From seed to IPO: the incredible story of Rafael Sweary - Walkme cofounder

How it all started

This year, dualoop co-hosted the "Founder Meet Up" event in Brussels for Mangrove Capital Partners.

It was an exciting opportunity for everyone to network, exchange ideas, and learn from each other.

The special guest was Rafael Sweary, co-founder of WalkMe.

This event is a recurring occasion that changes the city every time, and as dualoop, we are proud to have co-hosted the Bruxelles edition!

Yannick Oswald, an associate at Mangrove Capital Partners, noted:

“I couldn’t be more excited to bring along my partner Roy, and Rafi: the founder of Walkme. He will share some of the lessons learned no one told him about when growing his business from the seed stage, to listing it on the Nasdaq.”

That evening, Yannick took the floor, while everyone was chatting and enjoying the drink. Roy Saar and Rafael Sweary, two early-stage investors, also joined us for the evening.

When investing in a company, these people dedicate a significant amount of time to it, as they are passionate about creating things and really supporting creators.

Rafael shared one example of their recent success stories: he founded "Walk Me" and listed the company only a year and a half ago, and now it has a revenue of 262 million dollars.

How did he do that?
And how did it get so much revenue in only a year?

Rafael Sweary, the co-founder of WalkMe started his inspiring by touching upon the complicated journey of his company and how they came up with the idea of "WalkMe": a step-by-step guide to help people use websites easily.

Rafael shared that their journey was not an easy one, and they faced many challenges when they first launched their product.

They struggled to gain traction and get customers to buy their product. But instead of giving up, they kept listening to their customers and improved their product by making it “proactive”.

WalkMe founder dualoop Rafael Sweary

What does it mean?
As Rafael himself explained, they identified what users needed and automatically provided guidance to help them.

Their product became more and more successful every day. They started by celebrating with pizzas when they got even only a new client.

in the fourth quarter of 2022, the total revenue was $64.9 million, an increase of 22% year-over-year.

Rafael believes that the key to success is to understand why something is hard, to listen to your customers, and to keep on trying to get better:

“The lesson, from what we learned, is that when something it's hard you should try to understand why and listen to the customers. Whenever I meet a customer of “Walk Me” and he tells me “I love your product”, I tell him “What don't you like? What else do you need?”Because this is what helps us become better and better and better.”

Perseverance and listening to customers are the keys to success in any business.
But Rafael's speech also highlighted the importance of adaptability and strategic thinking in building a successful business.

He emphasized the importance of finding a repeatable sales model: you need to know how much you need to spend to get a customer.

“If we spend a dollar, how much money do we get back?”

By tracking and analyzing their spending, Rafael's company identified what was working and what wasn't.
With this process, they crossed the $20 million and $50 million marks!

But Rafael also pointed out that a successful business cannot rely on one model forever.

His team constantly sought out new models and strategies, even if it meant changing things up entirely.
One of his examples was segmenting their sales team: different clients require different approaches.

Another important lesson Rafael shared was the value of building relationships with business partners and industry experts.
Working with companies like Gardner, his business became a reputable player in the industry.
This way, he was also able to command higher prices later.

The focus shifted to the importance of having a structured and repeatable sales process when starting a company.
Rafael drew a comparison between Bruxelles and Israel, where only the latter has a global outlook right from the start.

In particular, he highlighted how important is the US market.
There, companies are more likely to buy software and have a well-defined sales process with an international perspective.

To succeed there (and everywhere else), you must have a well-structured sales process that everyone follows.
Salespeople can't just guess what the customer wants, they need a set of standard questions to always get a clear understanding of the customer's needs.

Rafael then gave an example of one of their standard questions:

"Assuming you like what you see today, would you be the one to pull the trigger on this?"
This question helps him to identify the key decision-makers in the company and what departments need to be involved in the sales process.

Rafael also talked about his challenging experience of raising money for his startup.
During their first round with Mangrove, it was hard for them to get investors on board.
Being a new solution in the market, Rafael found it difficult to answer some questions, especially about the Total Addressable Market (TAM).... as there was no product like theirs!

However, he was lucky to find an investor like Mangrove, who believed in their potential and invested in them from the beginning.
Little by little, they helped his startup get the funding it needed to grow.

At this point, Roy Saar (Partner at Mangrove Capital Partners and Board Member at WalkMe) intervened, and with Rafael he discussed the challenges of making pre-seed investments in early-stage companies.

According to Roy, when investing in such companies, they usually don't have a clue about the market and don't have a real plan.
But they do have a vision.

Roy said that sometimes the vision is a journey they walk with the team.
If they really have an ambitious vision then, they always say "We need to aim for the stars to at least hit the mountains!"

Rafael took the floor again to answer questions from attendees, and explained that going public was the best option for his company as they didn't have a natural buyer.

However, he learned that in addition to taking care of the financial and audit preparations, it's crucial to talk to institutional investors early on.
These long-term investors are interested in the company's story and are willing to invest for the long term, which can stabilize the stock in volatile market conditions.

On the other hand, short-term investors like hedge funds are only looking to make a quick profit, and are less interested in the company's vision.

Rafael also noted that nobody told him about the restrictions on what can be shared during the “roadshow” for the IPO.
He discovered it's essential to talk to big investors beforehand and share the company's vision and dreams.

WalkMe cofounder Rafael Sweary dualoop

In terms of his plans, Rafael now wants to keep working with startups, where he can enjoy the passion of figuring things out and solving problems.

Additionally, Rafael is committed to making a positive impact on society working with two organizations.
One helps kids who lost their parents, and the otherthat gives surfing lessons to kids who dropped out of high school.

With this encouragement on making a difference in both the business world and society as a whole, our event finished on an inspiring note.

Overall, the "Founder Meet-Up" co-hosted by dualoop’s team for Mangrove Capital Partners in Bruxelles, was a really inspiring experience thanks to the insights shared by Rafael Sweary, co-founder of WalkMe.

During the event, Rafael highlighted several key factors that are crucial for building a long-term successful business: perseverance, adaptability, and strategic thinking.

When answering attendees' questions, Rafael also stressed the importance of two other important features needed for the growth and sustainability of a business: a repeatable sales model and strong customer relationships.

Towards the end of the event then, Rafael shared some of the challenges he faced in raising funds for his startup, as his experience clearly highlighted the importance of resilience and flexibility when facing obstacles in the entrepreneurial journey.

This event has been an invaluable opportunity to learn from one of the industry's leading voices, and at dualoop, we look forward to co-hosting and attending Mangrove Capital Partners' future events!

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