I love entrepreneurship (and life). I use crowdfunding and angel investors to fund my dreams. I once grew a personal shopping service to 50 employees and sold it last year. We just found a new office in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. I bike there with my dog and girlfriend/cofounder. AMA!

Kasper Brandi Petersen
Feb 13, 2018

I'm doing this AMA to be inspired and challenged. Full disclosure; we are always looking for new talents, so feel free to reach out to me if you are ready for an adventure (it's me on the golden reindeer).

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Conversation (90)

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Who is the biggest source of support in your life?

Feb 16, 5:26PM EST0 Reply

How can one spot dangerous entrepreneurship advice? A lot of contradictory advice given, e.g. they say you just have to start up even though you don't know the business. Next moment they say most business fail because people don't know how to run the business. How to identify what is right and what's not applicable?

Feb 15, 6:41PM EST0 Reply

Excellent question! There's no universal advice. And there's always ambiguity.

So whenever people make it sound like they have rules that works for everyone you should stop listening. I focus on telling my opinion and back it up with my own experiences. It is meant to inspire, not as rules.

The best advisors I've had are the ones who focus on asking questions and telling anecdotes - instead of telling me what to do. 

Feb 16, 9:20AM EST0 Reply

Excellent question! There's no universal advice. And there's always ambiguity.

So whenever people make it sound like they have rules that works for everyone you should stop listening. I focus on telling my opinion and back it up with my own experiences. It is meant to inspire, not as rules.

The best advisors I've had are the ones who focus on asking questions and telling anecdotes - instead of telling me what to do. 

Feb 16, 9:20AM EST0 Reply

What would you tell your younger self, knowing what you know now? 

Feb 13, 2:04PM EST0 Reply

I'm not good at that exercise. I guess I would say "don't worry". 

Feb 14, 4:10PM EST0 Reply

As an entrepeneur: What has been the most exciting moment in your career?

Feb 13, 10:05AM EST0 Reply

There's been a lot of high and lows. The biggest high was probably the first time we raised €1.2m from a seed fund. It's the weirdest feeling when such an amount hits your bank account and you know it's go time. It feels wonderful for several minutes, and then it hits you what the expectations are and how hard you have to work in the months to come. 

Feb 13, 1:04PM EST0 Reply

Should the basics of being an entrepeneur be thaught at school?

Feb 13, 9:28AM EST0 Reply

Yes! Because it's the basics of life. Every one would benefit from being able to do basic accounting, Facebook ads, a little link juice, calculate unit unit economics, how bank loans and funding works, etc. 

I would find it lovely if the exam in such an entrepreneurial class in middle school would be to see how much traffic or revenue your end assignment could generate. I would definitely sign my (unborn) kids up for such a school! :) 

Feb 13, 1:03PM EST0 Reply

Do you think entrepreneurship can be taught or is it more of an innate skill?

Feb 12, 11:36AM EST0 Reply

It can be taught, but not by sitting in a class room for 5 years. It has to be a mix of theory and execution. Plenty of new startups in the education space have novel approaches to this. As an example we ONLY hire marketeers from Talent Institute and Growth Tribe in Amsterdam, because they combine academic performance and actual paid work in partner startups. 

Feb 13, 3:15AM EST0 Reply

What's your best entrepreneurship advice to become a successful entrepreneur for the youngsters in their mid-20s?

Feb 12, 4:37AM EST0 Reply

Understand that it's hard work 99% of the time. The highs are great, but it's the lows that are unbearable for most people and hence make them unfit to run a startup. 

And be aware that running a small business and a startup are two very different jobs. The best definition I've seen of a startup is Steve Blank; "a startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business". 

Feb 13, 3:13AM EST0 Reply

Do you have any mentor with whom you share your ideas and take advice or feedback on your ideas and discuss future goals?

Feb 9, 1:38PM EST0 Reply

I would love to have a personal mentor with great war stories to learn from. I never did the groundwork to find and befriend the right type of mentor, so I've ended up seeking guidance from my angels, which in some cases can be problematic. 

Feb 13, 3:09AM EST0 Reply

How and when did you approach angel investors for your startup?

Feb 9, 3:20AM EST0 Reply

I ask people in my network for intros, and I cold-message angels via LinkedIn and Angelist. I never ask for money or indicate that I'm fundraising. I'm merely asking for advice and offering to share my views of the areas in which I hold expertise. 

