How did Sennder, starting in a 49 sqm apartment, rise to become one of Europe’s largest digital logistics firms? Unravel the secrets of their success, the importance of strategic fundraising, and the vision of Julius Köhler in this latest episode of Street Tweets.
It’s been long established that fundraising is a critical component of success—because with it, start-ups get the necessary capital they need to fuel growth, expand operations, and achieve strategic objectives.
However, there’s one key detail that many founders overlook when they step into this stage: the fundraising journey is far from being a one-size-fits-all process.
Generally, how a start-up goes about its sourcing of investors depends on the stage it’s in and the specific goals and needs of the founders who run it. And structuring the entire process gets even more difficult when you’re tapping into a more niche market with long-established firms—but this is where learning from the fundraising journey of rising logistical player Sennder comes as a vital reference point.
Sennder is a digital road freight forwarder that has positioned itself as a disruptor in the European market.
From its humble beginnings in a 49 sqm apartment, it’s transformed into a pivotal figure in the European logistics sector. As a digital road freight forwarder, Sennder has carved a niche for itself by focusing on full truck loads, ensuring efficient and seamless transport solutions.
The highlight of Sennder’s operations, however, is that its fundraising journey has been nothing short of remarkable.
From their initial seed investment from Scania—one of the largest trucking companies in the world—to their recent Series D round with notable investors such as Earlybird Ventures, HV Capital, Lakestar, and Excel, Sennder has successfully attracted top-tier investors at each stage of their growth.
But what sets Sennder apart?
And, more importantly: how did it secure such high-profile investors from a 49 sqm apartment?
In Street Tweets’ latest episode, we sat down with Sennder’s Chief Business Development Officer, Julius Köhler, to explore the company’s fundraising journey from the very beginning until today.
In less than half an hour, we got to learn more about the measures Julius took to maximize the fundraising process and draw business-growing value out of every step along the way. He spared no detail in sharing the insights he’s learned as a founder, business development expert, and entrepreneur with us and helped bring clarity to our understanding of the modern fundraising landscape.
If you’re a founder who’s about to set out on fundraising in a challenging market, then this interview with Julius is a masterclass on how you can get ahead and make the most out of the time you spend across all seed rounds.
Here are some of our favorite takeaways from this episode of Street Tweets with Julius Köhler:
Key Takeaway #1: While most investors focus on long-term financial gains during mergers and acquisitions, they also come with another impactful benefit that can benefit them and other businesses they acquire in the future: wider and denser networks with more opportunities. This often lays out a win-win situation for investors and investees, where both parties can expand their presences in a single—or even multiple—sectors while creating more opportunities to grow and develop.
Here’s what Julius had to tell us about this often-hidden benefit of M&As:
“Now, when we speak about M & A specifically, I think we need to differentiate between the sort of tech players that we've acquired over the past, as well as traditional, more incumbent players, starting with the tech players. I think the most notable one is Uber Freight. It's the trucking division of Uber, where we've purchased their European business a while back, which was primarily due to the fact that they had strong shipper relationships that we could leverage as well as top talent.”
Whether you’re looking to fund a start-up or the one seeking funding, a merger and acquisition will lead to more opportunities for long-term success and rapid growth.
Key Takeaway #2: With technology constantly evolving, it's crucial for start-ups across all fields to take note of how they can innovate traditional processes for more efficient workflows and adapt to achieve such results. Julius explained that this exact takeaway is what helped him refine Sennder’s offering well enough to remain competitive in the market and increase chances of success and financial backing even in later seed rounds, saying:
“We have focused on different things, starting with the shippers. And we primarily focus on large enterprise companies, companies that operate on a multinational basis, such as Coca Cola, for example. With these shippers, we integrate, meaning that we build direct integrations through an API or an EDI that we can seamlessly receive a transport order. So for example, if Coca Cola requires a truck that goes from Berlin to Munich, they can seamlessly transfer that order into our system and then we basically move over to the other side, to the carrier side, and allocate the correct carrier to that load.”
Through continuous innovation and technological adaptation (and adoption), your start-up will not only be able to differentiate itself better and ultimately best meet the needs of end-consumers, but it can also become more attractive for investors.
Key Takeaway #3: Investor-investee collaborations are one of the most impactful partnerships you can have for your start-up's growth because it streamlines the process of improving the business for future growth with the help of veteran knowledge and connections. For Julius, this key opportunity served as one of the biggest influences in the overall success trajectory of Sennder, saying:
“At the same time, we were able to build up sort of a very personal relationship with our investors that then later helped us sort of calibrate the business and basically step by step set it up for future growth. So in a nutshell, they were kind of teaching us how it's done and they were giving us intros or making us intros to later stage companies that could basically help us in that journey. I think a fundraising journey like that is a bit like a marriage.”
Once you find your investors, seize the opportunity to help your startup achieve maximum scalability, growth, and success by constantly collaborating and seeking advice from them—as often as possible.
Key Takeaway #4: If it's possible to bootstrap your business and put off external funding for an extended period, then it's a route worth taking so that you can mitigate the pressure on your business better. Although it might be an attractive idea to source out as much financial backing as possible the moment you polish your startup and see its potential, it’s a more optimal decision to handle funding yourself to make the right decisions without prodding from other parties.
Julius, in fact, told us that he would opt to bootstrap his startup instead if he had a chance to do it all over again:
“I think I'd give you a more of a general or generic answer on how we would do things differently if we were to do it again today. And for this answer, the prerequisite is that we already had done the entire sender journey from C to Series D and have gained all of that expertise working with investors, et cetera. Now, if we were in a financially stable position, not having to rely on external, on external funding and having gathered all of that experience, I think we would try to do it on a bootstrapped level without taking in external funding because we've learned so much in the past from investors."
So, if it’s not necessary to bring in external financial backing yet, it’s best to play the long-game and hold off fundraising for as long as you can bootstrap your startup.
Key Takeaway #5: One of the most impactful ways to grow your business after it's innovated in one particular sector or offering and become successful is to tap into other verticals or sectors that you're not active in yet because it saves you more time and gets more mileage out of your start-up's expertise and experience. Julius explains that this approach can help ensure the long-term growth of any start-up, saying:
“And then thirdly is to potentially, in the long run, look into other verticals or business areas that we're not active in today. I mentioned earlier today that we're only doing full truck loads, but there's also less truck loads, for example. So half a truck load for one customer and then another half for another customer. So that could be potentially something that we might be looking into in the future. And I think, yeah, those are the key three elements or key things for us in the next couple of years."
Although you might not be at that point yet, forecasting and preparing for opportunities to further expand offerings and tap into other verticals and business areas can make a significant impact on your start-up’s future growth, funding, and success.
As Sennder looks to the future, their focus remains on growth and expanding their European footprint. With a commitment to building a dense network across Europe and offering a wide range of services to both shippers and carriers, Sennder aims to solidify its position as a market leader. Additionally, the company is exploring opportunities in other verticals, such as less-than-truckload transportation, to further diversify its offerings and capture new market segments.
The fundraising journey of Sennder serves as a case study in scale-up fundraising, highlighting the importance of strategic partnerships, investor-founder relationships, and a clear focus on growth. As Sennder continues to disrupt the road freight industry and revolutionize logistics, their success story offers valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs and investors alike.
With the right combination of capital, expertise, and vision, scale-up companies can navigate the fundraising landscape and position themselves for long-term success in an ever-changing business landscape.