Pieter Vos built the software company Rodeo without knowledge of coding

Reactions came from all corners and holes, says CEO Pieter Vos. Last week, he won the first edition of the SaaS100, the ranking of MT / Sprout with the top 100 software as a servicecompanies in the Netherlands. “I’ve been in the news twice. Reaction-wise it was pretty much comparable.”

Vos is the CEO of Rodeo, which develops a project management and administration tool for the creative sector. With the platform, companies can manage their budgets and projects, record hours and send invoices. Competitors include Monday.com and Asana.

Funding for Rodeo

The Amsterdam startup was founded in 2016, but Vos only considers it ‘a really serious company’ since 2020. When Rodeo raised 7.5 million euros from No Such Ventures to grow in the United States. The company is active in four countries.

‘I think that if you have a SaaS company, you are very limited if you are only active in the Netherlands. So we quickly went to Germany and England ‘, says Vos. ‘At the end of 2019, I got the idea to accelerate in America as well. And we did not have enough money for that. “

Vos began looking for funding just as the corona crisis erupted. “It could not have been worse in terms of timing. Investors all pulled the brakes. ‘ The funding round was not completed until November 2020. “It actually took me way too long back then. At least it was no different. ‘

also read: Reinder Lubbers seduces the investors behind No Such Ventures with 1 deal at a time

Vos, 55, is an atypical entrepreneur in the software industry. He has no background in programming and has little technical knowledge. ‘I’m self-taught,’ says Vos. ‘I am now, of course, completely at home in the development jargon. I can talk about it and also give a little setback. But in the end, you still need people to do it for you. ‘

From high school to the auditing firm

Vos starts his school career in the early eighties at MAVO in Harderwijk. He could have gone to havo based on his Cito score, but his parents seemed better at a lower level.

In 1992, he completed a high school education in small business. He is briefly considering going to university, but he chooses a job at a beverage wholesaler in Emmen. One of him asks if he will help support the management there.

I had few private expenses and got some money from my mother

A year later, the friend is fired, and Vos is faced with a choice: to continue consulting practice or not? ‘I then came to the conclusion that I actually did not know that much.’ He starts working in the auditing firm Jonker Advies as a junior consultant.

There he sees a hole in the market. In addition to auditing the financial statements, the company may also offer financial management as a service. Vos thinks this is a good way to get new customers in. But his boss does not want it. ‘He had a connection to snack bars and shoarma shops. I did not do it.’

Own administration office

Vos decides to do it himself. On April 1, 1996, he started an administration office, Kop of Munt. He has one customer: a film production company. ‘I could support myself and pay for an office. I had few personal expenses and got some money from my mother. ‘

Pieter Vos from Rodeo receives the first prize during the publication of the SaaS100 rankings. Photo: Tristan Fopma / Customer in View

He has no taste for bookkeeping. A friend trains him in the evening. A tax advisor will guide him through the tax laws. ‘I learned a lot from other people in the early years. Of course, you also pay tuition fees. You’re making a mistake. ‘

In 2002, Kees Leijs joined Kop of Munt, a state-authorized public accountant whom Vos still knows from his time at Jonker. Together, they are expanding the company into a solid company with four branches in North Holland. Kop of Munt focuses on entrepreneurs in the creative sector.

Origins of Rodeo

The idea for the Rodeo originated in Kop of Munt. In 2016, an employee came to Vos with a request to build a project management system himself. “He said: what is on the market now is not good enough for our customers.”

Vos decides to take the plunge. He finds a freelance product owner and a strict software company Ambrero from Alkmaar for the technology. In August of the same year there is a first version of Rodeo, a minimum viable product† It hit right away: About 500 companies sign up on the waiting list.

Vos admits that not all of these companies become customers due to a communication error. “We said in the campaign: this is the first product, but there is so much more to come. It resulted in a large part deciding to wait a little longer.”

Programmers in India

Rodeo will soon start rolling. Vos will scale up and will collaborate with an Indian party on software development. The front office is located in the Netherlands, so communication is possible in Dutch. The programmers in India then run it.

Vos looks back on that period of mixed emotions. ‘Indians are trained to code a lot. If we had a problem, all new code was created instead of solving the problem. ‘ Ultimately, this leads Rodeo to rebuild the entire software platform.

Technicians pretend that there is always only one or two roads

That project also undergoes trial and error. Five parties advise on the reconstruction process, which starts in 2021. Progress is difficult. Until Vos happens to hire a developer who has experience with a similar project. She suggests a much better solution.

‘We have started again after her advice and are now going thirty times as fast. On September 1, we will complete our remodel. But it is because she had the specific knowledge ‘.

The lesson for Fox? To look more critically at IT people. ‘Technicians pretend there is always only one way. Or maybe two. But there are quite a few roads leading to Rome, it’s clear to me eventually. I have sometimes been misled in this regard in recent years. ‘

New funding round

Rodeo is now ready for the next growth phase. Vos is in talks with investors about a Series C round, which he hopes to be able to announce in June. He has been doing this since September. Not because of a lack of interest, but because it took a long time to find the right match.

»There are many VCs with funding of up to 200 to 300 million. They are actually too small for us. The party we are talking to now has 4 billion in their fund. ‘ Rodeo needs the money to take over competitors, to grow through a so-called buy and build-strategy.

pieter fox rodeo
Pieter Vos from Rodeo answers questions from the audience during the publication of the SaaS100 rankings. Photo: Tristan Fopma / Customer in View

Rodeo is not one Unicorn like Monday.com and Asana, Vos emphasizes. The Amsterdam-based company makes a niche product for the creative industry. “But the market potential for us is big enough. There are more than a million companies in this sector in the Netherlands, Germany, England and the United States. ‘

To attract these companies, Vos wants to expand its sales department. And hire more developers to further develop the product. In any case, Vos does not want one thing: Too many marketers. ‘For most SaaS companies, it’s a cuckoo. In other words, there are way too many people there. As a result, processes run slower and creativity is lost. ‘

Departure from Cup or Coin

Until recently, Vos still owned 50 percent of the shares in Kop of Munt, but it was no longer viable. As a partner, he was expected to play an active role while being more and more busy with Rodeo.

“It felt uncomfortable to have that share,” Vos says. ‘We discussed it.’ In April 2021, Vos sold a large part of its share, exactly twenty-five years after its foundation.

If you become an obstacle for your business, then you need to get out

The step was hard for him. “It’s a kind of mourning process you go through. I have worked so hard and for so long in that company. ‘ He initially planned to sell all his shares, but decided at the last minute to keep 6 percent. In hindsight, he is happy about that. “Not so much for the money, but more so as not to be completely disconnected from it.”

Every now and then, Vos goes to work one day at the Kop or Munt office. And as a shareholder, he is still of added value because of his experience. ‘It was positive from both sides to do it this way.’

Pieter Vos will continue to learn

With Rodeo, Vos is on the threshold of a significant growth spurt. This means a new challenge for the experienced entrepreneur. “I want to learn.”

How long will he remain CEO of Rodeo? ‘As long as I have the support of the shareholders,’ says Vos. “And I’m not going to be an obstacle to the company’s growth. Then I think you just have to be clean and honest with yourself and leave.

At the moment, he says he can still inspire his team enough and make the right strategic choices. But that may change one day. ‘I’m 55. The world is moving faster and faster. Maybe there will come a time when I think: I can not keep up with more ».

If Rodeo grows strongly, his role as CEO will also change. Vos already thinks it is bad that he does not know all the employees well, in the future there may be several hundred people working in the company. ‘Maybe I don’t like it at all. Then I do something else. Lots of ideas. ‘

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