The Entrepreneur: Christian Lanng, Tradeshift

Fresh from raising an additional $75m, the electronic invoicing platform co-founder shares his key metrics, biggest luxury and tech must-haves

Founder: Christian Lanng
Company: Tradeshift
Website: www.tradeshift.com
Description in one line: A global platform designed to connect every business on the planet
Previous companies: EasyTrade

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Our platform is completely free for small businesses and suppliers. We pioneered this model.
  • Our open app development platform allows users to bring any number of business processes online.
  • We are global. It is in our DNA. We are connected to companies all over the planet and are active in 190 countries. Our employees represent 31 nationalities and we maintain offices in San Francisco, Copenhagen, London, Suzhou and Tokyo, with more to come.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Developing and launching EasyTrade was incredible. We changed how B2G (business to government) in Denmark was done and brought 95% of the country’s businesses on to the system. And ultimately that is what got the ball rolling for Tradeshift. It’s where everything began.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

I’m very aware of the number of suppliers joining and using the platform everyday. Seeing the network of suppliers and small businesses grow at the rate it is – it’s simply wonderful and has become an obsession of mine

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

Tradeshift is active in more than 190 countries. We see a massive amount of cross-border transaction volume taking place – between 60% – 70%.

Describe your growth funding path:

We launched in 2009 with $7m in seed funding from Notion Capital. Right out of the gate we attracted international investors who quickly understood our global vision and where we wanted to go.

In 2011 we closed a $17m round of funding. Investors included ru-Net, Kite Ventures and Notion Capital once again. This helped us expand and set up headquarters in San Francisco.

In 2013 we formed a partnership with Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks accounting software. With that came a $10m strategic investment

And most recently, in February 2014, we raised $75m with Scentan Ventures in Singapore, forming a partnership that brings the Tradeshift platform to Japan and furthers our growth in China and around the globe.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Communication tools like Skype, Go-to-Meeting and Fusion have been invaluable for us. We have offices and employees in San Francisco, Copenhagen, London, Suzhou and beyond. These tools really help us all stay connected and to get the work done that we need

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Firing my first employee.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Trying to release our entire last iteration in one release rather than going agile.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Any type of bureaucracy that restricts a company’s natural culture.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Thinking there is a certain way or certain set of rules to be successful entrepreneur. You have to be in the Valley and have to work with a certain VC’s

How will your market look in three years?

Ability to innovate and providing strategic solutions not just tactical fixes will be much more important, smaller players who lack that will either disappear or be acquired.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Do things your own way.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Sleep.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Learn it on the job. And self-educate – always be reading and listening. Never stop learning.

What would make you a better leader?

Listening more.

Business book:

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

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