Startup Funding in Norway: WeClean – Drag investors into your universe
Norwegian startup WeClean provides on-demand home cleaning services via a convenient app. After bootstrapping for two years, WeClean received five rounds of Angel funding in 2016. Founder Kim Haagensen explains:
I have been an entrepreneur my whole life – a high school dropout, a hustler, dreamer and a rebel. So when I found myself driving Uber after a public and ugly divorce, it didn’t take much for my brother Sindre to talk me into starting a new venture, providing home cleaning the ‘Uber way’.
In Norway, there are maybe five to ten thousand people cleaning on the black market. This intrigued me because it shows a group of people who want to work and deliver their services in a legal way, and it also verified a market which we now suspect to be worth €500 million.
We’ve been pretty laid back about funding, so when we won the Angel Challenge in May 2016, we’d already been through absolute hell. It’s not easy to find hippie investors! It was actually an Uber passenger who introduced us to our first investor, Emil Pete, who shared our values and became a good friend.
Emil’s investment gave us our first 300,000 NOK in January 2016 and we received a further 250,000 NOK investment from his father, Frank Pete, the following month. By March 2016, we were pitching on a 15 million NOK pre-money valuation and were at the final stage with many of our bids. We were still bootstrapping but we were confident in the market and watching the business grow every day.
The Angel Challenge was a great achievement. WeClean beat 19 other strong startups to win 1.3 million NOK in the form of a convertible loan. It felt fantastic and also incredibly scary that someone believed enough in us to give us their savings; there was a real feeling we had to prove ourselves. We did, winning 100,000 NOK in the Telenor Digital Challenge the following month.
Throughout all of this, we’ve stuck to our values of Peace, Love and Good Times. We wanted to change the world and shamelessly claim that we’ve already made a start. Our weapon is our service (cleaning) and our altruistic mindset – our cleaners receive a portion of our profits and not one of us is above cleaning ourselves. Our big goal is sustainability which means we avoid huge administration costs. We say if you’re too cool to clean, you’re too cool for us!
We did look for funding from a corporate partner and this didn’t go well. As we entered into discussions with Lilleborg, who had their own range of cleaning products and could train our cleaners, it looked like an exciting collaboration. But after some talks about partnership and possible investment, their parent company Orkla launched a concept very similar to WeClean. According to them, this project had been active for over a year, long before we entered discussions with them!
This kind of behaviour does happen, but Orkla won’t succeed because they don’t know how to live our values, even if they copy our ideas. My advice to entrepreneurs would be that no matter who you are pitching to, you have to drag them into your own universe. Never let anyone drag you into theirs. It’s important to have faith in your product and not accept funding from just anybody.
Our first investors believed in us and our values. Since Orkla, we’ve received a further investment of 500,000 NOK from Frank Pete, who will soon convert the loan on a ten million NOK valuation because of the good faith he showed early on.