Hampus Jakobsson might be one of the most active entrepreneurs and business angels, not just in this region but the Nordics in general. Having co-founded and run The Astonishing Tribe, often referred to as TAT, he made his biggest exit in 2010, when they where acquired by Blackberry.

We catched up with him, about how his current startup, as well as insight into his thoughts on building a company.

Starting Dexplora

Knowing what his latest startup should be was a strategic decision for Hampus and his co-founder Mikael Tellhed. They wanted to be in a business where they could learn about sales – real “high velocity sales” and not the kind of “elephant hunting” they did at TAT. They were both in love with data visualisation (and had plenty of skills from their learnings at TAT in it) but didn’t know where it could be put to really valuable use. The startup became to create a tool to help salesmen in the corporate world get an better overview over their prospects and general sales insight. It got a name: Dexplora – for Data exploration.

“We wanted to create a tool that enabled salespeople to understand and easily manage all the data they had. A great looking and user friendly CRM (customer relation management).”

Pivots and micro-pivots

After a while, and the addition of two co-founders (Alfred Gunnarsson and Andreas Pålsson) and the departure of one (Henrik Been), the team realised that Dexplora was however not the best solution to the problems.

“We found that visualising the data was useless as most of the data, frankly, was crap. Salespeople did not use the CRM at all or at least not as intended.“

Dexplora pivoted to be a “data cleaning tool” – where the idea was to increase usage of the sales tools (the CRM) so that the information in it could be used to forecast, see the competitor landscape, and material to train new sales people. The new product was called GetSalesDone. For the sales person it was a task manager with a heavy focus on UX and design.

However, after building a working solution and integrating it with the CRM Salesforce, the product still was not the right one. another pivot was done – Brisk.io was created. Brisk.io still has the Salesforce integration, but this time it was a merge between Dexplora’s top-down managment focused approach and the ease of use and users from GetSalesDone. The company could now design an ideal way of working with customers and the salespeople would get a tailor made tool. The result was not just happier salesmen but better insight for management.

Naming: Dexplora -> GetSalesDone -> Brisk.io

“We just made it easy for ourselves and saw the name as any agile process. When we started the company we knew that we wanted the name of the company to be that of the product, and Dexplora was both. When we changed product to GetSalesDone, we didn’t change the name till the product had proven itself, and it didn’t. And when finally Brisk.io proved itself as product we changed the name of the company to that too.”

Lessons learned

“In the beginning we just talked to sales managers and salespeople – if I did it again today we would have structured this a lot more. I would find 10 people every day on LinkedIn or something and I would ask them what their headaches were and whatever they answered I would proceed with asking ‘why’, ‘why’, ‘why’’. And after that, ‘why’ again, till we got to the core of what the problem and its consequences.”

He recently made an excellent blogpost about this method, which goes into it in much greater details. You can read it here.

“I would have done this in combination with meeting some users that are really knowledgeable that would end up being almost advisors – for us it turned out good, with Lars Nordwall, the COO and VP Sales at Neo Technology in San Francisco, becoming one of those.”

Strength and weaknesses

When it comes to building a startup, getting the right people on board is crucial. Here Hampus had some interesting insights as well: that a person’s strength are also always the person’s weakness. When it comes to hiring and deciding who should be on what team, this was important.

“All people have skills, strengths, and weaknesses. What I have found is that mature people realise these are all the same, just different sides of the coin. A person’s strength is also their weakness. I know that I myself am very quick to reply, but that doesn’t make me the most thorough and prone to quick decisions.”

Those seeing Hampus teams in action say that it is like watching a smoothly running machine, so we take it that his efforts to build good teams has payed off.

If you want to read more of Hampus insights, he writes interesting blogpost about different details every now and then, such as the one about the ‘Asking for success’ method above, or a recent one about ‘How-do-you-feel dinners’, about how to align the core team. Insightful lessons.