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Episode #45

Christoffer Rutgersson co-founded Bambora, and helped lead the startup to a 1.5 billion euro exit. Then he became CEO of public fintech company Qliro, quickly turning it profitable while doubling down on growth.

3 takeaways from the conversation with Christoffer Rutgersson

1. Strategic Acquisitions and Hyper-Growth: A Recipe for Innovation

Rutgersson’s tenure at Bambora epitomizes the essence of strategic growth in the fintech space. By acquiring 14 businesses within the first 18 months and recruiting almost 400 people in three years, Bambora was able to deliver a simplified, omni-channel payment solution tailored for SMEs. This aggressive expansion strategy not only disrupted the traditional bank-dominated payments ecosystem but also laid the groundwork for Bambora’s success, culminating in a €1.5 billion exit. The key takeaway for businesses is the importance of growth-focused strategies that leverage acquisitions to consolidate market position and enhance product offerings.

2. Embracing Change and Organizational Agility

At the heart of Rutgersson’s approach is a commitment to organizational agility. Qliro’s transformation under his leadership underscores the necessity of continuous reevaluation and adaptation. By embracing change, be it through frequent reorganizations or the strategic realignment of resources, Qliro managed to pivot towards profitable growth. This readiness to reinvent, coupled with a culture that balances chaos with control, serves as a critical lesson for businesses aiming to thrive in dynamic markets. It’s about growth, yes, but also about ensuring that this growth is sustainable and grounded in the company’s core values.

3. Focusing on Core Strengths and Product Market Fit

Perhaps the most significant driver of Qliro’s resurgence is Rutgersson’s focus on leveraging the company’s core competencies to address specific market needs effectively. By honing in on digital payment solutions for e-commerce merchants and emphasizing a superior merchant and consumer experience, Qliro has successfully differentiated itself in a crowded marketplace. Rutgersson’s narrative is a compelling reminder of the power of specialization and the need for businesses to continually reassess their product-market fit in response to evolving industry landscapes.

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Watch episode: From unicorn co-founder to public company CEO

Podcast transcript

[00:00:29] Josua: Christopher Rutgersson is the CEO of Qliro, a publicly traded fintech company that provides digital payment solutions for e commerce merchants. As CEO, he quickly turned the company from losing money towards profitability. Previously, he played a key role in leading another payment company, Bambora, through hyper growth and ultimately a one and a half billion euro exit.

[00:00:50] Josua: As you might expect, we covered a lot of topics related to both growth and profitability. Please enjoy this conversation with Christoffer.

[00:01:01] Josua: Before we get into Qliro, I’d love to hear a little bit about your background, specifically around Bambura and then the growth journey you did there. So how did the, how did you end up, end up there? What’s your kind of background? 

[00:01:15] Christoffer: I mean, sure. I’ve been in payments for quite long now, starting off in Bambura.

[00:01:19] Christoffer: I was, I’m so kind of a serial entrepreneur. So I’ve kind of done a couple of companies in the past. I was a consultant for a few years at Boston Consulting Group, but then ending up doing a big project with Nordic Capital, a private equity investor in the Nordics that, uh, where we were looking into, uh, kind of the payment space and then, so I was part of kind of forming this, the strategy for what became the foundation for Bambora and when, and when they made their first investment, I kind of joined as kind of head of strategy or a chief strategy officer, kind of running, uh, kind of our expansion of Bambora, you know, we, we.

[00:01:57] Christoffer: Uh, we had a strategy of kind of building a payment solution that was doing both omni channel payments as well as kind of covering everything that can have an SME merchant need or can have small and medium sized merchant needs. At that time, this was roughly 10 years ago, in 2014, kind of the payment ecosystem was not as developed as it is today.

[00:02:18] Christoffer: It was mostly run by banks. So if you needed to sign up for a new payment solution as a merchant in a physical environment like a cafe or a restaurant or a small shop, you needed to contact your bank. You could kind of be waiting your phone for up to an hour and you could get, uh, Contracts of like 70 pages, uh, to get started and you needed to have multiple different vendors, one for the card terminal, one for the card agreement.

[00:02:44] Christoffer: If you had an online shop, you needed a separate agreement, different agreements for every payment method and so on. So we, our ambition at that time was just to, to simplify everything, packaging everything in a simple patch, package that was easy to buy and easy to sell and covered kind of everything that a small merchant needed and kind of focusing a lot on the merchant experience and, uh, But in order to achieve that we, we acquired 14 different businesses in the first 18 months and we recruited almost 400 people the first three years, so it was quite an aggressive kind of growth journey.

[00:03:16] Christoffer: We kind of got the business up to, to roughly 800 people kind of after the first three years, uh, bringing on almost 100 merchants a day. And I was kind of heading up our expansion both across kind of the Nordic markets, but also in, we also had a business in Canada and Australia. So we were working with quite a lot of the e commerce merchants, kind of in both Canada and Australia actually.

[00:03:43] Christoffer: It was very exciting times. 

[00:03:46] Josua: I must have, I can only imagine how chaotic it must have been. 18 companies, 400 people. You know, I guess every system starts breaking very quickly and you’re just trying to kind of hang on to the wheel as you’re growing. 

[00:03:59] Christoffer: I think we reorganize the business at least once every six months, because as you say, when you scale at that speed, you have every process, kind of a system breaks at some point.

[00:04:13] Christoffer: Uh, I had a lot of discussions with our kind of, uh, New York City product officer at the time, it was like, I tried too much chaos and we finally agreed that it’s okay to have a chaos for a while, as long as you don’t have chaos in, in, in the same place or in the same process for, for too long. Uh, but better to focus on growth first and then, then you solve it on the way.

