Welcome to this Founder Spotlight interview with Christopher Lier, cofounder of the SaaS startup LeadGen.
We met when I was running Office Hours mentoring sessions at Techhub, a coworking space for tech startups last year.
In the interview Christopher talks about communicating with cofounders, funding his startup, GDPR compliance for business owners, and working with developers in remote locations.
Hi! Please tell us a bit about you, and what you do.
My name is Chris, I am a digital marketer and cofounder at LeadGen, a web app to empower marketers in building online lead capture forms to improve their campaign performance. I also run a digital marketing consultancy business which specialises in digital strategy development and lead generation for SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) companies.
I grew up in Germany, studied in the UK and now I am based in Shoreditch in London’s Tech ecosystem. I’m passionate about entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and personal development.
Thanks Chris. How did you first come to recognise that there was a problem that you could solve?
We had been managing landing page campaigns for businesses and realised that there weren’t great solutions for building custom multi-step forms, so we decided to build a tool for our own business and clients. Gradually, we realised that there is a tremendous need in the digital marketing space for creating more effective lead capture forms which made us start LeadGen.
How did the business develop from that point?
Initially, there was slow progress as we didn’t aim to make a business out of it. Slowly but surely, we decided that this was the SaaS business that we wanted to grow. I also realised that building a product business is much more suited to my strengths, for example in comparison to running a service agency. Today we are getting found online and generating new users everyday.
The images below illustrate how LeadGen can be set up to create a user journey that supports the capture of new leads.
How has life changed since you started your business?
Building a business is a commitment. I learned that one has to take full responsibility for whatever is happening. I was always an active and ambitious person, but running a startup demands a lot more follow-through and critical thinking to be sure your actions are pushing you in the right direction.
Many people think that running a business takes a toll on other aspects of your life. For me, the opposite is true. You have a lot more flexibility and get to do more things. The trick lies in not trying to compromise or balance what you do, but to just go for whatever is important to you.
Before I started my digital agency Leadcube in 2017, I was still studying. I gradually found my path and a business partner in the following months after University when I joined a local co-working space in Essex where I used to live at the time.
So you started quite young! It also sounds like you’ve also figured out how to work productively so you can get some form of work life balance. The eternal struggle when your business is your baby...
You have a co founder at LeadGen. How do you divide work between you?
We work based on different responsibility fields and divide the work accordingly. My colleague is in charge of product development, whilst I handle the marketing and growth of the business, which suits both our natural strengths. Having a complementary skill set between co founders when building a startup is way better than coming from the same backgrounds in my view.
I agree! The benefit of having a co founder is an alternative perspective and a different set of skills, among other things. How do you work through differences of opinion?
It’s actually not too hard when you have a culture of open communication.
It’s very important to have the ability to think rationally and aim to keep any personal biases out of discussions. That’s not always easy for sure and requires work on yourself. Disagreement in itself shouldn’t be a problem and is necessary to grow.
Also, founders should openly address and share what’s bothering them with their business partners, instead of letting it stay in their minds. This way you can avoid a lot of problems in the first place. These are some of the principles we have that have helped us in our business.
It’s an excellent basis for all relationships, and a very healthy way to deal with concerns and disagreements! What else can you tell us about your app?
What we want to achieve with LeadGen is to build a tool that marketers can’t live without. The web app is built for marketers to build custom lead capture and multi-step forms for improving lead generation performance.
Online forms are essential for web-based businesses. They are the key interface for potential customers to get in touch with companies and their offers. Marketers can use LeadGen to build lead forms, branded in their own company style to match with their web content. This creates a better user experience. LeadGen Forms can be embedded into landing pages and websites to start capturing leads. The forms can link to custom Thank-you messages and can be integrated with any kind of other marketing tools, including CRM systems and email marketing software.
There are other cool features like displaying LeadProof messages with the most recently generated leads on landing pages as pop-ups. This creates social proof and helps in capturing more leads by enticing people to fill in the LeadGen form on your page.
