Follow-on: Ingrid and Quickchannel

Follow-on investments

After a year of rapid growth, blq invest is increasing its investment in the portfolio companies Ingrid by SEK 12.25 million and Quickchannel by SEK 4 million. Blq invested in the delivery experience platform Ingrid in March 2020 and the streaming platform Quickchannel in July 2020. Since then, the companies have grown strongly.

Both investments were made during the time when the world was marked by a pandemic. During the pandemic, organizations have been forced to switch to digital collaboration and hold meetings, webinars and town halls with Quickchannel. Together with their customers, Quickchannel has completed over 40 million minutes of watched streams during 2020. Quickchannel has signed 51 new customers and have shown a growth of +135 percent new users and 290 percent streaming growth.

Furthermore, e-commerce has gained momentum when we can not shop in physical retail in the same way as before. Ingrid has doubled its customer base with customers such as Åhlens, Footway and ICA. In the past year, they have handled close to 20M orders with as many as 2,217M orders for January alone (94 percent increase from January last year).

– Blq invest closed its first fund last fall and we are happy to have found such fine companies in Cinode, Ingrid, Quickchannel and Collegial. We are a challenger in the investor market who strongly believes in an active approach which we call the blq box, where we build the companies systematically together with the entrepreneurs. It is fun to see our approach work in practice, says Kamjar Hajabdolahi, founding partner of blq invest.

Quarterly letter Q4

Dear blq family,

The last quarter has proven to be fruitful for us. Both in terms of deal flow and performance by our portfolio companies. Cinode signed 51 new customers during 2020, where the launch of Cinode Partner Network has led to +500 connections between companies. Ingrid grew orders handled with 75 percent during 2020, with 30 new customers signed. Quickchannel grew its user base with 135 percent with a 290 percent streaming growth during the year.

Our in-house sourcing approach has led to several investment opportunities. During 2020, we have evaluated +300 companies in team, and met +135 companies for first meetings. Interesting to note is that a number of clusters have been identified, either suitable for a standalone M&A approach, or as potential add-ons for existing portfolio companies.

During the quarter we have initiated several M&A dialogues and I am confident that 2021 will start a new chapter for our portfolio companies in terms of a buy, build and integrate approach to growth. They are all well positioned to expand their product offering, value-add and commercial footprint in a number of markets, organically as well as non-organically.

We are also pleased to announce that Karin Bjerde has joined the blq invest team as Company Builder. Karin will be working full time with our portfolio companies through our blq box approach, which we have implemented to all blq companies and working consistently with.

Entering 2021 is a bit brighter than 2020. During the pandemic, our portfolio companies have all been part of digitising their respective industries, helping their customers transition into a new way of working. Entering 2021, the vaccine rollout is bringing hope to us that we soon can go back to the new normal. The new normal with an increased focus of digital approaches is serving blq’s sweet spot well and I am eager to embrace 2021.

Kamjar Hajabdolahi, founding partner blq invest

Hello Collegial

New investment: Collegial

Blq (building legacy quota) leads an investment of 19,2 million SEK in a first tranche together with JCE in the edtech company Collegial. Collegial’s vision is to become number one globally within corporate learning.

Collegial is developing a Learning Experience Platform helping organizations to drive continuous professional development in the workplace and society-at-large. Collegial collaborates with global leading universities and content providers to offer world-class learning content, a marketplace and a learning community through their platform.

One of the biggest challenges companies face today is to re- and upskill their employees, and keep up with the workforce transition. At the end of the day, we are all personally responsible for our own professional development and education at work to keep up with the competition on the labour market. On the other hand, employers need to enable continuous learning in the workplace to attract, retain and develop employees in order to secure top talent and stay competitive on the global market.

Together with blq invest, Collegial will accelerate their growth and make the platform accessible to more users. With SEB as their first client and design partner, Collegial is applying user driven product development with the joint ambition to develop a market leading learning experience platform.
Collegial is checking all the boxes. In a short period of time, Collegial has together with SEB reached impressive engagement among their 15,000 users. Let’s go company building.

Welcome to the blq family!

Karin Bjerde joins blq Invest

Hey Karin!

We are happy to introduce the fourth team member of Blq Invest – Karin Bjerde, our Company Builder! Put simply, Karin will be overall responsible for assisting our portfolio companies transition from startups to scaleups. Having spent her previous 4+ years at a Swedish SaaS startup turned scaleup, Kognity, she’s lived through this transition and will now use her experience and knowledge to guide our companies operationally.

Not an ordinary investor
What makes blq Invest different is that we are not simply an investor – we are company builders! Our expertise is to help our portfolio companies go from start-ups to scale-ups. Through our blq Box approach, we help our companies identify what needs to be done within 4 key areas – scale, stickiness, storytelling, and team – and then work side-by-side with them to bring these changes into reality. Strong execution is the motto we live by.