[00:04:32] Christoffer: Rather than trying to fix everything perfectly before you scaled or before you increase sales investments or bringing on more customers because then and you will never you will never get it into perfect shape anyway and then and you’re just waiting 

[00:04:47] Josua: and you ended up eventually i think exiting for like something like 1.

[00:04:53] Josua: 5 billion um what were if yeah it’s a very broad question and i’m sure there were a lot of ingredients but is there anything looking back that you say Well, that was, that was one of the key factors that enabled this really successful, rapid growth. 

[00:05:10] Christoffer: It was, it was a couple of things. Uh, first of all, I think we had a very good product market fit at the time.

[00:05:16] Christoffer: Uh, we simplified payments that, that kind of no one in the Nordics had done before. And then we scaled that in more markets. Uh, secondly, Uh, we, we were quite heavy kind of investing in growth. Uh, so we, we, we scaled up our kind of sales and marketing activities very early before we had, we know if that would be working out.

[00:05:37] Christoffer: So we started to get traction in Sweden and then we decided to launch in Norway and Denmark with our first attempt in Norway. For example, we didn’t, it didn’t really play out as we thought we, we, we hired four salespeople in Norway, we had almost no traction and after a year we decided to. It kind of completely rebuild our Norwegian team, uh, scaling it down from four to zero and then hiring 20 people and it kind of went in with five times the effort we had done before.

[00:06:05] Christoffer: And then we just had to make it work because we had so many people in Norway that we couldn’t fail. I think that’s a bit of my learning that sometimes you go And then then you don’t make it because you’re not going to fully committed to to the expansion or to the growth. Because if you if you’re not going to have invested enough, then also you don’t have to make it work and you can continue to testing or continue to fail.

[00:06:28] Christoffer: But if you. If you commit to kind of a growth journey, then suddenly you also kind of have to succeed or or you, you fail too big. Um, so, uh, yeah, but, but apart from that, yeah, I think also one, one big learning, uh, was that we’ve, uh, we, we put a lot of effort into building kind of a scalable, uh, growth system, as we call it.

[00:06:52] Christoffer: Uh, putting together kind of a technology stack to support, uh, Uh, support growth, both support sales and marketing kind of from kind of early kind of demand generation, elite generation kind of across the sales funnel and onboarding channel and kind of a customer success for us to be able to track everything from, from start to end, both from a CRM perspective, but also from data and analytics and quite early kind of figured out what was our kind of growth economics of in kind of a different customer segment, different campaigns, different kind of sales efforts.

[00:07:26] Christoffer: So we. And we figured out that we had, on new sales and marketing investments, um, we had a kind of a payback that was quicker than 12 months, uh, on new investments, so we brought that to our investors quite early and convinced them that, okay, if we have this kind of good return, we should probably invest more.

[00:07:45] Christoffer: And we got the decision, uh, almost overnight, to kind of double our sales efforts. So we went from 50 salespeople to 100 salespeople in, uh, Kind of the next six months after that. And I think if we wouldn’t have figured that out, we would, it probably wouldn’t have been able to convince our investors that we should, should double down or kind of scaling up and we would probably have grown.

[00:08:04] Christoffer: Kind of much slower than we did. 

[00:08:06] Josua: That makes a lot of sense. And I think it can seem from the outside to where some companies are growing really fast that they’re just burning money. But I guess to your point, if you can show some really favorable economics, um, and that this actually is sustainable, then you, you have access to a lot more funding.

[00:08:24] Josua: And, and I think also to your point about the commitment, I think you see that a lot, especially with international expansion, you kind of want to try. You’re, you know, you dip your toe into the water, like you said, you’re not really committed. And so when it doesn’t end up working out the first time you just pull back and look at it as a lesson learned.

[00:08:43] Josua: Um, 

[00:08:44] Christoffer: I guess that’s true for most, uh, kind of high growth companies that are kind of into kind of analytics, but, but, uh, many companies that is not growing as much or it’s not as developed in this area, probably look at the whole company financials or they look at the. a segment or a market or and kind of looking at the kind of profitability as a whole and then kind of growth may not look that attractive but if you get into kind of microeconomics of growth kind of looking at okay what’s the profitability on a certain campaign, what’s the profitability of that certain market or So I think in a sales effort and you find these pockets where you have very good returns and and then are kind of bold enough to scale it up.

[00:09:26] Christoffer: And then, then you know, hopefully that it will work out and then of course it’s also kind of a lot of work to kind of be able to do that. But, uh, Uh, that was a bit of our key to success. 

[00:09:40] Josua: Interesting. And so, but you know, the exit that’s been, that’s a few years ago. Um, what made you decide to, after that kind of very intense journey to get back into payments, um, was it kind of, yeah.

[00:09:51] Josua: Well, what led you then to Qliro after, uh, Bambora? I think 

[00:09:56] Christoffer: payments is quite exciting. And then Bambora for me was the most fun thing I’ve done in my professional life. And it was a bit too quick, you kind of, uh, I think we, both me and many people on our, our team would probably have a kind of way, kind of wanted to kind of continue that journey for another three, five, 10 years, but, but, uh, we had a good opportunity, made an kind of a sales process or kind of an exit to, to Indienico group and, but that was also.

[00:10:27] Christoffer: Kind of after that, a part of Indienico Group heading up strategy for all our payments businesses within Indienico for, for two years, mostly working with payments across Europe because they had acquired multiple different payment platforms, but not really consolidated them into kind of one culture or one team.

[00:10:45] Christoffer: And it was kind of managed a bit from France, uh, at the kind of our headquarter in Paris by Indienico. By kind of, uh, by Excel and, and, uh, uh, many of the entrepreneurs had left. And so I, I, I supported them and kind of turning that business around, uh, doubling growth and kind of doubling profit over two years.

