In 2003, Daniel Wikberg started his company Upsales at the young age of 21. The company is now enjoying a $14.4M run rate and is publicly listed out of Stockholm. Serving other SaaS companies as well as manufacturers, Upsales offers a comprehensive sales and marketing SaaS product that streamlines pipeline management and lead generation for UK-based companies.
Wikberg sat down with GetLatka host, Nathan Latka, to discuss his slow rise to success and how going public became one of their main advantages.
- $14.4M ARR
- Started in 2003
- 800-900 customers
Started Upsales at 21 and took 7 Years To reach $1M
Starting a business at a young age meant Wikberg didn’t have to match the expectations set by entrepreneurs with more experience. “I was 21, so I had a lot of energy and didn’t realize how slow things were going,” Wikberg explains. “We saw gradual success and just continued working.” It took about seven years for Upsales to generate $1M in revenue in one year.
Latka admits he wouldn’t have been as supportive of Upsales as Wikberg, “I would tell most people if you can’t do it in 3 or 4, just quit, give up, and start something new.”
Targeting mid-level market of 100-1000 employees
Wikberg was able to see firsthand how his company could help local businesses. There were no companies servicing the mid-market enterprises of 100-1000 employees, and Wikberg saw his opportunity.
Rather than target small companies or larger corporations, Wikberg and his team have remained intensely committed to their niche and claim it’s one of the main reasons for their success.
Partnered with Swedish company for 2-3 years to acquire customers
Before Upsales reached the level of success they are currently experiencing, they partnered with a Swedish company to help reduce their acquisition costs. The company was disbanding its CRM in-house and white-labeled Upsales’ services to satisfy customers who still needed support.
About 2-3 years into the relationship, Upsales was suffering from high turnover rates and no growth was coming from the partnership. Upsales renegotiated their terms and ended up moving clients to their personal service while promising a small payback for a set number of years.
800-900 direct customers make up 90% of ARR
The customers who transitioned from the old partnership only make up about 10% of the overall revenue for Upsales. The 800-900 customers they’ve personally closed over the years account for the other 90% of revenue earned every year. The large customer base is opening up opportunities for Upsales to develop new products and services for their existing customers.
Hitting $1.2M MRR with untapped potential
While it took Wikberg 7 years to hit his first million, the company regularly hits $1.2M MRR and has been growing at a 30% rate for a couple of years.
Plans for future scaling rely on a combination of existing customers and acquiring new ones. “We have a deliberate land and expand pricing model, so maybe 2/3 revenue comes from existing accounts and 1/3 from new accounts,” Wikberg explains. The entire team believes that by leveraging their 800-900 current customers and producing new products, they can easily scale over the coming years.
Manages 2 sales teams to grow revenue 30%
There are two sales teams at Upsales, including one for new sales and another for expansion. Originally, Wikberg used a traditional method even Latka had to chuckle at. “We used to have a strategy that was kind of a shotgun approach,” Wikberg admits. “We’d hire 10 new grads every quarter and hope three of them survive.”
Since then, Wikberg now requires his sales associates to have at least 5 years of experience. He also expects a $500k – $1M quota with an OTE of $150k – $200k. The expansion team focuses on upgrading accounts to new services and products Upsales creates.
Upsales going public and reaching a $120M valuation
While most companies wait until they hit $100M in revenue before going public, Wikberg IPOed his company well ahead of this. The move has been an advantage according to Wikberg. He feels having his finances and data public helps when attracting new employees.
Otherwise, Wikberg places strict requirements on how much time he and his team spend on the IPO. This is to ensure the main focus remains on developing an amazing product.
Favorite book: His favorite book is The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, the co-founder of one of the world’s most successful VC firms.
CEO they follow: Wikberg isn’t as focused on following CEOs but does find inspiration in the stories of geopolitical figures. One of his favorites, Peter Zeihan, is a geopolitical expert, author, and public figure.
Favorite tool to build Upsales: Wikberg has seen massive success with Waalaxy, which is a LinkedIn marketing tool. He allows the company access to his personal account. However, he is still able to monitor the account and stay in the driver’s seat.
Situation: The SaaS entrepreneur is 42 years old, married, and has three kids. While he’d like to stay healthy and get 8 hours of sleep a night, his 3½-year-old sometimes only lets him get two.
What he wishes he knew at 20: With over 20 years in business, Wikberg feels like the past couple of years have been significant in terms of maturity. He’s been a very hands-on entrepreneur and realizes this isn’t always a good thing. He wishes he had learned to let go of more of the details when he was younger.