Managing Hypergrowth While Staying True To Your Brand

Pleo Co-founder & CEO Jeppe Rindom discusses how a cohesive team with 50+ nationalities helped propel Pleo to a $4.7B valuation

5 min read May 11, 2022
Spotlight

In our Making Markets series, learn from exceptional entrepreneurs about their magic moments in company building and important lessons for shaping the industries that matter today.

Since it was founded in 2015, Pleo has grown into the largest spend management platform in Europe, raising over $350 million in venture funding to reach a valuation of $4.7 billion. Pleo’s corporate cards and expense management software are already used by over 20,000 businesses in six European countries, and the company is rapidly expanding into 15 more territories in the near future, on track to serve over 1 million users by 2025.

BCV first invested in Pleo’s Series C and we look forward to continuing to support co-founders Jeppe Rindom and Nicco Perra as they continue to lead Pleo on its rapid growth journey. We recently sat down with Jeppe to talk about how Pleo’s tight-knit, global-minded team has delivered on Pleo’s core mission, all while managing hypergrowth.

Before you co-founded Pleo, you were a CEO and CFO at several technology companies, with earlier stints in investment banking. What made you want to start Pleo after those experiences?

My co-founder Nicco and I created Pleo to solve what we then and still to this day believe is an outmoded way of working in the 21st century — how companies buy stuff at work. We felt the pain as end-users, having to file expense reports at the end of the month and wait for your reimbursements to roll through. We wanted to unlock a new way of spending that put the employee first and made them feel trusted and valued.

When it comes to funding, Pleo raised the biggest Series C ever in Denmark, and you’re now one of the most highly-valued startups in Europe. How did you build a global company from the Nordics?

I think it all starts with being outward-looking. Despite being headquartered in Denmark and being Danish myself, Pleo has always had an international outlook. The UK was our core entry market and continues to be a key driver for us today. We’ve also been able to attract a 700-strong workforce with people from over 50 nationalities, which helps build a truly global diversity of thought and approach to the problems we can solve for teams everywhere.

You’re rapidly expanding into new countries. How do you determine where to grow next and manage this additional complexity?

Through many long debates and research! Market expansion has been at the forefront of our minds since we started early talks with BCV and our other investors. A product like Pleo could definitely have a global impact but, for us, it’s important to “win where we play.” That means starting with wider expansion across Europe, where we already have a strong product-market and culture fit.

Pleo’s product is geared toward empowering employees in future-forward workplaces — and Pleo has a top-ranked employee culture itself. How can fast-growing startups create a similar employee-centric culture to Pleo’s, even with distributed teams?

For us, we unlocked this by staying true to our core values — trust, transparency, being human and entrepreneurship — and making sure we constantly hold ourselves accountable for these standards across the entire organization.

My advice to other founders would be to self-reflect and define what inspires you to do your best work. Why do you get out of bed every morning and what is your ultimate mission with your company?

If you can advocate for that mission from the very top it can work wonders for your broader team, as they feel they’re part of something so much bigger than “just another startup.”

Your brand and your design is very simple, yet unique. How did you decide on Pleo’s look-and-feel and how does your branding impact your product, culture, and customer acquisition?

We took a considered choice to invest in our brand and identity at Pleo back in late 2019. This meant not only building a first-class in-house brand team shaping the tone, look and feel of the Pleo brand you see today, but ultimately why we exist and what drives us to do our best work everyday.

Looking at our brand as a strategic pillar from the outset has meant we’ve been able to embed those brand values into how we hire, how we communicate with our customers and prospects, and how we build the product. In a sense, our brand feels organically Pleo — and that’s hard to imitate.

You started out by targeting small and medium-sized business customers, but many of them have grown up and some have up to 5,000 employees. Did you grow your product to keep up with your customers, and would you recommend that approach?

This is naturally a challenge when you’ve sharpened your ideal customer profiles around a particular company size. However, we’ve so far been able to focus on our core audience, while also continuing to appeal to fast-growing companies by helping them tackle new challenges with how they are spending.

For us, and me, personally, it is inspiring to see the journey of our early-stage customers — taking on new team members, expanding their own services, and tackling new challenges — always with Pleo in their back pocket. We want to be part of that journey for as long as possible, so businesses build a healthy spending culture from the outset.

Pleo is the spending solution for forward-thinking teams everywhere. The company’s smart company cards empower over 20,000 businesses across Europe to take control of their spending, invoicing, bills, and accounting — all from one platform.

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