[00:11:03] Christoffer: And uh, I think payments is quite exciting because it’s a good combination of working very closely with merchants that are kind of typically quite entrepreneurial driven organizations, which, which is fun. And. Uh, and then kind of payments have the kind of combination of both being quite technical with kind of quick market development and you need to be a bit kind of innovative to succeed, which is fun, but then also having the analytical side of a lot of transactions that you can optimize in different ways.

[00:11:33] Christoffer: Uh, and I’m, uh, I’m an analyst, uh, kind of at heart, uh, built up some of our analytics team at Bambora. So I think that’s a kind of a lot of. Lot of fun from an intellectual perspective. So, so that combination I think is, is fantastic. And, uh, but for some time I thought I would probably not get back into kind of an operational role.

[00:11:53] Christoffer: I thought that would be some kind of, uh, tech investor and we kind of made a few investments to kind of smaller tech companies in, in primarily in Sweden. I worked on kind of the board of directors for, for a few of them, but then. Figured out I was kind of longing to, to kind of get back into the details and actually, actually build a business.

[00:12:11] Christoffer: Thought I would start something on my own, but then the opportunity with Qliro came up. Uh, cause Qliro was a bit, uh, kind of, had a bit of a crisis. Uh, I’d lost, uh, lost kind of the core, uh, kind of of the business that I would, Qliro have a very good foundation. It was started kind of by merchants, core merchants as kind of.

[00:12:30] Christoffer: Part of one of the largest merchants in the Nordics that, that you kind of kicked out a competitor and built their own solution. So we had a very good foundation from a product perspective with a modular payment solution and it kind of very much focused on kind of consumer experience and building kind of a good experience for the merchant.

[00:12:49] Christoffer: But then. Uh, they’ve never really kind of invested in scaling the business up, uh, because they had so many merchants internally within that group, and they, they had tested a bit to sell to other merchants, but not, not scaled up like, uh, Klana, or Trustly, kind of other kind of payment businesses, uh, kind of coming out of Sweden, and Uh, I thought it was a kind of good opportunity to take this platform and, and try to build something new within payments with kind of the right foundation from the start, not acquiring a lot of different platforms, but rather scaling kind of more organically.

[00:13:24] Christoffer: Um, I think the challenge we had with Vambora and also Indienico was that we had so many platforms and we had, we had this idea that we, we could actually kind of combine platforms. So kind of move customers from one platform to another and being very kind of. Getting kind of synergies and cost efficiencies out of that.

[00:13:45] Christoffer: But in reality, it’s super complex to migrate one, one technical platform from another. Because customers sit with their kind of their custom APIs and integrations. And there’s so much technical complexity into that. So that’s where one kind of area that we didn’t succeed with. So I thought if we start this over, I kind of, I want a good platform to start with.

[00:14:07] Christoffer: Rather kind of expand and build that organically. Um, so, uh, so that’s a bit of the ambition with Qliro to, to kind of fill the space in the market, I think no one is doing a really good payment solution for merchants kind of across Europe. There are a couple of good players, but, but it’s targeting different part of the kind of ecosystem, but, but no one doing it really well for e commerce from my perspective.

[00:14:34] Christoffer: So, uh, um, I’ll give, give it a second round and see how it goes. 

[00:14:40] Josua: I love that. We’ll have to get back to the strategy. Um, so, so you ended up getting, like you said, you hadn’t considered getting into an operational role. Then you ended up very much into back into the weeds, back into the details. And if I understood correctly, you started off as a consultant for Qliro.

[00:14:56] Josua: Um, they brought you in as an consultant and then you stepped into the role of CEO in October of 2022. 

[00:15:04] Christoffer: And that’s partly true. So. The story is that, uh, the kind of the former CEO, uh, left kind of, I think it was the end of 2021, uh, Qliro had a bit of a crisis. We, we started off as a kind of a credit kind of company, uh, selling kind of different kind of credits to consumers, uh, mostly kind of coming from e commerce and pay later with invoices and installments.

[00:15:27] Christoffer: But. The former management team had more of a banking background thought kind of clear would be the next neobank of the Nordics and kind of start to sell a lot of different financial services to consumers, including loans and they have, and I think that was a big fuck up and then part of that old management team left in the end of 2021.

[00:15:48] Christoffer: Uh, they brought in an interim CEO and they didn’t really know what they were going to do with the business. And then, uh, I happened to know that the interim CEO, because I worked with him in the past doing a turnaround of another business 10 years ago. So he called me and asked like, Christopher, what do you think of Qliro?

[00:16:06] Christoffer: Uh, do you know anything about the kind of payments from Babora that you could teach us? And, and, uh, I met him for a lunch and kind of gave him kind of 10, a list of 10 points. So I thought that kind of, this is probably what Qliro. Need to do or kind of where the challenges are that you need to solve and and he called me back over the two weeks I said, okay, you’re right at least eight of those could we talk again and we figured out that he was not into Being CEO for a long time.

[00:16:30] Christoffer: He saw it more of a kind of short term kind of interim Engagement and he wanted to do something else more long term and then he asked me if I wanted to take over and then I figured out that this is quite interesting, but then I didn’t want to take this just as a job, but rather I So C Clear is kind of building something new on my own and then figuring out, is this a good platform?

[00:16:51] Christoffer: So I offered, uh, him and kind of the board of directors that, uh, I could come in as a consultant under the hood to give them a reason to bring me in. And I could do my own due diligence on kind of the growth opportunity and the platform and the people and then kind of to figure out, do we actually have a good product market fit and is the kind of technology good for scaling or Or is this kind of, uh, kind of a shitty platform that will never work out anyway, and But being under the hood, kind of, for, for six months, I figured out, kind of, the foundation is good.

[00:17:23] Christoffer: But, uh, yeah, there was a lot of things that we needed to fix to, uh, To be able to get the right foundation to, to take it to the next step. 

