Learnings from building three companies, how to become a “self-made-jack-of-all-trades”, choices on how to create a lean and effective startup and his best advice to other founders.
Multi-Regnskab is founded by Steffen Jensen and Henrik Fich who both have many years of experience in software companies – not least working on the Danløn payroll system from its start in 2000 until 2017. Multi-Regnskab was founded in 2017 and has been part of The Camp since the beginning of 2018.
Our Head of The Camp Peter Munkholm Nielsen had a talk with the co-founder of Multi-Regnskab, Steffen Jensen.
Peter: Hi Steffen. Thank you for taking your time to talk about Multi-Regnskab. Let’s start getting to know more about Multi-Regnskab. What does Multi-Regnskab do and how did you get started?
Steffen: Multi-Regnskab is a software-as-a-service company building and delivering accounting software. In more practical terms, it’s software for doing bookkeeping and annual reports.
We started by looking at the other options in the market and there were several areas where we thought a different approach was needed. One was price. Bookkeeping software for small companies has become way more expensive over the past 5 to 10 years. A second area was the many Danish holding companies who generally had no help from existing software. The third area was that the process of preparing an annual report had to be made easier.
Peter: Are you trying to remove the accountant?
Steffen: No, not at all. The vast majority of companies need help. We just provide software to make the whole process as cheap and effective as possible. In many cases, our customers save 2.500 – 5.000 kr every year on software. That actually makes it easier to choose professional assistance.
Peter: How did the idea to Multi-Regnskab come about?
Steffen: It started from personal “frustrations” and when you are a software developer, you try to fix those kinds of things by writing code. Henrik needed the same kind of software, and there were tens of thousands like us, so I started programming full-time on what became Multi-Regnskab.
Lean Startup Building
Peter: That’s a very straightforward way of building a startup.
Steffen: You are right, but I haven’t done all the software work myself. For example, we have assistance from frontend developers from Ukraine, a student worker in Aalborg, a UI/UX designer from Ringsted, an iOS developer from Copenhagen, etc. In that way, we get people with the specialized skills that we need.
Obviously, we could choose to invest more heavily, build an organization and put more effort into marketing. In our case, we have been very lean in the first phase – building the product and getting it verified in the market. It is a learning process and doing that with little cost is a big strength.
Today, we are very confident about the product, the market and how to move forward. Now we can better sit down and say “well, which investments can best put on some turbo?” Still, it is also important for us to build a profitable business.
Peter: It also comes down to what kind of company you want to build?
Steffen: Yes, definitely. We do not have an ambition to become as many people as possible. On the contrary it is a value for us, being very lean. It’s a perspective and a way of working that was also in full effect at Danløn. If I told you how few people developed and supported a complex system for 40.000 customers at Danløn, you probably would not believe me.
How to become a “Jack of all trades” and why it is crucial when building a startup
Peter: Can you tell me more about your background?
Steffen: As a kid, I became very interested in electronics and computers around the time the first microcomputers came in the early 80’s. So, I started programming when I was around 12, but ended up going to business school.
I then found my way into a Swedish software company – switching between being a software/product architect, being a marketing manager and writing java code in the evening.
Next up was moving back to Denmark and starting a company from scratch – something that, in addition to software development, involved a little of everything. There is a phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” which might be somewhat appropriate, but I think I know what I do well and where my limitations are.
Peter: You are not only building a startup, but also investing in startups?
Steffen: I did make a couple of investments in green energy startups and I try to help other startups when I can, but Multi-Regnskab is a 100% effort so there is little time for other ventures. Might change in 5-10 years though.
Peter: Now that you have started a company a few times, what are some of the lessons you have learned?
Steffen: Well, one lesson is to figure out what is important to you and what brings quality to your life. For example, I like to build things and I enjoy the freedom that I have now.
Actually, becoming an entrepreneur is often a dumb idea if you are looking for “freedom”. Things like not enough revenue, external funding or even hiring people can quickly make freedom very illusive. On the other hand, working with other people can be very rewarding, so there are choices to make, and in order to make those choices, you need to remember what is important to you.
Peter: Has the business objectives changed from the first company to now building Multi-Regnskab?
Steffen: The first company I started was supposed to be a software company, but became a consulting company that years later turned into a software/consulting mix. Multi-Regnskab is a 100% software company, so there is a difference.
However, they are also alike, because both companies have been based on some fairly strong opinions about right and wrong, fairness and a desire to make a positive change. With Multi-Regnskab, we really want to help a lot of companies. We could probably increase our prices by 50% or more, but we have no desire to squeeze as much money from our customer as we can. We just want the price to be fair to both sides.
The good advice for other startup founders
Peter: Last question, now that you have quite a lot of experience, and this is a tacky question. But if you were to give good advice to many of the other startups here in The Camp, what would it be?
Steffen: There is persistence of course. Some startups do succeed quickly, and I’m very impressed when that happens, but I think the percentages say that more often than not, it takes longer than expected.
On the other hand, you must be very impatient and not expect anything to happen by itself.
So, that is one piece of advice at least…. be both patient and impatient.