Luuk Mulling, a Dutch national, and Rasmus Weissfeld, a Dane, are the founders and sole owners of Web2Present S.L. Having been friends and having worked together at CiscoWebex for a number of years, both felt that it was time to step out of the comfort zone, jump in the deep end of the pool and start applying all that accumulated knowledge that more than a decade in the IT industry brings you. Three years ago, they realised it was time to start a company.
1. Where did the original idea come from?
We had both worked for CiscoWebEx for a number of years in Amsterdam as Account Mangers selling the WebEx platform to different companies and organisations. We used to get a lot of requests from customers for actual production services, helping them out producing a webinar, but this was an area that our employer didn’t focus on at all. Knowing that the biggest fear an organisation has is the fear of failure, and that many companies and organisations feel uncomfortable actually running their own large scale webinar, the seed was sown and growing in our minds.
Both of us moved to Barcelona around the same time, about 7 years ago. Luuk became the country manager of Spain for CiscoWebEx and Rasmus became a Sales Director for en e-voting company. Four years and about 50 lunches later we decided to take the big step, leave the comfort of our fixed positions and start up Web2Present S.L.
2. How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
Webinars had been around for a few years, but it was still not really on the radar of your typical marketing department. In most of the phone calls that first year we would end up having to explain to the person responsible for marketing what a webinar actually was. The first year was really trial and error. Lots of conversations, but very little business. In the second year we changed the business model and started looking for sponsors for our own webinars within topics like IT, Solar and Wind Energy and that turned out to be easier. Being a small company meant that we could adapt very quickly, try out new ideas and change direction fast. If we thought of a new topic or a new webinar idea we’d brainstorm for a few days and then simply try it out.
In August 2012 we decided to target Universities and Business Schools offering webinars to help them find new students. This turned out to be a great area where we could really provide value. Today half of our revenue comes from our educational webinars so tapping into this area probably led to the biggest turning point.
3. What do you wish you’d known when you started?
It’s a good question and it’s tempting to fantasise about the crystal ball, about having known three years ago just how big the financial crises really was and how little marketing managers actually knew about webinars, but the fact is that we have no regrets.
You learn more from your struggles than you do from your successes. And provided that they don’t ‘kill’ you, your struggles ARE what lead to your successes. So with that mind-set, the question kind of loses its relevance. We have benefited greatly from the many trial and errors we have gone through, to a point where we now have a much more mature business model.
5. Did you find the paperwork difficult?
The paperwork wasn’t too bad to be honest. What we couldn’t handle ourselves we simply outsourced. Spain has a bad rep when it comes to paperwork but that aspect of starting up the company was never really a problem for us. It’s just something you have to go through.
6. Did you get help from any particular official organisations or associations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce)? If so, please describe
The short answer is No. We didn’t reach out to any organisation. We did reach out to people we knew who had already started companies. Being able to bounce ideas off someone’s company, building experience, is worth gold.
7. What is your business experience / background / qualifications?
Luuk has a background in International Business studies and Rasmus in philosophy, but more importantly, our professional background is we have both spent about 12 years in the fast paced world of IT sales for different companies. We’ve both been used to a very target driven working environment full of deadlines, where ´making your number´ is key to success. Having reported to a number of different people over the years, each with their different leadership styles, has been a big help in shaping our own management styles. You learn a lot from the people you work for and this will help you find your own style of leadership when dealing with your own employees. The most important thing is to find a style that comes natural to you, isn’t forced and to treat your employees with respect. Even though we might not have the exact same style of leadership we do overlap a lot, complement each other and generally agree on the big things. If not, then we talk about it until one of us convinces the other or we find a compromise that works for both of us.
8. What are the positive aspects about having a business here?
First of all, it’s just great having your own business no matter where you are. Not having to report to anyone besides your business partner, who is in the same boat as you are, gives you a lot of freedom. When you have no one above you it gives you a feeling of empowerment and excitement. Confucius was right! Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life.
We started Web2present here in Barcelona because we were both living here. There is a lot of talent in this country and combined with a very high unemployment rate it’s fairly easy to find good employees. We are located on Rambla de Catalunya so there is a nice buzzing atmosphere, so going to and from work is always a nice feeling. It’s great to live and work in a place that most other Europeans regard as a favourite holiday destination.
9. And the negative aspects?
You learn from everything you do. We started Web2present in the middle of the worst financial crises in 80 years. That toughens you up as a company and gives you the feeling that you can survive anything! Spain is obviously suffering a lot, and from a human perspective that saddens us, but luckily we are not too exposed to the bad Spanish business climate, as most of our customers aren’t from here.
10. Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona?
Come up with a good idea, plan well, ask people for advice and then start turning theory into action! If other people can start up and run successful companies, then so can you. Assume that success will come fast, but prepare yourself for it to take much, much longer. Many good business ideas have gone down the drain because of cash flow problems within the first few months due to unrealistic expectations. Also keep being critical of yourself and ask "why should this company/person work with me? What´s the value that I am adding and do I deliver a good ROI?" In the end you need to sell something to make a living, so do keep that in mind at all times.
Furthermore, starting up a company with someone else is a big advantage as it means you can bounce ideas off each other and share the burden. Just make sure you find the right person to start up your company with. It has to be someone you can trust and someone who has a skill set that compliments your own.
To learn more about Web2present click here.