[00:17:33] Josua: Got it. And I, I guess one of the, the things that, uh, was kind of, um, one of the, on the list of priorities was getting to profitability and, um, you, you brought the first quarter of profit.

[00:17:45] Josua: The first quarter of profitability was 22 Q1, 2023. And since then you’ve had four quarters, um, of profitability. So I’d be interested to. Learn just about, um, cause to me, it feels like, okay, you, it’s one thing to have this real intense focus on growth and you need to do it sustainably. You can’t just be burning money, but still it’s a very different mindset.

[00:18:08] Josua: But then to come in and to, to turn, turn it around to toward profitability. I feel like it takes a certain, certainly takes a focus on different, different aspects. So was that a challenge for you? And how did you go about. Turning clear to profitability. 

[00:18:23] Christoffer: It, it was one of our big issues at the time that we were kinda massively losing money.

[00:18:29] Christoffer: 2 20 22, we lost 150 million. Out of that, roughly 50 million was investment. They kinda turn their business around. But, uh, and I think the investors were not very happy to kind put more money in before we found the right direction of the company. And, uh, uh, so when I came in, I was also kind of part of building that path for how, how to turn around the business.

[00:18:49] Christoffer: Uh, without scaling down on people, but rather kind of making the kind of also the right investments for, for the future. So, uh, clearly I have a background of, of kind of doing quite heavy investments into the platform and kind of investing in growth, but, uh, some of that investment didn’t pay off, so we’re not growing as much as expected.

[00:19:06] Christoffer: And then instead got too much cost in relation to, to kind of the revenue. And, uh, so what we did was kind of first of all, to kind of get back to the core and kind of focusing on e commerce, focusing on merchants and Kind of the merchant experience and their customer journey. And with that scaling down everything that was not supporting that, that ambition.

[00:19:27] Christoffer: Um, but we also have kind of coming from a background where given that we were focusing on kind of trying to scale the business fast, we, I think we did clear. I’d never had focused on cost efficiency. Um, and I think it’s same as kind of some of the other companies in that kind of former e commerce group, like Nelly and CD on, which is also kind of publicly listed that.

[00:19:49] Christoffer: It’s also been through kind of turnarounds during the last year to get the profitability that we had, uh, yeah, contracts that been kind of running for, on suppliers for kind of five, six, seven years without ever being renegotiated, kind of IT licenses that wasn’t used or kind of internal processes that were not very kind of effective and so on.

[00:20:11] Christoffer: So what we did was basically, uh, we probably thrown out kind of 10, 15 percent of all our suppliers. renegotiated every single contract, we kind of remodeled our office to become smaller because most people were working from home anyway. Uh, so we kind of halved the kind of the office space. We, and we, we changed most of our internal systems.

[00:20:34] Christoffer: We kind of changed ERP systems, ERM system, customer support system, and so on to both to get down in cost, but also kind of to create more scalable processes and more efficient processes. Doing a lot of automations to reduce manual work and so on. So, and we also had a lot of consultants. So we, we kind of changed out the consultants for staff.

[00:20:53] Christoffer: And with that change, we, we, we also from an organizational perspective, we, uh, we changed almost the whole management team. More than 50 percent of our leaders. And, and I think now at this point, probably, yeah, more than 60 percent of staff is, is kind of new into Qliro during the last 18 months. And with that, doing some changes with kind of reducing, uh, you can have middle management and, and kind of getting people more focused on, on sales and product development.

[00:21:25] Christoffer: So, so we actually, at this time, probably a quadrupled our sales efforts, so kind of sales investments. Uh, and also increased the kind of number of developers in the company by, I think, almost 40 percent this time. But, uh, at the same time, we’re kind of taking it to profitability. So we, we didn’t only reduce cost, but kind of try to kind of rather kind of reorganize the kind of our spend towards kind of what makes sense.

[00:21:52] Josua: You listed off like, um, you know, a handful, a few dozen things there. And each of those things take an enormous amount of effort and time to accomplish. So how are you able to do, cause it’s one thing to come in and just say, let’s focus on cost. So let’s do the renegotiations and reduce the office space and all those things.

[00:22:12] Josua: But at the same time, could we be doubling efforts on developers and sales? I mean, these are two. It’s just, so there’s a how, how, how we able to get all of this accomplished in, in, in what is still a very short period of time. 

[00:22:27] Christoffer: I mean, part of it is of course kinda having, having a great team place that is kind of really wants to drive change.

[00:22:33] Christoffer: It also promoted a lot of people that really wanted to make a difference. And uh, so we, we had I think a lot of young talents within RO that we, we kind of gave, uh. Give everyone that kind of wanted to take part of this year and a quite a big, a big responsibility or accountability to, to kind of drive their own initiatives and be part of driving this change.

[00:22:53] Christoffer: So, uh, and the ones that, that didn’t want to support this, uh, we typically left the company because they thought it was too chaotic or too aggressive to, to do all of these changes in a short time. Uh, so it was a big team effort where like every function in the company had a kind of a big agenda of kind of transforming their function in different ways and it was, uh, uh, yeah, almost a bit kind of surprising was for me that we can be manageable of many of the initiatives even kind of three to six months before I had expected that we would actually be ready.

[00:23:26] Christoffer: But, um, it’s been a good journey and now we’re focusing kind of, kind of more on kind of reinvesting that into kind of growth opportunities and kind of start to scale the business again, which is even more exciting. Yeah, 

[00:23:41] Josua: I can imagine. I mean, you kind of have set the foundation, but I guess your focus, your interest really lies, um, focused on, on the future and growth.

