Boostbar is building the greatest vending company of the 21st century Boostbar was founded in 2020 by Ex-Selecta & McKinsey leadership and quickly scaled to 8-figure annual revenues in less than 3 years.
Challenge: Boostbar’s founders were accomplished professionals in leading large scale business development at Selecta, McKinsey, KKR & other world-leading companies. But at Boostbar, the first hurdle to cross was going from 0 to 1 quickly - which they then achieved within less than a year by solving these specific challenges
- Hit message-market-fit: Make Boostbar so easy to understand, evaluate and buy that many buyers skip PoCs & other trial mechanisms.
- Build an outbound sales engine: Transition from selling (only) to their personal network towards validating & conquering new market niches quickly with a systematic, more predictable approach
- Setup scalable sales processes: Establish a functional sales stack including CRM selection and implementation from Day 1 without overinvesting into an expensive, hard to maintain setup
SalesPlaybook Involvement: SalesPlaybook worked intensely with the founders especially in 2020 to get Boostbar from literally 0 to 7-figure ARR within less than 12 months by mastering the above challenges. SalesPlaybook further appreciated the opportunity to support Boostbar on their scaleup journey in the areas of revenue alignment, Hubspot improvements and an ongoing informal dialogue with its founders.
CHF 0-10 million annual revenue interview (summary)
Manuel: Pascal, we first met in late Summer 2020 when you we're just starting out at zero. Now you do 10 million in our revenue and are on a good path towards combat. Can you tell us a bit more about how it all started and what you set out to do with Boostbar?
Pascal: Yes, I think we met actually three years ago, because that's when we did start… in the middle of a lockdown. So we started Boostbar to service the whole market of unattended food and beverage. I'm coming from the industry as I was COO of the European market leader Selecta. I quit the company and I set out to build my own company. …Myself and my co-founder were ex-consultants and people think consultants know everything. ..But they've never done any sales. And you published a video (on LinkedIn) about how to choose the right CRM and we contacted you, effectively asking you to implement Salesforce. (00:30-1:00)
And I remember I told you: I either kill this deal…telling you NOT to start with Salesforce…at zero revenue - even if implementing Salesforce as an consultant at Accenture was paying my salary for three years. I recommended you Hubspot…and it seems you are still using Hubspot today. Can you tell us a bit more about your journey on building your sales engine since then? And also what you learned, how it's different going from zero to one to 10 million versus running sales as like a billion dollar company such as Selecta?
Yes sure and yes are still on Hubspot, and I think that this is where you've been helpful in this journey. Of course, coming from the industry, we have a tendency to over-engineer things. There's a lot of content…guys like you posting about sales engines, lead generation, et cetera. So when you start out, it's quite intimidating because you think you need to get all these techniques and technologies and tools. …
What we had to learn the hard way: We didn't sell, we didn't close a single deal initially, so for the first six months hits, just picking up the phone to get into companies, a tool is just there to keep record. So probably up to your first deal, you could also run it (sales) in Excel.
Technically you could, but it is very hard to in retrospective establish a proper CRM…so I think it's great that you established a proper CRM on Day 1…Many of our best clients are former McKinsey consultants - seemingly because they know what they're really great at and they know what they're not so great at. In your case, you’ve been rightfully very confident in your industry knowledge, networking sales and ability to close big deals…- but well aware that you never built sales from zero to 1 million quickly…Could you tell us a bit more about what you meant by your later statement “Actually we went CHF 0-1 Mio. ARR in 6 rather than in 12 months”?
