With their much talked about growth rates and the seamless way they’ve become part of customers’ lives, IPOs from Deliveroo, Trustpilot, and Kahoot! have been highly anticipated. Denmark in particular has been home to many tech successes in the Nordics and Europe – including Trustpilot, Unity, Tradeshift, and Zendesk among others.
But working towards an IPO is a long-term process and requires a strong foundation built from the company’s infancy. The Trustpilot story is no stranger to this blueprint: from its very early days, I knew that Peter Holten Mühlmann was here to win people’s trust.
With a hot public stock market, it feels like Europe is finally on a mission to publicly recognise its local tech giants. Trustpilot is one of those companies that has a strong European DNA, building a hybrid and complex business on a simple promise: to create an independent currency of trust.
Founded in 2007 by its CEO, Peter Holten Mühlmann, Trustpilot serves both consumers and businesses in this spirit of trust and collaboration. On one hand, it offers consumers honest, comprehensive insights on businesses they interact with. On the other, it allows businesses to highlight the quality of their products and services, with the opportunity to improve them through valuable insights shared by consumers using the platform.
Peter has always been a strong believer in building customer trust and this is just as true today as when the business was first founded. Peter started Trustpilot because his mother bought a product online only to realise that its quality was poor. He wanted to give people a way to express their honest, uncensored thoughts about a product.
The key takeaway from Trustpilot’s eventful ride since then is that there are no shortcuts to creating a great company. Timing is essential, but tricky; great products only get stronger over time, while scale is largely dependent on time – whether or not you get VC funding along the way. If as investors, we are prepared to spot winners and wait for what might be a very long time, it should serve as a reminder for founders like Trustpilot that patience and tenacity are essential components to building a company.
At Northzone, we believe that winners are able to create their own category – and define their own market size. This can be scary, but much more rewarding in the end. Today, Trustpilot addresses a €50B market, not including China. When we invested in their Series A as lead investor (today, this would be called a Seed) in 2011, Trustpilot secured €3M at a €7M valuation, and their addressable market was nowhere near fifty billion. Trustpilot was already a 3-year old company by then, and their journey to IPO took them 13 years overall.
In the last 8 years, Trustpilot experienced significant growth on its platform. The total number of reviews it hosted increased from 17 million as of 31 December 2015 to more than 120 million as of 31 December 2020. The total number of domains reviewed on its platform increased from approximately 74,500 as of 31 December 2013 to over 529,000 as of 31 December 2020.
Clearly, Trustpilot has achieved a great deal in our decade together. But what prompted us to invest back in 2011? On this unique IPO day, it’s enlightening to take a look back. Here’s our investment memo.
We are betting that:
Firstly, Europe. There’s no better time than today to launch a public company in Europe. Tech companies used to be limited by physical borders when competing within the European Union — now these borders no longer exist, resulting in the rise of new technologies and products with multi-local footprints in a race for sovereignty. Trustpilot is one of these products, embodying this diversity of talent Europe offers.
Secondly, Mission. The founder is genuinely and committedly mission-driven, which is very impressive. In a world of decreasing online trust, Peter has always shown great leadership in creating and maintaining a position that was independent and fair. He has continually prioritised the interests of the wider community, championing trustworthy reviews, despite the obvious temptation to capitalise on businesses who would pay more to use Trustpilot as a biased marketing tool.
Thirdly, Tenacity. Peter has always attracted the best people around him. One example, among many others, is his relentless focus on hiring the best fundraisers and having enough capital to grow. Trustpilot’s fundraising journey may look normal for companies today, but raising round after round in its early days with top tier firms like Northzone and Index Ventures was not really market practice in 2011. Peter was always positioned to partner with the best talents, internally and externally.
Trustpilot is now more relevant and strategic than ever. Led by Peter, I truly believe that Trustpilot ought to be a strong candidate to receive the Pulitzer Prize or its international equivalent for service to the online public. As the world wakes up to fake news and lack of trust becomes a widespread issue, the need for Trustpilot’s unique, and only open independent platform where reviews cannot be influenced is paramount. I wish them the best of luck in this momentous next step and will be cheering them on for many years to come.
Our rating: 5 stars.