Solving A Trillion Dollar Problem: An Interview With Karl Lillrud Of Pricelizer

Solving A Trillion Dollar Problem: An Interview With Karl Lillrud Of Pricelizer

Karl Lillrud is the founder and CEO of Swedish e-commerce startup Pricelizer. Lillrud started his first business at age 16, and with Pricelizer, he is on a mission to put an end to abandoned shopping carts by converting consumers through a smart new solution called ‘cartcharging’. The fast-growing business has received all the right awards and attracted plenty of interest from the big shots of the industry, thus increasing its possibility of becoming a future unicorn company.

In this interview, Karl shares his own journey and views on entrepreneurship, along with important advice for anyone who is looking into launching their own startup.

Please briefly tell us about yourself and your passion.
I am a born entrepreneur – I have always been able to think outside the box and see opportunities everywhere.

In the past years, I have learned to not run and build a company around every idea that I have, but to rather think twice and analyze how much time is needed and what the result would be. Whether that is money or time or a good feeling, it should be predicted to be far greater than whatever I put into building up the company around it.

Describe your path to becoming an entrepreneur and what you are doing today.
It all started back in the day when I could still use the phrase “I can fix whatever problem you have with your IT systems”.

I started my first e-commerce business in 2002, and through many years of experience from e-commerce, online entrepreneurship and global growth strategies, I have built up my new startup Revalizer.

What was your underlying motivation behind starting Revalizer?
Being the founder of one of the first e-commerce sites for modern design furniture in Europe, I experienced the problem with abandoned carts firsthand. We had at that time a rather high conversion rate, but we still saw more abandoned carts than I could accept.

This started that spark in my mind, that has been turning into a fire of dedication and motivation to solve this big problem where e-commerce sites today only convert 2% of their visitors. Revalizer.com, our business solution, and Pricelizer.com, our consumer product, are built to solve this problem, but unlike any other product, we have based our solution on research and logics from the consumer’s point of view.

In the past years, I have learned to not run and build a company around every idea that I have, but to rather think twice and analyze how much time is needed and what the result would be.

Briefly tell us about Revalizer. What does Revalizer do? What is the business model?
Today, 70% of all online shopping carts are abandoned prior to checkout. In 40% of those cases, the reason for this is only due to the cost. Revalizer is a solution for getting those customers back to finish the purchase.

This is how it works: When a consumer abandons their cart, we give them the option to be alerted via email when the price drops on any of the selected products. We call this “cart charging”.

In this way, we provide stores with the opportunity to build a long-term relationship with the consumer by offering the best possible consumer re-engagement incentive – an official price drop on a product that the consumer has already selected.

This is done by installing an e-commerce extension, which is easy and only takes a few minutes. You can set it on either autopilot or manual, and whenever we succeed in converting a customer, the store is charged 1.98% of the purchase value. By using the Revalizer extension, businesses can improve their customer satisfaction and increase their sales at zero risk. It’s all built on consumer behavior research and consumer logics.

Today, 70% of all online shopping carts are abandoned prior to checkout. In 40% of those cases, the reason for this is only due to the cost. Revalizer is a solution for getting those customers back to finish the purchase.

Pricelizer

Pricelizer

How did you get the idea? Once you got the idea, how did you manage initial funding and put together all the dots?
The idea is based on a problem that I personally experienced years ago as an early e-commerce founder. I noticed that carts were being abandoned, and while this was not something that other businesses had started to look into that much, I wanted to find a solution. I then built my own re-targeting solution for all those carts, but the idea was still stuck in the back of my mind and I had a feeling that this could be done in a much better way. At the same time I was also working on a different idea: a wish list startup that would connect stores to each other in a smart and innovative way.

Time went on, and in 2013, these two ideas had merged into one. The solution was rather simple to come up with: a smart price tracking wish list. I started looking into the area and noticed that the competition was low, almost nonexistent. So I began building the Pricelizer engine, the back-end that manages all products and our bells and whistles. When the back-end was done, I moved on to the front-end. We built an easy-to-use prototype, the browser extension, which turned out to be a great product and very appreciated by consumers.

In terms of funding, the company has been bootstrapped by me from the start and I have put all money needed until this point.

What did the first year look like?
Long nights, many conceptual discussions, and working in prototype mode to test the idea prior to building the full-fledged back-end.

Tell us about few major obstacles you faced at the beginning and the way you outperformed those obstacles.
Knowing and realizing that there will always be obstacles and difficulties makes it much easier to handle them when they occur. One of the first obstacles we faced was learning that the developers we had hired did not meet the requirements. This set us off track for a short time and made us lose speed, but with the help of a new team of developers, we were soon up to speed again.

I also found that inventing new solutions to old problems takes a lot of time. In order to gain more time and be more productive, I simply started to sleep less hours per night. This is not something I would recommend, but that’s how I solved that problem.

