TechTalk with Lars Olafsson about the Biggest Challenge

We continue the series of tech talks with our clients – successful business owners and C-level executives from the world over. This time we’ll talk about Orderstep, a Danish startup reimagining the sales and customer relationship management industry.

Since 2017, the moment Orderstep was founded, the company has gone a long way in improving their product and nurturing trustful relations with their clients. A case in point, one of Orderstep’s most loyal customers invested 1 mln DKK in them in 2022. Read the interview to find out how it happened!

What is Orderstep?

Orderstep is a quote management and customer relations SaaS that automates sales routines, simplifies customer communication, and saves a lot of team energy and time. With Orderstep, you don’t need Excel spreadsheets, a flooded inbox, and a messy calendar – everything can be done from a single platform.

Orderstep helps companies optimize customer flow, minimize human error, and turn offers into sales. Besides a patented customer portal, a user-friendly CRM, and built-in data analytics, Orderstep offers invoice templates, follow-up reminders, mail, calendar, payment system integrations, digital signature, and much more.

Redwerk Contribution to Orderstep

Orderstep is a rapidly developing product, and keeping this pace of shipping new capabilities requires more resources. Ordertep turned to Redwerk to ensure they would deliver the planned features on time.

Our Redwerk team helped Orderstep develop the UI for a personal webshop functionality. The backend was already completed by the in-house team, so we did the frontend for the product gallery, detailed product page, fields for customizing the item’s characteristics like color, text, or number, the shopping cart, and checkout.

Meet Lars!

We invited Lars Olafsson, CEO & CTO at Orderstep to discuss the idea behind the product, daily challenges of a small startup team, thoughts on Ukraine, the IT scene over here, and tips for aspiring entrepreneurs. Let’s dive right in!

— Please introduce yourself.

— So I’m the co-founder of the company. I have the responsibility as the CEO. So I’m overseeing the strategy of the company. And also, I’m the CTO and developer. So I’m also doing the technical implementations, and I’m overseeing all of the development work. 

I’ve built probably 90% of the product, and then we’ve used Redwerk to do some of the work that might not be our competencies or where we didn’t have time to do it ourselves.

— When did you join the tech industry and what inspires you the most?

So I’ve always been in tech, so to say. I have a bachelor’s in Computer Science and Business Administration, and I’ve been working as a developer my whole career. What inspires me the most is to help my clients, my users, and generally help people around me. That’s what inspires me.

I’m trying to always build things that can help and do it in a way that makes sense for the users.

— What’s the biggest challenge of being a founder?

— Money, I would say. You know, there are a lot of things you want to do and many things you want to help with, but you don’t have time to do all of it. And you don’t have the money to always get help from outside to do it. So I would say the biggest challenge is simply to get things done and to move forward as fast as you might want to.

It’s a lot about priorities and always looking at say, okay, whether this task is the most important task right now? Is that what we should focus on? Or are there some other tasks that might be more important that we take first? Even though we want to do all of them, we just can’t.

— What does your typical day look like?

— So my days are never the same. It’s hard to really keep a schedule on it because we are a small company. We have a sales guy. He’s talking to the clients. So questions are coming in like basically all hours of the day from customers.

Also, we have support for our users. So they also write to us. And sometimes, I’m also a supporter. So I need to take care of customer support. So it’s really hard to plan and actually stay focused.

I’m trying to shut down. I’m trying to take out time during the day to say, okay, the next 3 hours I’m focusing on development, and then kind of postponing all the other tasks and all the other things until when I’m done with that. But it can be hard when you’re a small team, and things need to move forward.

— Where did the idea for Orderstep come from?

— We need to go back around six or seven years when it all started. Back then, we could see that there were a lot of people struggling with doing calculations on their quotes. So whenever you needed to find out how much to charge for a product, you needed to sit in Excel and do a lot of calculations and then calculate the product’s final price. That’s where we started with the company that back then was called Teratio. 

 We’ve been doing that for a few years. And then, we got some partners two years ago where we did a rebranding, and I could change the name from Teratio to Orderstep, and we focused more on making it easy and making it simple to do quotes.

So taking a step in a different direction, so to say, and not focusing as much on the calculation part, but focusing on all the tedious administration tasks, there are around a quote, and making it easy to administer those. And also to make it easy to communicate with your customer from Orderstep. So, simply making it the most user-friendly system you can have to use it for communication with your customers regarding their quotes.

— How did Orderstep receive one million DKK from its client?

— The backstory is that we have been bootstrapping Orderstep from the very beginning. So we’ve been working on the side to make money, to make a living, and to fund Orderstep ourselves through working as consultants or otherwise. 

And when we got the new partners two years ago, we wanted to try a different strategy, so we wanted to try to go out and find investment capital instead. So that we could free up the time that we were spending as consultants and focus 100% on Orderstep, work on Orderstep and then get someone else to fund us, so we can still get a salary.

And then, when we contacted our first customer, Videx, and told them that this is the way we’ve been working, we have a very close relationship with Videx, they were the first ones on board and have been beta customers of this product basically for the last two or three years. So when we told them that this is the strategy, this is the way we’re going, they basically just said: “Why? Why can’t we be investors? We would like to invest in you, we like you guys, we know what you’re doing, what people you are, we trust you, and we want to be part of what you’re building, and we want to support you because we believe in you.” That’s how it started.

Then from there, we, of course, had all the negotiations you have like ‘What is the valuation? How does it go? How much?’ All those talks back and forth that you normally have with an investor. So the whole story comes from them believing so much in us and in the product we built that they could see that there was potential for this product in the market.

— What’s one tech trend that excites you?

