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.

Q&A with Freespee co-founder & CTO Tobias Lindgren

Monday 7th November was the day the news broke of our series B investment where we raised €9</strong..25 million, led by Ventech.
To help our customers and potential new customers understand what this investment means for Freespee, we have sat down with our co-founder and CTO, Tobias Lindgren, to get his take on our recent funding.
HL: What does this funding mean for you and your team?
TL: I think the most exciting part of the funding is that we can now afford to innovate and try new ideas in a way not been possible before. We’ll have the freedom to have more fun and creativity in the business and ultimately develop new communication products throughout the next 12 months.
The funding will also give a different pace, a new tempo to the engineering teams here in Uppsala. We have the opportunity to grow and build on what we’ve got already. We’ve got so many ideas and now we’re in a position to bring them to the market.
I think we’ll also see a change in the positioning of the business from an infrastructure point of view. The additional funding will give us the possibility to have a more consultative approach with our existing and future clients. We’ll be able to work closely with them, to work out their issues and challenges and then figure out how they can use the Freespee conversation cloud to solve these problems.
HL: Thinking in broader terms outside of the Freespee proposition, do you think this investment has a wider meaning for our market?
TL: I definitely think the funding shows that the conversation market is maturing. We’re seeing a shift in the way that brands are able to talk to their customers and prospects. This significant investment shows that our investors recognise this opportunity and share our vision that brands need a solution to manage and personalise the communication experience of their customers regardless of the inbound channel.
Consumers and brands alike are starting to use new communication solutions through AI-bots, chat-bots, SMS, and messaging to build a relationship and achieve mutually beneficial goals, and this investment will bring more attention to this shift.
We have the opportunity to combine existing solutions with new ideas and we’re excited to be considered as pioneers in this evolving industry. We want to be at the forefront, educating the market to say that we can connect every conversation to improve the end customer’s experience – and it can be done, we are doing it now for our customers.
HL: Looking into the past slightly, what spurred you and Carl to create Freespee?
TL: Carl and I have an interesting working relationship – we complement each other with our different knowledge and ways of looking at a product.
Carl and I share the same enthusiasm and excitement for solving customer issues. We want to use new technology to make the consumer’s journey better.
It helps that we worked together previously, we trusted each other that we would work well together again. We both know that together we can bring an idea to the table, build it and sell it.
We also both really enjoy the pace and tempo of a start-up – its quick moving and things are constantly changing and evolving. I think that really motivated us to work together and create Freespee.
HL: Over the past 4 years would you say the business still holds on to your original mission statement or has the business vision changed?
TL: Our business vision has always stayed the same, as it’s the reason we started Freespee in the first place. We want to offer online businesses a way to communicate with their customers that is more human.
It’s more that the route we have taken to achieve this has changed many times – this is all part of being an agile start-up. The business needs to be flexible, to try new things and throw ideas out if they aren’t worth pursuing.
Our culture has also (and will also) stay the same. Then again, as a company grows, the culture kind of grows itself, which is what is happening at Freespee. We have a typically Swedish ideology and we try to make sure this permeates through the whole company.
HL: What are you looking forward to the most over the next 12 months?
TL: Honestly, I think I’m most excited about being able to grow the team and watching the company mature.
My role is already pretty customer-centric but I’m also super excited about being able to meet new customers and to watch us enter new markets and areas with these customers.
There you have it, we hope it was useful.
Stay tuned for tomorrow – we’ll be posting our interview with Carl Holmquist, CEO, on what this funding means for him and the future of Freespee.

Freespee Secures €9.25M Series B Funding By Ventech

French VC firm leads funding round in London-based real time conversation cloud company

Freespee, the real-time conversation cloud technology company has secured €9.25 million in Series B funding in a round led by French venture capital firm Ventech SA, marking the latter’s first ever investment in a Nordic company.

Joining as part of this investment round is growth debt provider Silicon Valley Bank, alongside existing investors in Freespee, Sunstone Capital and Inventure. The investment will be used to fuel product development and sees Ventech’s Tero Mennander join the Freespee board.

Freespee enables marketers to monitor, manage and personalise the experience of every customer conversation taking place through desktop web, mobile web and mobile apps. The company was founded by Swedish software engineers at the end of 2009, with offices in London, Paris, Barcelona and Uppsala, Sweden.

The new investment round will enable Freespee to accelerate the development of its industry-leading conversation cloud technology, which is used globally by brands such as Allianz, Lloyds, eBay, Bupa, Marriott Hotels and Peugeot. The company already manages millions of conversations every month across 20 countries using its innovative technology.

As part of the new investment round, Ventech Venture Partner, Tero Mennander, will join the board at Freespee. As head of the Ventech Helsinki office, Mennander leads the firm’s activity in the Nordics, and brings 25 years of experience in the technology sector across various roles on the entrepreneurial, as well as the investors’ side.

“There is no simple way for a brand to understand how customer communications through phone, chat and email influence and help grow its internet business. We’re building a cloud that gives marketers and e-commerce professionals access to these legacy technology stacks. This investment round will enable us to propel our ambitions to make internet businesses more human and personal,” said Carl Holmquist, Freespee co-founder and CEO.

Holmquist continued: “By working with Ventech and our other investors, new and old, we will continue to pioneer new ways to allow our customers to monitor, manage and personalise the experience of every conversation taking place through their desktop web, mobile web and apps.”

“Freespee is a groundbreaking innovator, with technology that is forging the future of enterprise software and Software as a Service (SaaS) in the real time conversation cloud space,” said Tero Mennander, Venture Partner at Ventech and newly-appointed board member at Freespee. “This sector is demonstrating enormous innovation globally, with Freespee at the leading edge of this wave, and we’re delighted to be joining their team.”