What is a company builder?
This blq Box process is what Karin as a company builder will be responsible for. Karin works with the founders and management of the companies on a weekly basis to ensure they are taking the right steps to scale their business. This can for instance be setting a clear company strategy, company steering to ensure the entire team is pulling in the same direction, improving the commercial functions based on best practices within SaaS, and identifying and executing on recruitment needs.

What is Karin’s motivation?
Put simply, she loves connecting the dots between the top-down big picture trends, and the bottom-up execution of those trends. Further, she also believes Sweden (where we have our HQ) has a unique opportunity to take a leading role globally through its values, entrepreneurial ecosystem thanks to companies like Spotify, Skype, and Klarna, and societal structure enabling entrepreneurship. Nurturing Sweden’s ecosystem of start-ups alongside governments, academia, and large corporations can position Sweden at the forefront of global development, we just have to ensure that we provide all the right pathways to deliver on that opportunity.

Many times, grand plans and visions fail due to execution. Under Karin and the rest of the blq team’s guidance, blq Invest’s portfolio companies will hopefully navigate the tricky path from startup to scaleup in a grander fashion.

The blq box

We wanted to share some ingredients in our secret sauce with you. A sauce we call the blq box. We firmly believe that building solid, successful companies can be done systematically, even at an early stage. The blq box is our way of doing this.

The blq box consists of four key areas:

Scale
The key to surviving the Valley of Death spells Scale. Creating business models that scale allows scaleups to progress with their customers, while recurring revenues provide a solid base from which to add further value. Go-to-market strategies, growth hacking and solidifying niche positions are key areas of organisational support for us, all the while driving underlying profitability through clear value propositions.

Stickiness
Stickiness is the fundamental component of a SaaS business. Creating products and services that your customers initially want to buy is step one, but then what? We help our companies in progressing from “nice-to-have” via “need-to-have” to “absolutely business critical”. This entails transitioning to recurring revenues, iterating on pricing strategies, achieving negative churn and integrating in the value chain, all in dialogue with the market.

Storytelling
There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Most scaleups consider Storytelling either a necessary evil or an unaffordable luxury. We believe it is a critical key to success. Not just towards customers, but suppliers, distributors and the overall market. Not to mention future investors. We help our companies write their own story through everything from value proposition, positioning, and brand identity to relationship building, spokesperson strategies and smart activities to make the best out of your brand.

Team
There is no I in Team, but there’s an I in execution. A solid organisational structure that creates opportunities for individuals to succeed is the foundation of company building, as is the right competence at the right place, at the right time. We support management teams with strategy and organisational planning, recruiting key hires, culture development, and employer branding, helping our companies create environments that attract and retain top talent.

This is how are supporting entrepreneurs through a data-driven approach. A joint plan on how to successfully scale is devised together with the entrepreneurs, allowing for a unified view on what actions and strategies are to be prioritised. During our time together, we support operationally to execute on this plan.

Quarterly letter Q3

Dear blq family,

During the third quarter of the year many countries had eased their covid-19 restrictions. For the ecosystem of startups and scaleups this led to a higher business activity. Many of our portfolio companies’ customers are comfortable making business decisions with a long-term effect, such as investing in business-critical SaaS products.

We are pleased to see that our blq box approach with our companies is creating positive output and all three companies are as expected in a growth phase.

Our pipeline is strong, and we are confident that we will by the end of the year have several tangible investment opportunities in front of us. Alongside our work with the portfolio companies and our pipeline during this quarter, we have also done the final closing of blq 1. This work has now led to that we have final commitments at 200 000 000 SEK.

At the end of the third quarter signs of increased infection levels in various countries appeared, which has led to once again necessary increased restrictions. Whether it will be at the same levels as we have seen in the spring and summer, it is still too early to say. For blq and our portfolio companies, we listen carefully to what the market is saying, and for now it is clear that our digital business critical offerings are here to stay.

Kamjar Hajabdolahi Founding partner

Quarterly letter Q2

Dear blq family,

As mentioned in our first quarterly report, we have since the outbreak of covid-19 worked closely with our portfolio companies to evaluate the financial and operational impact of the pandemic. Six months have passed and both Ingrid and Cinode have proven to be business critical for their customers and have therefore continued to grow. We still don’t know how and when the world will get back to “normal”, but we remain certain that our investment scope and the current trends we are looking at, are here for the long run.

We believe that at the end of the day execution is everything, and as such have put a lot of effort in introducing our operational approach toward our portfolio companies. We call this, the blq box. The companies that we have – and will invest in, all have a strong technical platform, it is more within the commercial field, where we are able to apply additional brainpower. Therefore the blq box contains four blocks within, Scale, Storytelling, Stickiness and Team. This will make our companies “bankable” towards other investors and their ticket out of the valley of death.