If you were given the chance to redo everything from the beginning, tell us few things that you would do differently, if any?
I would focus more on the front-end at an earlier stage. The front-end is not important until you have a user base, but without an appealing front-end you will have a harder time finding people who will use your service.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?
Yes, most of them understand what I do and why, and those who don’t can still see the great recognition we receive, like when CNBC named us one of the world’s 20 hottest startups, and when we were nominated Super startup 2015 by Business Week Sweden.

The idea is based on a problem that I personally experienced years ago as an early e-commerce founder. I noticed that carts were being abandoned, and while this was not something that other businesses had started to look into that much, I wanted to find a solution.

screenshot pricelizer

screenshot pricelizer

Was there a point in your life when you decided to take a risk to move forward?
I don’t take risks – I calculate expected outcome and based on that I take decisions. As an experienced project manager for very large global projects, I have learned how to handle risks in a way that protects me and the project from potential damage. But there was a point in life where I realized that I was not the only one who could see how great Pricelizer was.

At that point I made many quick decisions and re-prioritized the action plan. But this is not something that I would say is strange to me, but rather something that we as entrepreneurs must be aware of and if possible prepare ourselves for, as you need to be able to make fast decisions and move the entire ship in another direction in order to make use of the tide instead of being hit by it.

Have you had any mentors along the way? Do you think everyone should have a mentor?
I think that mentors are great but I have not had a mentor. I have been looking for one that fits me and understands me on a different level, but I have not felt that match yet.

Still, I believe that a mentor is great for anyone and especially for any young entrepreneur, and by young I don’t mean young of age, but rather that they are early in their startup business.

Have you ever failed throughout your journey? What do you think about failure?
No, I have never failed as failure is not something I do, but don’t get me wrong now! Of course I have had situations that did not turn out the way I expected and that many people would call a failure. But to me, a failure is only a failure when you give up and leave it without learning from it.

A failure is easily converted into something that can educate you in many unexpected ways, and that’s why I never fail – I only learn more about alternatives that are not optimal for reaching success. Actually, this might be the only way to really reach success, as it can get your creative mind working in really innovative ways.

5 lessons from your journey as an entrepreneur.

  • You are not an expert at everything, so delegate and outsource
  • Do what you do best and let others handle the rest
  • Release your product before it’s perfect in order to learn about your customers’ expectations
  • Learn about your body – what is good for you, what is bad for you – as you will need maximum energy
  • Ask! Learning to ask is a very important thing as an entrepreneur and especially for a startup.

What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up at 6 AM and check what the team in other time zones have produced during my 4 hours of sleep. I answer questions and get involved in the bunch of skype chat discussions that have been going on during the night.

I reflect on yesterday and go through the plan for the day. I verify that the goals set for yesterday were achieved and that the planned goals for today have not changed. Then I start working on the prioritized tasks.

I always strive to delegate what is not required for me to do personally. This is always a challenge for me, but I have also learned that this approach allows me to focus on the more important tasks that only I can do. It also gives the team members increased confidence in themselves when they learn that they have my trust and that they can do much more than they believed they could.

All team members also know that they can reach out to me at any time and ask whatever questions they have, so no one feels abandoned with a task they can’t handle.

What advice would you give to a young person starting out?
Go wild and crazy with your idea, because that is what it will look like to the people who don’t understand it, but that is only because they don’t know what you know. So believe in yourself, challenge your idea and make it work! It doesn’t have to work the first time, but learn to pivot and use your idea in different ways to expand or change the way you target your customers.

Also, contact investors early – it’s a long game before you get the investors involved, so it is never too early to start getting familiar with them. Ask for angel investors to invest in your early stage startup, as funding is hard and running a bootstrapped startup will take time and some decisions might be hard to make.

By involving an investor early you will reach you goal faster and turn your idea into reality at an earlier stage. Remember that 100% of nothing is still nothing, while 80% of 100,000,000 is still 80,000,000.

Go wild and crazy with your idea, because that is what it will look like to the people who don’t understand it, but that is only because they don’t know what you know. So believe in yourself, challenge your idea and make it work! It doesn’t have to work the first time, but learn to pivot and use your idea in different ways to expand or change the way you target your customers.

What book are you reading now? Tell us few names of your favorite books.
I don’t read, I listen to audiobooks and I do that at 2x speed. I try to listen to about 2-3 books per week. I always focus on making sure that all time is used to ensure maximum productivity, but learning is something that you should never stop doing, which is why I listen to a lot of books in different categories.

Like most entrepreneurs would say, you should definitely read “Lean Startup”. Other books that I like include “Making Ideas Happen”, “The Google Story”, “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”, “The Idea Hunter”, “Life of Pi” and “The Knack”. I also enjoy biographies: Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and more.

As a person that occupy my mind with many hours of work each day I have found that it is really important for the brain to get flushed with some fiction and not only business related books. To release your creativity in a different type of way.

So my advice is to mix and blend what you occupy your mind with and blend in some unrelated things like a really nice book. 

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