We built a “perfect” product that we never sold…I think consulting brings a lot of good inputs. But certainly what people from other industries do, it's just to pick up the phone and run. And we're not taught that at school or consulting…At the beginning, it's just about if the team is hungry enough and picking up the phone and...being able to mobilize the resources to help sell the product - or not? And if you ask why we succeeded, I think you've seen the state of our Hubspot…I've been told there are worse cases in practice but well…(04:00-05:00)
(We’ve seen “CRMs” setup in GitHub buckets at SalesPlaybook so Boostbar is doing fine…)
I think the main point on how we got there (to CHF 1 Mio. annual revenue within <12 months)...was owning sales as the founders up to a point where it was replicable. …In the end, you need to be able to cover the first sale. I think then you can get support and someone as a sparing partner to make it scalable and make it work. And if it's scalable, then that's where you play the big role. But I think if as a founder or if in the founding team, you don't have a person who can sell, you would go nowhere because you need the sale. (05:30-06:20)
I think it's also that you need the feedback loops to actually understand what are the concerns, what messages resonate, which customer was really successful. So outsourcing sales before anything like 2 to 3 million annual revenue, it's a terrible idea. Sweet peas as well for marketing agencies…they don't need to do anything, and it always fails below this 1 to 3 million threshold. I've never done this (outbound email) before but then we found a way how I can set up two campaigns a week and actually send out the emails. People reply, we book some calls. But you invest into sales as a core competence.
How would you say that affected your path to go from 1 to 10 million within roughly just two years?
…I think it's a lot of the usual macro factors that are market timing and people that were in there. But certainly doing it ourself and also training up our first commercial employees early on to do it themselves made truly understand our market in every detail…The other thing is we didn't get any shortcuts to customers. I think COVID helped us there. And also what we realized very quickly, it's very nice to have a big network of lots of C-levels but even our own investors, they didn't help us to close deals in their own companies. But in the end, it was all a benefit because it forced us very, very early on to adapt the product. (07:30-08:50).
Many people told me “A vending machine company during COVID in offices? This can never work”. You proved all of them wrong and managed to go from zero to 10 million in annual revenue in just three years - hitting profitability on a P&L level as we speak.
To be fair to the pure SaaS companies out there, when they really manage to scale, the unit economics can be incredible. But I think it's a much riskier bet than Boostbar as we don't depend on any future success to make contracts work that way. The recurring revenues are truly long term. I like to say we have the margin on the economics of SaaS with the stickiness of the hardware business…(09:45-10:50)
I agree as you solve a very fundamental human problem: Every person at work needs to eat and 90% of us drink coffee on a daily basis. To scale Boostbar quickly, you hired a lot of salespeople yourself. What was your experience in doing so from the first sales rep until hiring (multiple) head of sales?
…When I said it was the hardest function to staff, I didn't have full product-market fit, and I basically brought in sales people to do my job: Founder-led sales to understanding what the product and the pricing should be…I brought in salespeople when the job wasn't really sales. I effectively asked them to building their own mini business inside Boostbar…
My conviction now is that if you think it's really hard to onboard sales and make them successful, then you're doing something wrong. When you have 10 people selling for you, if you have one or two don't perform, it probably is them. If you have more than half of them who don't perform, it definitely is you.
And I see this going wrong so many times..founders going out there “Hey, my head of sales doesn't know what they're doing. And my three reps are bad. My head of marketing doesn't work out and my customers don't get it. They are all stupid.” If the majority of people “don’t get it”, you need to fix the Sales Playbook, not the people…
I mean, unless you hire people straight out of nursery, you hire people that achieved things in life…But we've quite often hired people into one role and it didn't work in that role. But then in another role, they performed really well. (14:30)
Pascal, when are you ready to hire someone in sales?
When he (my first sales rep) joined, at some point in a frustrated moment, he said to me: “Pascal, I know that you're selling. And that it's easy for you. But you know, everything is in your head and it's not on paper. I don't know all the stuff that you didn't know. That's the first thing. So if you want to handle our sales, you need to be able to document it and explain it in very easy terms. And second, it is easy to close deals as a founder. In half of the deals, you're basically saying yes to features we might not have yet. But if you want to scale, of course you cannot do that.” And that's where in our setup, what paid back in the end was to be quite patient with sales hires and just to have the ongoing assumption that if they don't sell, we've got homework to do.
Having my (Pascal and his co-founder Johannes) consulting background, we were used to having a client ask us “Hey, Pascal, can you do this?” And my default answer was yes. And then you go back and you figure it out and deliver the project…Product sales is different. You cannot just change the vending machine today to be a bar tomorrow (although we kind of tried that in the beginning - but not to scale)… (15:45-17:00)
Pascal, thanks so much for sharing these real-world insights on how to scale sales quickly from CHF 0 to 1 million to 10 million annual revenue in just 3 years!