During his time at university Tobias and his friend Mathias decided they wanted to share files a lot faster - over the browser without using any plugins. They wanted to make sure everyone could easily share files without any knowledge of installing a program, or understanding the difference between 1 kilobyte and 1 gigabyte. After a while they decided to quit university to focus on the project full-time. That project is Ge.tt is, a real-time file sharing internet service.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I'm 29 years old, from Denmark. I studied computer science for four years with my co-founder before we decided to leave the university and pursue the business.
Tell me about how you got into business? + How did the idea for Ge.tt come about?
During a project at the university my co-founder, Mathias, and I started working together. The project was fairly simple - create a chat client in the browser. This particular task used Java which made it very easy to share files on the computer. We got the idea and had implemented it a few hours later. It was just for fun, but we found it to be useful and noticed how others started enjoying it as well. However, while doing this we saw all the issues that made it hard to be used in "real life" on larger networks and on the Internet. But we could see how we could change that.
We started working on a prototype and when it was done a friend of ours suggested we entered into a startup competition called Venture Cup. We didn't know much about having a company or a startup, but through writing a business plan for the competition we learned a lot and it ignited an interest. So we won 6,500 euros in that competition and got a lot of contacts. We decided to leave university and focus full-time on the business. In the following months we created Ge.tt, found a business partner, and were ready to launch.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
The language. When you speak to VC's or other people in the startup world they speak a little different. It's nothing stranger than learning to master a new skill - it was just a little head-on. In the beginning many mistakes were made, but through that I quickly learned what VC's are actually saying when you talk to them.
Another difficult part was that when we launched we basically just put the website online. Because Drop.io had just been acquired by Facebook we wrote out 50 or 100 tweets to different people who didn't know what to use now. Someone picked up on that and on the same day it was posted on Reddit and Hacker News, and The Next Web wrote about it. Then two days later, on Sunday, I get a call in the middle of the night from Mathias. I didn't pick up the first two times because I thought he just wanted to say that we had hit 1,000 users, and in my groggy condition I wanted to sleep. But as he kept calling I turned on my computer and looked through our live stats. And they were booming. Instead of a new user per minute we now had several per second. It was incredible to see. So in the middle of the night Mathias and I started booting up new machines and basically just hoped everything would work. It did - but the next weeks were very hard. So many small things to fix and make sure that it could scale. But we never went fully down back then, and that's an achievement in itself!
What is Ge.tt and what are you trying to solve?
Ge.tt is realtime file sharing. Imagine I have 30 files rather large files that I want to send to you. I drop them on Ge.tt, and immediately I get a link to them. I can send this link to you and you are now able to download any of them.
It's storing and streaming, combined. And together you get a very seamless sharing experince where sharing small files and huge files takes the same amount of time.
How have you been able to fund it?
In the beginning it was friends and family. But that soon changed when we got a business angel on board, Morten Elk. Later I met Niklas Zennström at an event and Atomico ended up investing $500,000 in us.
How were you able to convince such amazing investors to invest in your company?
As with much in life it's about the seeds you plant. When you are looking for investors you plant many seeds, and some of those grow, and if you work hard enough you will see some of those seeds blossom. Atomico was one of those seeds.
They invested in us because we have an interesting and unique technology which makes file sharing more seamless than before, and because we had some very good early traction.
What advices can you give to startup founders looking to raise money for their companies?
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
We were so tired in the beginning. Learning to speak a new language and keeping a site running that had to scale up quickly. It was a little rough in the beginning.
There is this quote from Before Sunset which I enjoy, where the main character says "Happiness is in the doing, right, not in the getting what you want." I enjoy that quote so much, and think about it often. The journey, which creating a company is, is something that should be enjoyed while you're in it.
How did you get traction?
We never really did any PR in the beginning, but had focused on making the product "viral" in itself. The idea behind it was that we could then focus on some sort of PR when the product had actually launched instead of waiting a long time with putting it online. Fortune would have it that users then found the product by themselves and then everything worked from there.
It also helps that when you use Ge.tt, you use it to send files to others. So in its nature the product have built some virality into it.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
At some point we started to work heavily with A/B testing, and that changed a lot. Both on the site, but also in our own mind-set. Instead of building a feature, then find the fastest way you can find out if this feature is actually something users want. It's something we still do a lot.
What should be expecting from yourself and Ge.tt for 2012?
At the moment we are working hard on implementing Ge.tt into other products in different ways. It will be a good way to use our technology in other products and enhance them. This was the vision we had from the beginning and still is.
What advice could you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
1. "Happiness is in the doing" - understand this
2. Focus on the point in the center, not everything around it (i.e., focus on succeeding, not on not failing)