[00:23:50] Josua: I just want to double tap on something you said, 60 percent of people kind of are new within the last 18 months, so, you know, you’ve hired a lot of people very quickly, what’s, what’s the kind of. Pitch that you make to people for, uh, we’re considering joining Qliro because I guess the labor market for tech in Sweden and Stockholm is very competitive.

[00:24:11] Josua: You mentioned a few, like the ecosystem is very strong. You’ve had a lot of successful, um, you know, Klarna, Icetel and so forth and so forth, but there’s a lot of other successful tech companies. So what’s been your kind of pitch or strategy for. Attracting a lot of talent very quickly. 

[00:24:30] Christoffer: I was thinking this couple of things, but first of all, I worked a lot of kind of getting, uh, kind of great people into our management team that can have a lot of experience from payments or e commerce or kind of other kind of fast growing tech companies.

[00:24:43] Christoffer: And I think all of those kind of new people coming in also kind of have a, kind of a good network of, of contacts they. Uh, kind of that they knew that they wanted to work with that kind of been part of it, but, but also a kind of cultural perspective. I think we’ve been very clear on, on account that we have high ambitions.

[00:25:00] Christoffer: We want to build a kind of a new European leader. And I think many people got excited about kind of raising the bar on the kind of the ambitious level in Clido. And I think at least internally that that’s created a lot of kind of positive momentum. And I think it also kind of during the last one, two years, I think many tech companies in, in, in Sweden, at least have had it quite challenging from an investor perspective, kind of shifting from, from growth to kind of a profitability agenda.

[00:25:30] Christoffer: And, and with that, many companies maybe got kind of a bit, kind of more, more negative culture, kind of a lot of staff reductions and so on. And we, we have, even if we have made a kind of a profitability journey, we We haven’t really made kind of staff reductions. We’re actually kind of more people today than we were before.

[00:25:47] Christoffer: And it was a try to do this in a very positive way to kind of bring the people with us. And so I think that kind of internal positive culture that we kind of reached profitability quite early and kind of started to kind of look more forward. I think it also kind of attracted a lot of kind of talents from other companies that were potentially scaling down.

[00:26:05] Christoffer: Um, and then, um, kind of people kind of leaving those companies because they thought it was more kind of, yeah, turning a bit more kind of negative or. Yeah, you want it to be on someone that is a 

[00:26:15] Josua: bit more of a kind of forward looking. That, that makes a lot of sense, I mean momentum is so key because as people we extrapolate, we look, you know, what’s been happening recently, what’s the trend.

[00:26:25] Josua: And then we make our career choices based on that. Um, speaking of momentum, I think since you joined in October, 2022, the stock is up like 70, 80%. So that’s obviously very, very, very good news. Um, I’m curious, 

[00:26:40] Christoffer: sorry, it’s still low, low, 

[00:26:43] Josua: still, there’s still room to grow, but I’d be curious. Just, you know, this is the first time you’re, um, You’re in a kind of a pretty exclusive club as being a public company CEO.

[00:26:55] Josua: There’s not that many, and it’s, I’m guessing it’s very different than running a private company. Even if it’s a very like high growth, you’ve got investors, it’s very high stakes. Is it very different, this experience of being a public company, uh, CEO and the scrutiny that comes with that? And maybe the, the expectations around communication, around reaching targets, around, All those things, like, what’s that experience been like for you?

[00:27:20] Christoffer: It’s quite positive, uh, from my perspective, there’s I, I thought it would be more, more, more challenging, uh, actually being kind of a public company than, than I thought, but, but also when I was part of Indienico, we were also publicly listed in France, uh, in kind of the, the stock exchange in Paris, so kind of have some experience from kind of the, the quarterly reporting and so on, even if I was not the, the kind of the, uh, Uh, fronting the company at that time was also kind of involved in, in kind of preparing everything in the background.

[00:27:49] Christoffer: But, uh, but if I compare it to Bambora, I think Bambora was actually kind of even more challenging from kind of a reporting perspective. We had very strong, uh, kind of private equity owners that was very into the details of the business. I think then, I think our kind of monthly reporting at that time was, was more challenging than kind of the quarterly reporting I have now to the external investors.

[00:28:11] Christoffer: And, uh, but that had a kind of other positive side effects is kind of with having a kind of owners that’s very into the details and kind of understanding the business could also support you in a good way. But, uh, so now I kind of, we, we lack a bit of that maybe support, but on the other hand, um, I think being publicly listed also create some kind of, uh, Uh, free PR because there’s not that many kind of public companies, so kind of the press typically likes to write about kind of public companies, so whatever we publish we get some.

[00:28:42] Christoffer: Some additional kind of, uh, uh, yeah, it kind of getting more attention from, from, from a press perspective on the press releases and so on, which is, which is positive. We give some free marketing where we’re doing things well, but with also, of course, we probably give some, some negative side effects when we’re not doing things so well.

[00:28:59] Christoffer: So when we were kind of unprofitable, we got a lot of kind of bad press. And then, so, um, my, my actually, I think first or second quarter report, we were making quite heavy losses. I don’t know, it was quite, quite bad press and I just hope that, I hope they feel right about us when we’re turning this around and then so far so good, but, uh, um.

[00:29:19] Josua: What about the impact on, uh, morale and, and potentially the stock price being a distraction both when it goes up, both when there’s a massive value increase, but also a decrease and the fact that the equity value of the company is on public display five days a week and every employee. Can go and look at the, Oh, we’re down 5 percent today, or we’re up 10 percent for the quarter.

[00:29:44] Josua: Um, do you find that, uh, yeah, is, is that a, is that a distraction both for you personally and for, for the team? 

[00:29:52] Christoffer: Not really, we don’t talk that much about it actually. Of course it’s an opportunity for everyone that kind of invested into the company internally, and we have some kind of option or kind of warrant programs and so on for employees, but not, it’s not something that we talk a lot about.

