurs

CW: Tictail’s vision is a big one. We want to become the world’s most used and loved e-commerce platform. We believe that the first step towards reaching this goal is to democratise selling online, allowing anyone, in particular e-commerce entrepreneurs, to set up an online store.

Tictail makes it easier than ever before to create a beautiful online store for free.

HT: What was your own background prior to forming Tictail?

CW: I started a boutique digital agency directly after high school with one of the Tictail co-founders (Kaj Drobin) and our niche was to create designs for digital tech companies. For example, we did a lot of work with Wrapp on their brand identity and logo. We built our customer base and were then acquired by one of Sweden’s biggest brand agencies, Identity Works. During that time I had the chance to work within the e-commerce space and with innovative companies who were pushing the boundaries of what is possible and then on the other hand working on e-commerce platforms that were flawed with legacy thinking and tired features. The consumer side of the web has come so far but the B2B space is quite slow moving.

HT: Tictail is now powering more than 17,000 stores across 98 countries. What have been the challenges of managing that rate of growth?

CW: One of the things about working in a start-up environment is that your biggest challenge changes completely every quarter. I still remember when we had just quit our jobs and at that time we were concerned with where we would find an office. Once we found a space, it became about how we would recruit our first employee and then it was time to launch!

HT: You raised $1.6m in funding from Balderton Capital last October. How did that investment come about?

CW: Having developed the product to a point where we felt it had taken good shape, we created a shortlist of investors we felt deserved to invest in Tictail! It was a list of ten investors we would like to speak with and have on board. We looked at the investors and then at the companies that they had invested in. We made sure to speak to one of the entrepreneurs in each investor’s portfolio and started by pitching our own idea to other entrepreneurs. If they liked what they heard and believed in Tictail, we asked for an introduction to their investors. Balderton Capital was one of the first investors we had a meeting with and we are delighted they chose to invest in us.

To me it was important to find an investor that not only had a great track record but someone that I could have an open discussion with about the product. We immediately hit it off, had a good understanding and had the same kind of values when it came to building a company.

HT: Did you look in your domestic market for investment or did you look across Europe and into the US from day one?

CW: We did look at our domestic market and we met the two major investors in Sweden, Creandum and Northzone. I think they’re great and I would be happy to work with them in some context at some point.

HT: What is the revenue model for Tictail? Is it 3rd party apps, a premium version of the product or something else?

CW: For me it has always been very clear from day one. With our vision of becoming the world’s most used and loved e-commerce platform it is absolutely essential for us to remove all and all barriers for someone to set up an online store. It was obvious to us from the beginning that we would have to build it on a freemium model; we had to incorporate free into our thinking. What also became very clear to us was that one of our most important USPs is the ease of use and the UX of our product. We had to create a product that is extremely easy and scaled down when you sign up but allows our merchants to grow with it and expand the functionality and capabilities as their need for a more complex online store grows. We decided very early on to build more of a platform than a product.

HT: As of march 2013, 30% of Tictail’s users were based in Sweden. What is the trend today?

CW: The trend is that Sweden is declining, not in terms of number of users but in ratio compared to the other markets. It is now accounts for about 25% roughly. The UK, US, Germany, France and Denmark each account for between 12-14% of our users, these are the main markets. From day one we have had a strategy and we are trying to implement it and iterate from it whilst we are growing. Right now we are focusing on doing a lot of tests both in the UK and Germany to find the perfect model to apply to other markets.

HT: In the US there will be lots of competition from the likes of Shopify. How much do you think a focus on aesthetics and user experience differentiates Tictail?

CW: To me user experience is a strong competitive advantage. I believe we have the smartest, most user friendly interface. Shopify is a great company, they have 170 employees, powering around 55,000 stores globally. They have 7 years advantage over us but in some ways we have 7 years advantage over them because the web looked very different when they were starting out.

HT: You’re team now consists of 12 people. What have been the challenges of hiring talent Sweden?

CW: Growing the team is always the biggest challenge. For me, Tictail is more than an idea, it is a culture and that’s what makes Tictail special and what has taken the product to where it is today. We spend an enormous amount of time on thinking about hiring, who to hire and what characteristics we are looking for in a person. We would never simply hire a developer or a designer, we would look for a real product person, an entrepreneur who knows how to develop or how to design. One of the main reasons we decided to stay in Stockholm was because of the quality of design and engineering talent that exists here. There really is world class talent here.

HT: How have you found the challenge of leadership and ever quickening growth?

CW: I’m loving it! This is not a job, it is a hobby. I’m a very strong believer in building great teams. I hope to be not only a CEO that… but one that supports. I should be the person that can protect the organisation from outside noise and help people reach their full potential.

HT: What are your continuing ambitions for Tictail. How big can this become for e-commerce entrepreneurs?

CW: I’d like to see Tictail become something that is bigger than just online stores. I hope we can become a company that enables people to become entrepreneurs no matter what the challenge for them might be. It is endless what we can do in this space, especially when you stop thinking about online stores. This is about enabling entrepreneurship and we are just getting started.