Felix von Heland, CEO and Founder of WRLDS tells us about its IoT platform that makes your brand future-proof by adding a digital extension to your product.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Felix von Heland: Living in Sweden, the situation is slightly different from what it has been in most of the rest of the world the past year. I spend a day or two each week at the office and can meet my closest friends and family in smaller groups. It helps that a big part of my closest ones have had Covid already (no serious cases), which might say something about the Swedish strategy or perhaps just about my friends.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded WRLDS.
Felix von Heland: I originally come from a business background, having done business development consulting for big Swedish retail companies. While I made a very good living off that, I also strongly felt fenced it and frustrated working the strategy of someone far away in a board room. It turned out the money was not such an important driver for having a purposeful work life. I started my third company (and first startup) together with an old friend and ran it parallel to other things in the first two years. We learnt a lot but never got the financing needed to scale up, so when my friend took over as CEO in his family company Waboba, and they decided to divest a tech project they’d been working on, it made a lot of sense for me to jump on board as CEO and Founder of that new venture. Today that venture is WRLDS, and while it’s technically a spin-off rather than a startup, the way we run the company is still very much focused on scale, speed and technology.
How does WRLDS innovate?
Felix von Heland: We have the luxury of being able to build our business and software platform, together with some of the world’s best consumer brands. This helps us focus on tech that matters and that we know is needed. At the same time, we are careful with making sure that any development we do should be built in a way that we can reuse and fit into the platform. This combination of adding building blocks in combination with sticking to a clear strategy and vision is quite unique and lets us build amazing products at a much lower risk than most startups.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Felix von Heland: Back in March 2020, we were seriously feeling the pandemic as a customer, and an investor backed out within days off each other. After that, however, we’ve felt very little effect of the pandemic. While it seems most companies around us either double their business or go bust because of the corona, we are one of the few that has developed almost exactly according to plan. We’ve had a steady increase in customer brands and have grown the team and improved our technology.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Felix von Heland: The team will always come first, and it will take a lot before we make any cuts. That said, we have been careful with hiring and increasing fixed costs, so if anything, we’ve had to handle a high workload during a time when we’re not working full time together in the office. This can, of course, be challenging but so far, so good!
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Felix von Heland: The main difference that we have noticed is that several of our customers have chosen to postpone launching their new “Powered by WRLDS” products and instead increased the scope, spending more to make even better products in the meantime. The best brands seem to know that the best way to come out of the pandemic is with flags raised and aggressive market activities! We work very closely with our customers and have weekly meetings with most of them. In the next few months, we plan to start testing, incorporating them into our SCRUM process by inviting them to sprint planning and sprint demos. The closer we work strategically, the better the chances of success for both our customers and us.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Felix von Heland: We have received very little support in Sweden and consider ourselves very lucky to have paying customers and fantastic investors supporting the company. I can’t imagine how many companies and founders have spent sleepless nights over salaries, vendor relationships and other issues and can only hope that this will be over soon.
Your final thoughts?
Felix von Heland: We live in strange times when I believe it’s more important than ever to listen to your customers, find ways to make revenue from the ones you already have onboard and be creative with lowering cost structures without losing results. Asking existing partners, existing investors and existing employees for the best way forward is often uncomfortable but always faster and more rewarding than looking externally.
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