Last edited @ Feb 9, 8:45AM EST.
Feb 9, 8:44AM EST0 Reply

While working in the start-up industry what are some of the coolest startup culture hacks you've heard of?

Feb 8, 2:50PM EST0 Reply

I'm excited about all the co-traveling and co-living I see. So many early stage startups are traveling around South America and Asia, crashing in AirBnB pads and hanging out in cool co-working spaces. Cost is lower than in London/Amsterdam/SanFran.

Last edited @ Feb 9, 8:44AM EST.
Feb 9, 8:44AM EST0 Reply

How long did it take you to realize the niche in your environment and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit in you?

Feb 6, 3:04PM EST0 Reply

When I was 20 years old friends of mine received a seed investment from a Skype founder.

Back then being an “entrepreneur” was not a thing. We found it silly that some rich guy gave our friends a pile of money based on 15 PowerPoint slides.

We started hanging out a lot in the huge apartment they worked and slept in.

It was a big inspiration to see how they and all their entrepreneurial contacts were looking at the world like one big buffet of opportunities.

Soon after I launched my first startup. And those friends became my first customers.

Feb 7, 1:53PM EST0 Reply

How can an investor know that the firm being invested in remains in compliance with legal and regulatory statutes?

Feb 6, 9:07AM EST0 Reply

That's actually very hard. The paradox is that it actually works to fake it as a startup. To a certain extent at least. Investors are reducing such risk by investing in many startups and targeting returns that enables them to make a profit even if 9 out of 10 investments go bust. 

The best way for investors to reduce risk is to only invest in founders with clear ethics and no "get-rich-quick" mindset.

Last edited @ Feb 7, 1:49PM EST.
Feb 7, 1:49PM EST0 Reply

What could you say is unique about your business?

Feb 6, 8:37AM EST0 Reply

LABFRESH is unique because we are the first startup in Europe to build a dedicated supply chain for the development of stain+odour+wrinkle repellent clothing in 100% cotton.  

Feb 7, 1:47PM EST0 Reply

To what would you attribute your past and growing success?

Feb 6, 1:38AM EST0 Reply

I'm not particularly intelligent or charming. I guess my main force is that I obsess. I think building companies is more fun that sports or tv-shows. So I get a lot done. Every time I have a beer or coffee with someone my mind is working hard on figuring out what I can learn from that person, and how we might be able to help each other (the best way to get favours is by helping others without expecting to get anything in return). 

If you obsess and spend a lot of time on something chances are you will develop decent skills within that area. 

Feb 7, 1:46PM EST0 Reply

What special ways do you use to advertise your business?

Feb 5, 6:43AM EST0 Reply

Nothing special, just Google and Facebook. We experimented with tons of other stuff, but these two channels always end up being the base revenue. 

Feb 5, 9:56AM EST0 Reply

Do you in all of your businesses use the services of a professional accountant or attorney?

Feb 5, 4:12AM EST0 Reply

Always. Partly because your time is better spent on growing and building. And partly because finances and legal docs are too important to be done by an amateur. I pay my account a flat fee per month and my lawyer a flat fee for every liquidity event. 

Feb 5, 9:55AM EST0 Reply

How frequently should a client communicate with their investor?

Feb 4, 6:52PM EST0 Reply

It depends on the investor. But I haven't so far met an investor who did not like a monthly update with a few bullets and numbers in an email. Big excel sheets and too long monthly reports are not going to be opened by most investors because they typically have a long-term mindset.  

Feb 5, 9:54AM EST0 Reply

When you employ someone, what is the most important thing you look forward to seeing?

Feb 4, 4:54PM EST0 Reply

We choose mindset over skills any day. In a startup every one has to be able to execute and act independently from day one. Both seniors and juniors can do so if they have the right mindset. 

After the first interview we will ask the candidate to work with us for a couple of days. It's important both parties know what they are getting into. If we don't hire them they get paid for their hours. If we hire them we expect to work together for 2 years. 

Feb 5, 9:53AM EST0 Reply

Before you sold your shopping service, how did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Feb 3, 5:47AM EST0 Reply

I get ideas by looking at what's hot in the US. Because their venture capital industry is more developed and their home market is huge they get proof of concept for new ideas faster. If I think it can work in Europe I test it in Denmark or Netherlands. Partly because I know the markets, and partly because they are small markets with tech savvy, trusting, and affluent consumers. 