[00:30:07] Christoffer: And I think also kind of being publicly listed, kind of the price will always go up and down, and kind of the price of the day is probably not reflecting. And I do rely on underlying value in the short term or in the long term. And so we’re focusing more on, on our internal metric because of kind of customer satisfaction and merchant satisfaction and the kind of how quick do we onboard new merchants?

[00:30:31] Christoffer: And it can have, how is, how are we working with our sales pipeline and so on. And if the sales pipeline would be low, I would be more worried and the kind of the stock price being low. So, uh, I think that’s better to kind of focus on kind of what, what can you actually control if you’re doing that well, then, then the rest will follow.

[00:30:49] Josua: Yeah. Controllable input metrics are, are much useful, more useful than whatever the market happens to, to say. I’d love to hear a little bit more about Qliro’s strategy. Um, it seems to me that you’re very much focused on helping merchants around conversion rate optimization, for instance. Is that kind of what, what, what the key strategies, uh, what are the, Yeah, 

[00:31:11] Christoffer: it’s definitely part of it.

[00:31:12] Christoffer: So, I mean, first of all, kind of our, our mission is to, to kind of deliver a world leading experience for merchants and their customer journey. Uh, so, um, we, we’re trying to do everything kind of around the kind of the merchant experience is kind of as good as possible, both. Kind of how we partner up with merchants, kind of how we support them in kind of achieving their ambitions, but also kind of from a, of course, a digital perspective when it comes to everything from kind of our kind of APIs and digital touch points and reporting and so on.

[00:31:41] Christoffer: But. But mostly we’re talking about kind of three kind of big value drivers for merchants. So the first one is conversion, as you mentioned, where I think engine has kind of clear has been like a good, good engine, but that haven’t been kind of really trimmed and optimized. And then, so, so we put a lot of kind of analytical effort into kind of optimize conversion over the last year with some good returns.

[00:32:03] Christoffer: Also working closely with some of our larger merchants on this kind of experimenting in different markets to say, how could we actually drive more conversion by. Kind of optimizing the user experience, kind of showing the right payment method for the right consumers with kind of the right, uh, kind of user experience and wording and, and so on, but also kind of optimizing our technical partnerships and adding new payment methods, uh, secondly, kind of, uh, we work a lot with, uh, What we call upsell, kind of helping the merchants to sell more in, in different ways.

[00:32:35] Christoffer: Primarily, kind of after the checkout, so at the kind of, in e commerce, you, you, you have kind of a checkout page that we deliver and then, but when you get to the thank you page after the payment, we, we kind of still keep the order open and enables the merchants to sell more. Kind of adding more products into the basket to increase order value and that, that’s typically kind of a good profit driver for the merchants because they’re sending some goods to the consumer anyway, kind of adding more products into that you have the same logistic cost, the orderer spent the same cost on marketing and so on, so Adding kind of more things into the order kind of adds a quite good kind of a gross profit to contribution.

[00:33:13] Christoffer: And then, and then third, we work a lot with kind of the consumer experience post purchase for, especially for kind of consumers paying with some of our pay later options. So we have our own kind of invoice and installment offerings kind of across the Nordics where. Uh, we touch maybe around, uh, slightly more than kind of 50 percent of the consumers typically that, that choose some kind of, kind of pay later option.

[00:33:37] Christoffer: And then the consumer get into our touch points on kind of in our app or web and so on to make their payments and then We’re trying to get the consumers back to the merchants where they came from, uh, and doing a lot of our touch points in kind of the merchant’s name or kind of showing the merchant in a good way and not, not like some of our competitors that are kind of doing more of their own experience with a lot of different deals or a price comparison or kind of different marketplace setups.

[00:34:06] Christoffer: We instead of trying to focus on kind of making that the kind of the, the merchant’s customer journey, I kind of respect that. The consumer is coming from a separate merchant that, and then the consumer needs to get back to that merchant and not someone else. And I think that’s a big, big driver of kind of loyalty for the consumer, for the merchants.

[00:34:23] Christoffer: And also kind of a big, big selling point in these days where kind of many merchants are kind of trying to, to improve their customer journey. 

[00:34:32] Josua: Oh, it seems like there’s a very clear distinction between you and let’s say some of the competitors. And you’re really focused on being that the, being the kind of the engine that helps these, um, these merchants focus, achieve their goals, which I guess today in this day and age is very much centered around profitability.

[00:34:51] Josua: Yeah. So some of the things that you mentioned are really helping them drive, um, whether it’s higher orders or higher return rates, returning customers. Uh, so that, that, that’s kind of like clear a strategy is to find, find really, um, really high quality merchants and then become their kind of partner in helping them achieve their goals.

[00:35:13] Christoffer: So when you look through the details, it’s like, if you get the 2 or 3 percent extra conversion, that’s, and that’s for an e commerce version, that’s 2 to 3 percent extra sales. At the same marketing effort. And then if you get into upsells, if you get the four or five or up to kind of 10 percent extra upsell, uh, that that’s also kind of then 4 percent to 10 percent extra sales, but, but typically at a higher gross margin, given that you have the same cost for shipping and the same cost for marketing.

[00:35:39] Christoffer: So that’s kind of just a pure kind of gross profit driver. And then if you can get a few kind of more customers back, then. You need to spend less on marketing because it’s, it’s cheaper to get, kind of, loyal consumers back again and again than they’re kind of constantly, kind of, trying to get new consumers, so.

[00:35:56] Christoffer: Um, it’s definitely when you start to look through the kind of economics from a kind of an e commerce perspective, it makes a lot of sense to, to work with a partner like us that we can kind of try to optimize all of these dimensions. 

