Waarom deze Antwerpse scale-up na jarenlange bootstrapping toch geld ophaalde: “Te snel groeien is een luxeprobleem”

“Growing too fast is a luxury problem”

Pointerpro founders Mark Penson and Stefan Debois

Pointerpro, which makes it its (international) mission to digitize consultancy companies, has raised 950,000 euros in capital. Not remarkable business news in itself, were it not for the fact that the Antwerp scale-up has so far – consciously – grown on its own and is the only one self-funded software company managed to make the Deloitte Fast 50 list twice in a row. So why the sudden turnaround now? A question that we would like to let co-founder and CEO Stefan Debois answer himself.

In a nutshell, Pointerpro automates personal advisory reports for companies, completely tailored to their specific needs. The company is now doing this in no fewer than 65 countries. In addition to the Belgian headquarters in Antwerp, Pointerpro also has employees in the United States and Latin America, which today account for about 50% of the market. Not bad for a tool that the co-founder initially developed to steer the quiz for his daughter’s birthday party in the right direction.

Continue to focus on niche

“I started the company more than ten years ago,” Stefan Debois begins. “At that time still under the name Survey Anyplace, with an attractive survey tool at the heart of the matter that fully focused on respondent experienceso that more response and therefore better data would follow. But because the competition on the survey softwaremarket was so large, we increasingly focused on a niche: automating advice that can be extracted from that data and configured without any software knowledge.”

Growing the customers’ business is Pointerpro’s ambition – as the company has been called since last year – but in the meantime its own organization is also growing at a blistering pace: since 2019 by fifty percent every year and that purely on its own strength, so self- funded. Until now, because the company has raised external capital for the first time: 950,000 euros to be precise, via a bank loan, combined with a loan from PMV. With this fresh capital, Pointerpro wants to tap into new markets and put the company even more strongly on the international map.

It also wants to invest in marketing and R&D, expand the 30-person team with data analysts, developers and marketers, and accelerate innovation in the product range to, in its own words, ‘put a turbo on the digitization of consultancy companies’. For example, later this year, Assessment Center will be a new product that will allow customers to offer their customers a portal in their own house style. All this should ensure that Pointerpro will reach the turnover of ten million euros two years ahead of schedule.

The Belgian Pointerpro team (© Ian Hermans Photography)

Very cost-efficient work

We have made the choice not to raise external capital very consciously until now”, emphasizes Stefan Debois. “Because we work very cost-efficiently. We don’t have to open our own office in every new country where we start up because everything happens online and we are a SaaS company, so without any hardware. The support is also fully digital. Secondly, our acquisitions of new customers are very cheap as the contracts are concluded online, which has long ceased to be an issue, especially in Western markets.”

Today we are about to make a big growth leap – also because maintaining that annual growth of 50% is becoming increasingly difficult – so external capital was very welcome

“Finally, we serve customers who already have a certain digital maturity and can therefore afford the investment in our product in advance, even before they actually start using it. All this allowed us to grow on our own, because the business financed itself, as it were. And with success, because we are the only one self-funded software company that has made the Deloitte Fast 50 twice in a row. So that says something about our capital-efficient growth.”

“But today we are about to make a big growth leap – also because maintaining that annual growth of fifty percent is becoming increasingly difficult – so external capital was very welcome,” says Debois.

Co-founder and CEO Stefan Debois

Looking at the next two years

Pointerpro’s CEO cannot stress enough that this is a loan and not a loan equity-capital. “We have now completed a process that gives banks the confidence that we can pay off the loan,” says Debois. “Moreover, we first want to use the cheap financing with very interesting interests. We close a capital round with venture capital certainly not out in the future, but we now want to prove that with this money we can achieve the planned growth in the next two to three years.”

We close a capital round with venture capital certainly not in the future, but now we want to prove that with this money we can achieve the planned growth in the next two to three years

“We’ll see after that: if the need is high and if there turns out to be an engine that can still accelerate our growth and that we can feed with that capital: why not? For example, we still see a lot of opportunities in platforms where people really work together, while in the world of consultancy a lot is still done via email – in the 20th century way, so to speak. So progress is still possible in several areas. But first we want to look at the next two years.”

Don’t fall into traps

As stated, the ambition is to reach the ten million turnover mark faster than planned in those two years, but the fear of the there is certainly no way to grow quickly, according to Debois. “I see that as a luxury problem,” he says. “On the other hand, there are definitely points for attention: you have to be careful that at a certain point you are no longer capital efficient and you have to make sure that you don’t recruit too many people, in the sense that the organization must continue to be able to cope. Ultimately, you don’t want to underperform because the culture has been affected.”

“That being said, we are careful not to fall into those pitfalls. Whether or not we also have to contend with the war for talent? Absolutely, it is a great challenge for us to find new people and new customers. But we have a great asset: we are a growing company, which means that people who start with us have the opportunity to grow with the company, in any position, and regardless of the age of the person who joins us. comes. That seems, what employer branding concerned, very attractive.”

Personal touch with the customer

Finally, we would like to know whether we will look beyond the next two years. Pointerpro hopes to have others by about 2030 milestones to have achieved? “We now serve 65 countries, but it is not our goal to be active in roughly 100 countries by 2023. The potential on our current – especially Western – markets is still too great for that,” Debois replies.

Above all, we want our model to remain efficient and robust enough to open up new markets without having to set up a sales office there. As long as we have the personal touch making it possible with the customer via video call and in that way also being able to conclude the larger contracts, that should certainly work!”

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