Q&A with Carl Holmquist, Freespee’s co-founder

Our co-founder & CEO Carl Holmquist talks about Freespee’s journey and its growth plans following the €9.25 million investment, led by Ventech.

SB. Freespee’s journey has helped accelerate the emergence of the relatively new but powerful category of ‘conversational commerce’ – how have you seen this reflected in the evolution of your sales messaging?

CH. When we delivered our first sales pitch we had to prove two things to our prospect. Firstly,  that consumers wanted to speak to them and secondly that the more they spoke directly to their customers, the faster they would grow their business.
We had to take an analytical approach to educate the market.
Today, messaging apps have surpassed social networks in terms of the number of active users. Today’s consumer is hungrier for cross-device, multi-interface conversations than ever before. Now brands understand they have to deploy the means to speak with their customers on their terms. Our conversations with brands now focus on how we can improve the quality and relevancy of the experiences they’re providing for customers.
“The smaller the size of the device the more important the voice interface will become as an alternative to typing. Voice is more challenging to handle from a technology perspective than text. Freespee started as a voice-based product.” Carl Holmquist, former CEO and Founder, Freespee

SB. How would you distinguish Freespee from our competitors?

CH. Freespee was built with the end consumer in mind. Our technology is designed to make their lives easier. We worked backwards from the consumer and built our platform to help corporate companies meet customer needs. The consumer is the focus of our mission and we aim to make their journey and engagement more human. We don’t believe our competitors think that way.
Freespee is much more connected and open than other companies in our space. This is because we started off as an API. Our plug-and-play integrations mean that if you have ten marketing solutions in your stack, we will connect with all of them and provide you with a unique single customer view.

SB. Over the past four years what has stood out the most for you as an achievement for Freespee?

CH. That we didn’t give up. Four years ago no one wanted to listen to us. We were trying to prove that one day online businesses would be conversational as well as digital and that businesses needed to offer their customers a more human inbound approach.
We started Freespee because we were frustrated not to be able to speak to someone when interacting with companies. We decided we were going to change this.
Today, four years later, everyone is talking about conversational commerce and everyone wants to be part of it: Google with their click-to-message offering, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and many more.

SB. What does success look like for you in twelve months?

CH. We have some very exciting projects for our clients that we are looking to implement in the next twelve months. These will have a significant impact on how conversations can take place between online brands and consumers.
We also have some bold plans to expand into one or two new markets in the next twelve months.

SB. What would you like to say to potential candidates who are looking to apply for a vacancy at Freespee?

CH. They have an unquenchable hunger to succeed.

SB. What are the growth plans for Freespee?

CH. We have aggressive plans for growth, both in our key markets to date but also in new territories. We have started to receive an accelerated number of requests from USA based businesses. We will address this over the next twelve months.

SB. If you had to name one aspect, what would you attribute Freespee’s current success to?

CH. Our love for solving our customers’ problems and their consumers’ problem has fuelled our success. Our entire company culture is very customer-driven.

SB. Since the time Freespee launched to where the company is now, how has the digital landscape changed and affected the business?

CH. When we launched Freespee six years ago, the adoption of digital was less mature. It was all about driving traffic to your website.
Today it’s much more about taking care of that traffic once it reaches your website. The focus is now further down the funnel.

SB. What part or parts of the business will benefit most from the funding? How will that help our customers?

CH. There are two main parts of the business that will benefit most from the funding. The first is product & engineering. We will now be able to bring to market features requested by our customers much faster.
The other impact the funding will have on the business is with our marketing & sales operations. It will be much easier for enterprise brands to communicate with us. We will have a more physical presence in their local areas and we will communicate in their local language.

SB. What does this funding mean for you and Freespee?

CH. This funding means that we can build on our mission and vision on a global scale.

SB. How do you envisage the digital landscape will change over the next twelve to twenty-four months for our customers and how is Freespee at the centre of that change?

CH. More consumer devices will be introduced, their sizes will continue to decrease and their complexity will increase. Look for example at the evolution that took us from the laptop to the smartphone and then to the smartwatch. Depending on your media source, some claim the smartwatch was a failure, but global smartwatch shipments totalled 8.1 million in Q4 last year.

The smaller the size of the device the more important the voice interface will become as an alternative to typing.
Freespee started as a voice-based product. Voice is more challenging to handle from a technology perspective than text. For this reason, very few text-based product companies have been successful launching a voice-based product.