For Ingrid, the focus for the blq box during Q2 has been commercialisation. We have supported operationally to set up a commercial team working closely together with sales, marketing and customer success. The ambition is to create an organisation for scale and we have together with the Ingrid team ramped up the company for success with necessary infrastructure, team members and company management. This is reflected in a large increase in the number of packages during the quarter.

For Cinode, the focus has been to become a full-on SaaS business. During Q2 Cinode has landed impressive deals with both SEMCON and Telia. The company has also launched Cinode Partner Network, one step to becoming a full competence marketplace for companies, projects and giggers to connect with each other.

Our pipeline remains strong and during the second quarter we have met several companies that fit our investment criteria, that have also proven a steady growth during the first six months. One of them is our third investment Quickchannel AB (streaming and collaboration software). Quickchannel saw an increase in traction during the quarter, with +253% increase in leads, +642% increase in the platform and a +40% pipeline growth.

We are seeing interesting trends for the global economy, the stock markets are doing well, the EU has agreed on a corona fund and many markets have made necessary adaptations due to the pandemic. Many of the adaptations are enforcing a digital approach instead of the analog one, this is in favor for blq invest and I am therefore mildly optimistic of what the future has to offer.

Kamjar Hajabdolahi Founding partner

Hello Quickchannel

New investment: Quickchannel

Blq invests 6,75 MSEK in streaming tech company Quickchannel. Quickchannel’s ambition is to facilitate digital collaboration and become the leading streaming provider globally.

Quickchannel helps their customers collaborate and communicate globally. The company quickly became leading within streaming of city council meetings and quickly helped some of the biggest public clients in Sweden such as Telia, Office Management and Skanska. Today Quickchannel is a full fledged SaaS company with over 150 clients in 9 markets and steady growth in public and private clients.

Quickchannel’s vision is to help our customers save time, money and work for a greener planet through streamed video. Webinars and live streamed meetings and events are now happening through our technology and we want to help organisations through video whenever, wherever.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, Quickchannel has seen over 700 percent growth in their service, since organisations need to readjust into digital workplaces. Covid-19 has forced us all to adapt digitally incredibly quickly. CEO town halls, events and distance learning have all been popular among Quickchannel’s clients for a long time, but during Covid-19 new applications such as press conferences, virtual board meetings and distance training through gyms have become just as popular.

This spring has forced us to change our behaviour and we believe we will see a pre and post Covid effect in digital collaboration and communication.

Welcome to the blq family!

Quarterly letter Q1

QUARTERLY LETTER – A WORD FROM THE FOUNDER

We launched blq invest in November 2019 with the idea of sourcing and building companies with a systematic approach. We aim at becoming the best company builders in the valley of death. Our systematic approach and niche expertise in scale, storytelling, stickiness and team make our investments become bankable companies. We call this the blq box.

This is our first quarterly report and needless to say the first quarter has been extraordinary. Based on our sourcing, current pipeline and our portfolio companies, I would like to share some of the key insights we have gained during this period.

– Companies with vulnerable business models and heavy balance sheets will find it hard to allocate additional capital from investors and might not therefore survive this downturn.
– Pre-revenue companies that are in the beginning of their journey and have not been able to iterate with the market, will most likely struggle, and rely on “family, friends or fools” to save them.
– Valuations for early stage scaleups have decreased, with estimates ranging from a 25-40% drop.
– Horizontal SaaS-scaleups, which sell to companies in a wide range of sectors, have experienced a relatively lower drop in growth so far.
– SaaS is in its nature a resilient business model for downturns, thanks to the power of recurring revenue.

Coming back to blq invest our investment focus has always been B2B SaaS-scaleups, providing business critical products and services within clear niches, and this has not changed due to covid-19. Quite the opposite, we feel empowered that it is the right focus ahead.

Ingrid and Cinode, our two portfolio companies, have both been affected mildly and are still growing at a steady pace. Both companies are well-positioned with business critical offerings, providing a solid base from which to tackle the ensuing challenges. Cinode’s focus on competence is proving crucial, as companies are forcing to adapt and reposition their offerings, while Ingrid’s delivery experience platform allows e-commerce companies to meet sharply increasing demand as e-commerce soars.

The epidemic has brought a broad change in behavior, enforcing new digital trends. We don’t know in what form (V, U, W or L) the world will recover, it will depend on second waves of infections, further lockdowns, fiscal policies and monetary policies. But I strongly believe that blq invest, that is in the beginning of its lifecycle, have a very good position with its current portfolio and future investment opportunities.

Kamjar Hajabdolahi, founding partner blq invest