[00:36:08] Josua: What did you see like concretely? Let’s, you know, not, not doing any, any specific names, but what kind of lifts have you seen when it comes to, um, converse rates, for instance, between a company that’s not doing, um, maybe anything really at all.

[00:36:24] Josua: And then maybe they switch out to your platform. And they started implementing some of the tools that you offer. Uh, like, what are we talking about in terms of Lyft? 

[00:36:33] Christoffer: It depends on what, what set up the merchant has before, if they’re using another checkout provider, if they have their own solution or, and then also kind of how much, how much kind of they are pre filling in terms of kind of consumer information.

[00:36:46] Christoffer: And most typically we know most of the consumers in the Nordics and then We can offer them a kind of a very, a kind of quick and simple checkout experience. And uh, uh, we just kind of internally during last year, we increased conversion on average roughly kind of two, three percentage points overall, kind of for, for all our merchants.

[00:37:08] Christoffer: And then kind of looking at new merchants coming in, it’s, it’s also typically in that range of kind of where they get to kind of a difference and, but some merchants have a very poor setup before and then it may be larger. And, uh, it may also depends a bit on kind of which, which provider are you changing from when you kind of move over to Qliro.

[00:37:26] Christoffer: Um, so, uh, and kind of what, what kind of payment mix you have. If you take a Swish payment today, for example, in Sweden, which is, is, uh, Uh, similar to like a MobilePay, uh, kind of transaction in Finland or Denmark, or a VIPs transaction in, kind of in Norway. Means some of our competitors make that journey very complex ’cause they, they maybe want to drive more, more pay later volume.

[00:37:48] Christoffer: And then they kind of add in, uh, seven additional or eight additional steps before you get to switch. And then of course, yeah, you may get more kind of pay later transactions, but the other hand you get quite low conversion or for the consumers actually want to pay with swish instead of going. Directly from the checkout to switch you.

[00:38:06] Christoffer: So, so there’s, there’s a lot of kind of small tweaks you can do. And we, we, we try to do as many of them as possible. 

[00:38:13] Josua: Got it. I guess from the conversion, sorry, from merchants point of view, it’s really helpful to have a partner that’s, that’s solely focused on like your main goal is for them to try to increase value, um, whatever the, whatever way they end up taking, uh, to get there.

[00:38:31] Christoffer: I mean, if the, if the merchants are succeeding, then we are succeeding. So, so it was, we, we wanted to. And we will also benefit from them having more transactions and so on, so it’s, uh, And it also makes it more fun and I, I mean, personally, I like a lot to work with kind of, uh, kind of entrepreneurial topics.

[00:38:48] Christoffer: I have been always kind of fascinated by kind of, uh, how you can build a business and how you can grow a business. And then working with e commerce, we have a lot of entrepreneurs, given that it’s, it’s quite easy to start your own e commerce or kind of scale up an e commerce. I think it’s a, we have a lot of, uh, kind of good, good customers and kind of partners in ecosystems that are kind of entrepreneurial driven businesses.

[00:39:11] Christoffer: And it’s, it’s, it’s a lot of kind of found to kind of collaborate and say, how can we actually support the merchants to kind of, uh, kind of improve their business, uh, either kind of from a financial perspective or growth perspective. 

[00:39:23] Josua: Got it. Um, I’m guessing you’re very well established in, Nordics at this point.

[00:39:28] Josua: How is, um. And you understand the market well. And like you said, you, you have the data on, on so many customers, consumers in the Nordics, but what about international expansion? Is that, uh, is that something that you foresee being a lot, a lot more difficult to expand? I mean, beyond, beyond the Nordics. 

[00:39:47] Christoffer: I mean, it’s definitely something we are planning and it’s, uh, there’s multiple dimensions to it.

[00:39:52] Christoffer: I mean, first of all, we’re supporting our kind of merchants growth. So we have already today, we can, we can support our merchants to come out to sell across the globe. Then we have a, uh, I think better coverage in Northern Europe and especially the Nordics than we have in, uh, maybe Southern Europe or kind of regions outside Europe.

[00:40:10] Christoffer: But we, we support all the kind of the more global payment methods kind of everywhere. And that we’re working on kind of local coverage, uh, currently primarily in kind of Northern Europe. I think most Nordic merchants are selling maybe majority of the volume in the Nordics and then you sell some to, uh, other countries.

[00:40:26] Christoffer: Maybe Germany, Netherlands, UK, Poland and so on, given that those markets are quite close also from a logistics perspective. Even merchants that cannot sell globally typically sell most of their volume in, kind of, in those markets. Um, but then, from, from our own perspective, uh, given that we already have quite a lot of volume in Norway, but we, we historically haven’t addressed, uh, local merchants in Norway.

[00:40:51] Christoffer: We’re setting that up now. So we recruited a Norwegian counter manager that is starting up in August. We’re now recruiting a commercial team in Norway. And we actually onboarded our first kind of larger Norwegian merchant today. So that’s kind of in full speed. And we’re also kind of looking into how can we support more European merchants that have a lot of Nordic volumes.

[00:41:16] Christoffer: I think that’s a great opportunity where they may not have optimized their kind of business for the Nordics, even if they sell a lot. If they’re using a solution from Germany or UK or whatever, it would be good from a European perspective, but not perfect in the Nordics. Yeah, so there’s multiple dimensions to it.

[00:41:35] Josua: Yeah, lots of growth avenues. And based on what I’ve been seeing, it seems like, I mean, you don’t need thousands of merchants. It’s rather about finding high quality, high growth merchants and supporting them. I mean, eventually, at some point, you’ll get to that scale, but where you’re currently at, it seems like you don’t need a lot to be able to grow.

[00:41:58] Christoffer: We’re coming from kind of having an enterprise background, which means we work with Kind of few, a bit bit large merchants, but, but we’re also scaling up now in with the kind of towards smaller merchants supporting a kinda smaller merchants that still want to kind of a more complex, more advanced solution that they can grow with.