Feb 5, 9:50AM EST0 Reply

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Feb 2, 4:45PM EST0 Reply

Don't quit your day job. Not yet. It is not a full time occupation to do a startup until you have proof of concept. Until then you build a Minimum Viable Product and keep iterating. That is possible to do while you still have your day job, so you can save up money instead of burning them. 

Feb 5, 9:47AM EST0 Reply

Your shirt idea is brilliant, did you come up with it yourself? How long did it take to plan and launch the campaign? Did you run it yourself or you had a company help on the PR?

Feb 1, 9:12AM EST0 Reply

Thanks! :) I wish I could take credit, but some of the tech we use is actually 2 years old. There was just no brands who had built a dedicated supply for it before, so it can be produced at a scalable price. 

All PR is done by my us founders. I dislike PR agencies and most journalists find it much cooler when they hear directly from a founder. It's not a science. Just be nice and reach out to them one-by-one instead of mass-emailing generic press releases. 

Feb 1, 10:37AM EST0 Reply

Why did you sell the personal shopping service? What was it if not a secret?

Jan 31, 2:25PM EST0 Reply

Competition was getting tougher and as cofounders we were too inexperienced to manage such a long growth sprint. We raised €3m in total and reached €10m in sales. Before that I had never managed anyone. 

Without help we would have stagnated or perhaps even died. The Germans saved the day. 

Feb 1, 6:24AM EST0 Reply

What dog do you have?

Jan 31, 9:32AM EST0 Reply

It's a Chihuahua my girlfriend bought 4 years ago. She sleeps on the table the whole team sits around at this very moment. 

 

Feb 1, 6:21AM EST0 Reply

Is it easier to get funded on a site like kickstarter than by angel investors?

Jan 31, 7:55AM EST0 Reply

Both are hard. But it's apples and oranges. Kickstarter is mainly for physical products with a tech angle. Such startups needs cash up front to finance orders and R&D.

Angels loose money on 90% of their investments, so they instead look for hyper scalable startups. This could be software or a marketplace. Hardware startups are typically less scalable and hence not interesting until clear traction has been achieved. 

Feb 1, 6:18AM EST0 Reply

What is your preferred place to work?

Jan 30, 10:09PM EST0 Reply

Co-working space or big open offices. I don't get distracted by chatter.

I spent too much time working from cafes, at home, and airports. It's only good for tasks that require little in-depth thinking.

I try to wait as long as possible before renting my own office because it's annoying to have a lease. Cleaning staff, shitty internet connections, buying new desks. Waste of time. 

Feb 1, 6:14AM EST0 Reply

How was your business organized from the management perspective? You had 50 persons before the sale, how was the team split and how do you handle to be sure everybody is doing the things in the right way. Can you recommend any management tools, techniques, books? Thank you!

Jan 30, 9:50PM EST0 Reply

We split it into Sales (35) and Support (25).  Everyone who is not serving customers is categorised as support, including the CEO. It's our way of staying customer-centric. 

We have few meetings. Everyone has a personal or department dashboard that updates automatically, and a Trello board they update weekly. All heads report to a cofounder. 

LEAN and Google's OKR works ok together. But every organisation is different. The most important part is that it matches the personalities of the founders. Otherwise it will crash. 

Feb 1, 6:12AM EST0 Reply

Is the material you use for the shirts soft and comfortable on touch?

Jan 30, 1:32PM EST0 Reply

For an innovative product to outcompete existing offerings it has to be better in every way - for us this include the traditional metrics like softness and breathability. 

We use premium cotton and most of if get's a soft brush treatment, so it's even softer than traditional cotton. 

Feb 1, 6:08AM EST0 Reply

What skills would you say determine if someone will be a successful entrepreneur?

Jan 29, 9:00PM EST0 Reply

Grit and an open mind. One has to be able to spot the opportunities and then tirelessly pursue them. Both when spotting a great talent, taking the risk with a big marketing budget, or pivoting your initial idea into something more scalable (and less "you").

"Grind" without an "open mind" is very dangerous. I've seen it happen multiple times. A great founder spend 10 years trying to scale a mediocre idea. If one has an open mind one will pivot earlier and make the idea scalable (or kill it). 

An "open mind" without "grind" is also useless in a startup. It's great if you are a consultant and constantly change projects. But as a founder you have to be able to say "no" and work tirelessly on a few opportunities tirelessly for a very long time. 

Sidenote: Intelligence seems to be a less important factor. This is not academia. 

