The CEO and founder of HappyOrNot Heikki Väänänen got up on stage at Finance Board and proved by telling his story, that when your idea is solid, the timing is right and a bit of luck can take you very far.
As a teenager Väänänen continuously experienced rude customer service from the sales clerk of a computer store. However unfortunate these encounters were, they led to the idea of the company: an easy and anonymous way of giving feedback that would reach the company’s directors. HappyOrNot was founded in 2009 and they are now operate in 119 countries and are the global leader in instant satisfaction reporting.
How did things start with the investors?
“It was autumn 2016 when leading investors started contacting us. I guess we we’re on some list, but we don’t know which list we were on”, Väänänen recalls and laughter erupts in the audience. We were not looking for funding, but investors were contacting us and asking about our situation, he continues. At the time, the goal was not to sell but to create demand.
When HappyOrNot started talking with investors, they did not have a ready deck to present to them. This time not having a polished deck paid off and they received good feedback from investors who liked the honesty and transparency of seeing real company material. “I had no idea what the right level of valuation would be. I was testing valuation from 40 million to 80 million”, Väänänen says.
Getting the investors onboard
Towards the end, HappyOrNot had deeper discussions with three investors but ended up choosing Northzone. Väänänen explained that their knowledge of the market and of SAAS business along with their experience and networks is what sealed the deal.
“Northzone welcomed us to London. On the airplane we realized that it would in fact be a partner meeting, so we’d be needing a presentation”, Väänänen tells. They ended up spending the few hours before the meeting in a restaurant in London preparing the presentation. “The presentation was based on what we thought our employees would say of us, luckily the investors thought it was great!”
A new strategy was formed together as HappyOrNot was about to get an injection of capital and had no plan for it. “Luckily they shared the vision with us and intend to go in the same direction. This gave us a lot of room to move in.”
Airtree from Australia was HappyOrNot’s second investor. “They gave us 4 million and we never even met them. Apparently, it is common to meet the investor, but Australia is very far away”, Väänänen entertains the audience. “The process took seven or eight skype calls and less than two months.”
Don’t be shy about asking questions
When it came to asking questions like “What can you ask from investors? What can you not? When should I say this?” Väänänen spoke weekly with the chairman of the board Tero Luoma and got a lot of help on how to interact with investors.
Look for long-term partners who share your vision
For HappyOrNot it was important to find an investor who shared their vision and appreciation for the team. For them it is not only about the future profits. “Some investors were asking what would our profit be in two years. All they were interested in were figures”, Väänänen explains why they dumped certain investor candidates.
“Now investors want the company to reach 1B valuation, they call and ask how far are we from being a unicorn.”
So, where are they heading next?
“It is about taking everything to the next level. We have been selling and creating a great service. Now it’s about building up operations and hiring a lot of people.”
Written by Annika Sipilä, Boardman Oy