We also generate stats for our customers using the LeadGen metric dashboard:
So..., GDPR! Many email capture forms are no longer compliant and do not cater for the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws, which is a nightmare for companies trying to stay compliant and operate within the law. It's amazing how many lead capture forms and landing page builders STILL have not been adapted to accommodate the new rules. (Rant over!)
Can you tell us how companies can make use of your product and still remain compliant with the General Data Protection Regulations?
Sure. Many marketers get overwhelmed or intimidated by GDPR. This shouldn’t be such a big problem to spend time worrying about. It should be easy for marketers and companies to cope with the changes that GDPR has brought.
In LeadGen forms, marketers can easily enable tick boxes for obtaining the user’s consent to subscribe to newsletters or lists as part of lead offers. In this part of the lead form, links can be added to refer to legal agreements, including privacy policies and terms and conditions.
Lead forms can also be customised with text sections to specify the offering and a note about opt-ins for email marketing.
That's really great to hear as it means that your clients have one less thing to worry about!
I also wanted to ask you about your involvement in startup competitions. Have you taken part in any pitch competitions? What was your experience like?
I’ve taken part in a few competitions. Right at the start of my entrepreneurial journey, I managed to win a startup grant from the University I studied at, which was nice in the early days. I also participated in Techhub Demo night at Google Campus in London, where startups present in front of an audience of tech enthusiasts and investors. I can recommend pitch events and startup competitions to gain experience and get feedback in front of audiences.
The more you practice, the more likely you are to “nail” it when you have to do a really important pitch, so I’d advise readers to practice whenever you can!
How are you currently funding the growth of your startup?
We haven’t raised funding, we’re using the profits from providing digital marketing and web design services to cover R&D investments.
My best tip for fundraising is to go through connections and introductions rather than pitching directly to the investor. And obviously be extremely well prepared and able to answer any type of question about your business.
Let’s talk about product build and developers next! Your development is done from India, correct? Can you tell us more about this, and about what your experience has been like?
Yes, we have developers based in India. I can say that having remote staff is a great way of growing a business. I can’t see much of a difference vs. having everyone together in one place. Regarding the Indian market, it’s mainly my co-founder dealing with it. He knows the local market which is a tremendous help. For a founder from Europe with no background or experience in this market, cultural differences can be a real challenge and it might be better to start building the business from other locations initially.
What stage are you at with your business today?
We are still at an early stage. The product is live and we’re continuously building a bigger user base. The main priority will remain the improvement of the product, and the user experience until we can concentrate more on marketing. We have close contact with users and also have a Facebook group where we gain a lot of insight into the experiences that users have with the tool and what features they request.
Feel free to join at this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/leadgenapp.
Thanks for sharing! What’s been the best thing about your journey so far?
Without doubt, the people I get to meet on this journey. I really enjoy building a team and striving towards goals together. But even beyond that, as a founder you can get to know many entrepreneurs and interesting people to learn from and work with.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Balancing short-term and long-term results. On the one hand, you know that you need to build a great product, but that doesn’t happen overnight. Sales do not come quickly in a product business when starting it from scratch. Since we are self-funded, we need to find other ways to provide value to the marketplace with services. Balancing those two goals and activities is difficult.
What would you do differently if you could go back in time and give yourself some advice?
To start earlier while I had more time available, e.g in University. Ideally, getting a mentor early on in the journey and also finding the right environment to work from.
What’s next for your business?
A lot of work on the product, improving the user experience, and hiring more staff so we can grow.
Where can people find you online?
For marketers and anyone interested in digital marketing, the best place to go is our website www.leadgenapp.io where you can start testing our tool LeadGen App for free.
The Facebook community Lead Generators https://www.facebook.com/groups/leadgenapp is a great place to connect with us and other digital marketers.
Thanks Christopher! We wish you, your cofounder, and LeadGen all the best for the future.
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