Feb 1, 6:06AM EST0 Reply

Since you have done crowdfunding and private investors, how would you advice entrepreneurs on making a choice which one to go for?

Jan 29, 8:24AM EST0 Reply

Both are great. Crowdfunding is a great substitute for angel financing because you don't have to give up any equity. If your Kickstarter is successful you will be able to raise at a higher valuation afterwards. If you fail you learned that your product is not as interesting as you think. 

I don't have personal experience with equity crowdfunding. But I know that you need to be able to raise approx 30% of the total target through your own network if you want to be able to run a decent campaign. If you are a first-time entrepreneur that barely launched then this will be hard.

Jan 29, 10:28AM EST0 Reply

Are you like that in life as in work - prefer new things?

Jan 29, 4:53AM EST0 Reply

I would say so. I have lived in many countries and cities, I tend to order something new on the menu, and I prefer new destinations when we go traveling. 

On the other hand I do appreciate my routines and old friends. 

Jan 29, 8:01AM EST0 Reply

Are you considering shirts for women too?

Jan 28, 2:13PM EST0 Reply

Men love basics. They find a shirt they fit well and they will buy it every time they need a shirt for years to come. Women are less loyal. You like to experiment with new styles and colours. For those reasons we focus on men. On a fundamental level I also find it hard to build a fashion brand that both appeals to men and women. 

Jan 29, 7:57AM EST0 Reply

You work with your girlfriend, don’t you think it’s not a good idea to mix personal and private life or is it working ok? What are the upsides and down sides of working and living together?

Jan 28, 8:53AM EST0 Reply

It's definitely not always easy. It is an intense experience to do a startup. But remember it would be intense for your relationship if you did a startup alone too. Your partner might not understand your big mood svings and why you suddenly feel like working non-stop. Your partner might feel neglected and left out.

So for us the upsides outweigh the downsides. We share a big passion together, and we make business decisions that perfectly matches our private lifes. Plus we can do a lot of traveling together because we have production in Portugal and investors in Copenhagen and Dubai.

If it starts to erode our relationship we will slowly find a way to let one of us run the business independently. The relationship always comes first. 

Jan 29, 7:40AM EST0 Reply

What sort of talents are you looking for? In what areas?

Jan 28, 12:47AM EST0 Reply

A fashion brand in this stage typically has 3 main workstreams - customers, product, and growth. For customer service we use part-time students who work 2 days each. For Growth we use full-timers, freelancers, and interns. For Product we use agents and interns. 

Jan 29, 7:33AM EST0 Reply

How do you manage your time? Would you consider yourself a workaholic?

Jan 26, 9:11PM EST0 Reply

I use Trello boards for myself, every department, and every employee. Both for private and business stuff. 

I also track my daily doings quantitatively. Hours of TV watched, gym sessions, how many times I cooked, etc. 

My business is my main interest and I don't like to spend time on anything else during the weekdays. Most of the time it feels like a fun project more than an actual "job". If it starts to make me unhappy I will look for ways to pivot our organisation and business model, so I can start enjoying it again. 

Jan 29, 7:31AM EST0 Reply

How involved is your girlfriend with the business? Does she have her projects on the side as well?

Jan 26, 11:44AM EST0 Reply

Lotte is all in on LABFRESH - she runs the customer care team, our wholesale agents, and the warehouse. She is a part of fundraising, finance, and all the other main aspects of the business. 

Jan 29, 7:26AM EST0 Reply

What is the best way to get publicity for your brand?

Jan 25, 9:53AM EST0 Reply

Step 1 for me is always to have a truly unique product. If your product is not unique you should not spend a lot of time on PR. 

We usually provide journalists with free shirts and ask them to test it. All influencers are organised in a sheet based on their reach and engagement levels. Journalists are categorised as influencers. You will see that they far outweight almost any Instagram blogger when it comes to generating website clicks. 

We also make sure to use my cofounder/girlfriend and myself actively, so the story is about people instead of a product. We share intimate details about our lives and intimate numbers about our business. If you as a founder is scared of spilling your secrets or people judging you then PR is a hard road to take. 

Jan 29, 7:25AM EST0 Reply

How do you find people to work with? Do you use HR agencies or scout them yourself?

Jan 25, 9:17AM EST0 Reply

I never use recruiters anymore. I had too many bad experiences. I also don't like job ads. I prefer to proactively scout and contact people via LinkedIn, Angelist, and IRL meetups. 

