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How Rob van den Heuvel built Europe's #1 shipping platform with Sendcloud

In this episode of The Scale Lab, Constantijn & Joe meet CEO of Sendcloud - Rob van den Heuvel. Tune in for an honest talk about Rob’s founder learnings and advice for first-time entrepreneurs. How did Sendcloud achieve its success? We’ve outlined some scaling secrets shared by Rob within the following blog.

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Biography - Rob van den Heuvel

​​Rob van den Heuvel, CEO & co-founder of Sendcloud is a young, self-made entrepreneur. Already during his student days, Rob took his first steps into the world of e-commerce by building his own online store. He quickly spotted the opportunities in a dispersed European parcel shipping market and launched Sendcloud in 2012 with two partners. The SaaS company is now active in 8 countries. With his talent for trading, Rob now runs the successful scale-up out of Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Over the years Rob gained lots of experience in the field of logistics and e-commerce.

[00:03:04] Joe: When did you know you had a product-market fit with Sendcloud?

Rob: We knew we had product-market fit back in 2012 because we had an online store as the core business at the time, so we knew exactly what problems ecommerce businesses encountered. Basically, through Sendcloud, we solved our own issues. 

In my opinion, we also started tackling those issues with the right priority. We didn’t start a platform with 100 different shipping partners and 50 different e-commerce integrations. We took it one step at a time and began by dealing with the biggest problems we encountered.

[00:04:48] Constantijn: What was the major issue you wanted to solve?

Rob: We were students when we started running our own online store. Once you received an order it was nice, payments already went automatically, but once you actually had to ship your order it got complex. We didn’t want to do all the manual work that you had to do back then.

For example, the Dutch post used an outdated offline Windows programme, which meant that we had to copy-paste every single order, as well as the person’s contact details, address, etc. Naturally, you make mistakes, as there were no automated checks. Even though all this information was already registered in our online store, we weren’t able to just send a request to the Dutch postal services for a shipping label. Back then, things were really complex and the fees we were paying per parcel were way too high. 

So we decided to solve it ourselves. The first thing we did was negotiating with the Dutch post for cheaper shipping fees. We saw the need for a solution like Sendcloud, as lots of people with small businesses were complaining about the same things we experienced across various online forums. This is when we knew there is a bigger mission to accomplish than selling phone accessories online, which, of course, is also nice.

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[00:06:38] Constantijn: What made Sendcloud really take off?

Rob: It didn't really take off. It incrementally grew. For the first couple of hundred customers, we just told the story of our solution, what made us create it and what e-commerce problems it can help solve. Shipping cheaper through a more efficient platform was a no-brainer for most of them. So one can say we were doing sales on the phone. 

[00:08:35] Constantijn: You’ve been financing Sendcloud through your ecommerce business for a while. You must have come to a point when you needed external capital to continue growing. Can you take us through that journey?

Rob: We launched Sendcloud in 2012. Two and a half years later we had around 500 customers, so we started thinking about bringing additional capital. We managed to raise our first funding round, which was around €150K and was perceived by us like a ton of money. Eventually, six months later we ran out of it and had to raise another round and that’s how you get into it. 

[00:10:32] Constantijn: When was the moment when you started really looking for the kind of investor who could take your business to another level?

Rob: Before we started raising external funding, we understood that we would need smart people who could really help us. For the first round, we selected two angels with who we had the best personal connection and who could add value to our business. I think going for the strongest personal connection is really important when it comes to choosing investors. 

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[00:15:08] Constantijn: You’ve been growing extremely fast, especially during COVID. I assume hiring had a big stake in this. Could you pinpoint a few hires that really made an impact?

Rob: I think one of our key hires was our CTO - Tim - who really scaled our engineering team within the last six or seven years. We also hired a few senior engineers in our early days, which was a very expensive move for us back then, but those employees are still working with us and continue accelerating our product development, so it was the right strategic decision for us after all.

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Want to hear the full Sendcloud story?

And hear the key lessons Rob has learned when expanding abroad? Listen to the full episode via Anchor, Spotify, or Apple Podcast!

Listen now

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