[00:42:15] Christoffer: So we, we, we are packaging our kind of offering for, for smaller merchants. So we, we, we set up the target loss year. We want to kind of onboard that list, the one merchants today, and we kind of reaching that level now and then. Kind of really kind of want to raise the ambition, kind of going forward and thinking even more we onboarded a hundred merchants per day.

[00:42:34] Christoffer: So I think that we should get there at some point and, um, uh, so, yeah, but we, we, we starting with, with kind of the larger merchants that we can, uh, I think that’s an easy growth path for us as a company. Um, but with in the long run, we definitely do want to support everyone that wants to work with us.

[00:42:51] Josua: Okay. Wow. That’s been quite a transformation. I remember, I don’t remember which quarterly report that was. Okay. But it was in one of them, I think you onboarded three merchants for the quarter. So that’s obviously, there’s been a, then a huge, huge, uh, increase if you’re now doing about a one, one, one per day or something like that.

[00:43:06] Josua: So that’s, that, that must also be very exciting to kind of broaden, uh, go, go, uh, lower, lower market as well. Not just work with the enterprise accounts.

[00:43:18] Josua: Um, Christopher, it’s been a real pleasure to have you on to hear about your background, Qliro’s background. Uh, a final question, and I realize, uh, it might be a little bit difficult. You have to be careful with forward looking statements, but, uh, what is it, uh, what makes you most excited right now? What are you kind of most paying attention to in the industry and in the business?

[00:43:38] Christoffer: Well, I think from my experience with kind of working with payments kind of across Europe and also a bit in kind of in North America and now Australia, so I think it’s no one Uh, from my experience, you can do kind of e commerce payments very well, kind of across those markets. And then kind of, I’m super excited to kind of build a new solution that we can, can scale across Europe.

[00:43:58] Christoffer: And then we started to get some, some, some good traction on that way from, from where we are. And so I think what, what makes me most excited is that we’ve kind of, we’ve managed to bring in a lot of kind of good people, building a nice culture and then. Starting on that journey. And if that takes three years or 20 years, I think that that’s kind of less important, but, but kind of try to build something great for our merchants and scaling that I think is, it’s, it’s a lot of fun.

[00:44:24] Josua: Yeah, I can only imagine. I mean, you’ve set the foundation in terms of achieving profitability, getting a lot rid of, I’m guessing a lot of cumbersome, slow process onboarding, a large group of new people, everyone’s committed to the same, same journey, same focus. Um, and there’s that clear market opportunity that just kind of waiting to be, to be grabbed.

[00:44:46] Josua: So I can imagine that it’s really exciting, exciting to be, um, exciting times. And also e commerce, I’m guessing is now starting to bounce back a little bit. There was that after the huge COVID spike, there was a dip, I’m guessing now, now things are maybe looking a little bit better for some of your merchants, uh, which also helps you of course.

[00:45:03] Josua: I think the story is 

[00:45:04] Christoffer: probably a bit different for every merchant and every, every segment, but we, we definitely see that. During last year, it was a lot of merchants that kind of shifted the focus from, from growth to profitability and as kind of a part of that did a lot of kind of work on transformation, everything from cost reductions to efficiency, but also kind of investing in kind of changing some of the kind of the tech stack and then kind of, but now through kind of a lot of that, and then they’re starting to look more to kind of scale again from From a new baseline.

[00:45:38] Christoffer: Uh, but also many of them kind of from an analytical perspective, kind of went through their growth economics or kind of their unit economics on everything from kind of a, kind of a product level or from a marketing kind of campaign level or from a market perspective. And so if you look through kind of your whole portfolio from that perspective, I think it was many merchants that realized that.

[00:46:00] Christoffer: Previously, when I was just running for growth, um, some of that growth was actually not profitable on kind of a campaign level or market level or kind of product level. And when you start to kind of get into those details and close down the activities that was not profitable, maybe 10, 15, 20 percent of the volume actually disappear.

[00:46:21] Christoffer: And then of course you have less growth because that, that, That 20 percent of the volume is not there anymore. So, so, but on the other hand, what remains is profitable and, and, and by that actually kind of turning around the business to, to, to profitability. So, so I think, uh, we’ll find a kind of a new foundation to kind of scale from.

[00:46:38] Christoffer: And we start to see that now with kind of individual merchant, the different segment that they start to grow again. And then I think every journey, every merchant is, is kind of on different, different kind of steps on that journey. So, so I don’t think we’re, we’re kind of. We, we, we threw that kind of completely yet, uh, and of course, kind of from a consumer kind of perspective, uh, still, still think many consumers still having it to be a bit challenging with kind of inflation have been high and even if inflation is coming down, prices are not coming down, it’s just a kind of the price increases that is coming down, um, similar with interest rates kind of been going up over the last year, even if that’s stabilizing.

[00:47:15] Christoffer: And Uh, still kind of the, the interest is higher than it was before. So kind of the, uh, I don’t think we, we yet see kind of an increase in kind of, uh, uh, So, so that would probably be challenging for a while before kind of interest rates and so on is starting to come down again. But, uh, yeah. But we hope definitely kind of going in the right direction from a macroeconomic perspective.

[00:47:40] Josua: Yeah. Let’s, let’s certainly hope so. And like you said, I think maybe the industry is in a, in a healthier place after the boom and the growth at all costs. And now. Now there’s more sensible, sensible growth, but hopefully growth head. Uh, yeah. Like I said, Christopher, thank you so much for joining us. Uh, wish you and, and the, the team at Qliro all the best, although much success and, uh, all, all the best on your, uh, growth journey ahead.

[00:48:06] Christoffer: Thank you. Nice to be here. 

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