Hiring people is serious business. After the first interview we always offer a potential hire to work with us for 1-2 days, so we can get to know each other. If we end up not hiring them we will pay them for the hours they worked with us. I also always do reference calls. Often we will go out for beers/wine with the team too. 

Jan 25, 9:22AM EST0 Reply

Have you ever got to a point where you want to stop? Have you given up on some projects? What if so?

Jan 25, 12:05AM EST0 Reply

I rarely feel like quitting and watching Netflix for the rest of my life. The times it happened I was in a bad place in my private life. It's almost impossible for me to get stressed as long as I exercise in the morning, eat relatively healtjy, only drink alcohol twice per week, live in a nice place, and have a healthy relationship.  

Jan 25, 9:03AM EST0 Reply

What is your background? Did you study anything relevant to what you are doing now?

Jan 24, 9:22PM EST0 Reply

I studied almost exactly what I'm doing today. I got an M.Sc. in Strategic Market Creation after business school studies in Denmark and China. 

Before starting businesses I worked in the worlds largest shipping line (Maersk) and wore a suit and tie every day. I worked in Nigeria, Oman, Dubai, India, China and Europe. 

Jan 25, 9:01AM EST0 Reply

What do you think is a sector that is underestimated in business nowadays as an opportunity?

Jan 24, 8:34PM EST0 Reply

Good question. It's always easier to identify the sectors that are overcrowded. I would never touch blockchain, AI, fintech or any other area where I would have to compete with the smartest and most well-funded entrepreneurs on the globe.

I'm excited about co-living and co-working, especially when combining it with traveling. A lot of startups like ROAM are organising remote work in awesome locations like Bali and Portugal. 

I would personally love to not own an apartment and just rent desks and rooms in whatever country I feel like being in.

It's also an easy business model to start - all you need is a smart phone, a nomad mindset, and guts. 

Last edited @ Jan 25, 8:57AM EST.
Jan 25, 8:56AM EST0 Reply

What is the next thing you are working on? How many steps ahead do you think?

Jan 24, 8:34PM EST0 Reply

My new startup uses fiber treatments to make cotton stain and odour repellant. In fashion most people have been focusing on wearable tech instead of material innovation, which to me indicates disruption potential. 

I don't believe I think many steps ahead - I just look for the overlooked opportunities in a market. In the case of my new startup LABFRESH we are literally only using 1-2 year old tech that none of the established fashion house gave a s*** about.

I don't like to be a pioneer because then you have to educate the whole market and build your tech and supply chains from scratch. I prefer to scale proven technologies that haven't been introduced to the majority of consumers in my target markets. 

Jan 25, 8:49AM EST0 Reply

Do you get bored of your projects easily? How do you keep doing something once you get bored of it or do you just stop?

Jan 24, 6:35PM EST0 Reply

A project is fun as long as you keep innovating and keep allowing yourself to enjoy the ride. When one reaches a point where the growth slows and the culture matures I am less valuable. Then it might make sense to bring in a "real" CEO.

Jan 25, 8:43AM EST0 Reply

What are you celebrating in the picture above?

Jan 24, 12:40PM EST0 Reply

That we were still alive after 1 year. That's not always the case for crowdfunded startups :) 

Jan 24, 1:01PM EST0 Reply

What is the hardest thing for you in business? Also, why the Red Lights District?

Jan 24, 11:56AM EST0 Reply

Hardest thing; to keep grinding through the hard times. Whenever I'm low on cash and investors are complaining I start dreaming about a calm job at a bigger company, where someone else is responsible for paying salaries and being available 24/7.

Why Red Light District? It's very important to me to choose locations that are hip and fun. It improves the company culture because it's easier to grab drinks and invite people to drop by. And I personally enjoy the ride more. It's important to remember to enjoy oneself as an entrepreneur. Otherwise you might break. 

Jan 24, 1:08PM EST0 Reply

How did you name your company name, why limit with a .Eu domain when you may want to go global later?

Jan 24, 9:42AM EST0 Reply

Practical reasons often prevail. The .com domain was too expensive, so since we focus on EU now we chose to postpone the purchase of the .com domain until later. We chose the name because the first batch of shirts literally came from a lab. And due to the tech you stay "fresh" for longer, hence "LABFRESH" .

We realise now that it's a great name for crowdfunding, but not the best when building an aspirational premium fashion brand.  

Last edited @ Jan 24, 1:04PM EST.
Jan 24, 9:45AM EST0 Reply
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