— It’s a very, very good question. I’m actually not sure. I can talk about Denmark right now because that’s where I live. And what we’re seeing in Denmark is that they’re trying to make everything more digital. So I think we are close to being one of the most digital countries in the world. I think there are a few that have more digitalization than we do.

They’re trying to make everything digital. So our driver’s license is an app, our social security card is an app. We have one login to everything: to banks, to government sites, etc. We have one app that gives you access to all of these things. 

So I like the idea that things are becoming increasingly digital and that we can do things more and more online. This means that I don’t have to go and stand in line somewhere. If I need to move from one city to another,  I go to a website and say, I’m moving from here to here, and I’m done.

So I like this, this kind of concept that’s been going on for many, many years now. I like that we are moving in this direction. It’s not really a trend in tech, but it’s more a thing happening around us.

— You’ve lived in Ukraine before. What was the experience like?

— Yeah. So it was a different time. Everyone knows about right now Ukraine and what’s going on, and it’s an extremely sad situation. Back in 2011, when I moved to Ukraine, the country was in a completely different state than it is right now. It was right before the European Championship that was also gonna be there in 2012. What I know about Ukraine from that time is that there are a lot of happy people, very, very nice people, and very welcoming.

I had some of the best years of my life living in Ukraine. I met my wife there as well. So Ukraine means a lot to me and has a special place in my heart from the time I spent there and all the friends I have from the time. So yeah, it’s a very special place.

— What struck you most about our country and our people?

— So the openness, I would say, the ability to talk to anyone and go anywhere you want without fear, so to say.

I always remember from that time that a lot of my colleagues always told me: “Never to walk alone, you need to always be with someone because there are things happening.” But I never had any problems there, even though I was alone in many places. So in every country all over the world, there are bad people. And, of course, the same with Ukraine. There are always going to be some bad people living in that country. It’s the same in Denmark. There are even places in Denmark I’m afraid to go. So that has nothing to do with the country as such. 

Overall, I would say I felt very, very safe to be in Ukraine and with the people there. When you meet people, they’re always happy, they share things with you, welcome you to their houses, and so on. So it was a very pleasant experience to be there.

— How did you meet Redwerk’s founder Konstantin?

— I actually don’t remember exactly how we met. I think it was one of these Friday bars that was in Kharkiv at the time. But we’ve known each other since I lived there in 2011. We met on several occasions. Back then it was mostly to drink a beer, to do some things, and to talk, and have fun. 

And later on, we also developed a business partnership. We struggle to find good people in Denmark and struggle to find good developers, especially now, it’s getting more and more difficult. Being a small company you cannot afford having a full-time employee so it works out well that we can hire people when we need it for projects, so that’s a nice possibility we have with Konstantin.

And the fact that I know him and his a friend of mine, I also know that I can trust the things that he’s delivering to me instead of going out and finding someone I don’t know that I might not be sure if I can actually trust what they’re gonna deliver to me, and if they’re able to do the things that I need within the budget that we agreed.

— What results have you attained with Redwerk?

— The most recent thing we’ve done is we built a webshop. We have a new strategy that we want to do with Orderstep. We want to give our users the ability to have a private label webshop that they can offer to their clients. And to do this we needed some extra hands to help make this webshop happen, and that’s where I engaged with Redwerk and Konstantin, to kind of get a proposal done for doing this. 

We took a few meetings, right, and then we more or less agreed on the scope, and how the project should look like, and we made a budget. Actually faster than I had expected, we had a finalized product, and it was within the agreed budget, and now we’re in the phases of active implementing, we’re almost done with the webshop and can make it live. And I’ve been very pleasantly surprised that the quality is as good as it is. There are very few issues and very few bugs in the code. So that’s a huge plus for me as well that it’s easy to just start using it and getting it out to my clients.

— What is your favorite part about this cooperation?

— I’m a technical person. From my point of view, I like to work with like-minded people. I like to work directly with the developers cause I believe that creates the best result when I can talk directly to the developers and we can agree how things should look. So one of the things I appreciated was that we had a constant talk with the developer from Redwerk where we discussed the things and when there were issues, I was made aware of them, and we could make a quick decision on which way to go with the product.

And also if I got some code to look at, it was very easy for me to communicate it back to the developer and say this and this and this and how it should be changed. It was of the most important things for me that I could have direct communication with the people doing the work. And it didn’t have to go through a lot of red tape, and administration, and Jira tickets, and so on that can happen with a lot of other consultancies and developers where everything has to be documented. It can become a very tedious project when it’s such a small task that we have to develop.

— Your first thoughts about russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

— I was afraid and angry at the same time because my wife’s mother, father, and brother were living there at the time. So I was afraid for them and what was gonna happen to them. At the same time, I felt a bit of anger cause I had a bit of disbelief because everyone I talked to and knew said: “Nothing’s going to happen. It’s just Putin. And he’s doing the things he’s always been doing, right? So he’s not gonna do anything.”

So everyone was a bit surprised, I believe when he finally went in and started the invasion of Ukraine. And it’s really hard to explain what feelings go through you when you experience something like this. That just shouldn’t happen and shouldn’t be possible to do in our world today.

And thinking about what happened in the past and thinking about how we should be more mature as a world today than we were before. But it looks like there are still some ideologies and some people living in the old times who think they can still do whatever they want.

— Are there any war-related business risks?

— I would say that there are no risks. I know that Ukrainians are very dedicated people. So no matter where they are and no matter what’s happening around them, they will deliver what they promised. I’ve known a lot of people and my wife’s brother as well who are sitting sometimes in a bunker underneath a building and actually working while there’s bombardment happening in their city. But they are still dedicated to their job, and they still want to do their job and deliver to their clients, which is a very rare and unique thing about Ukrainians that they actually have this dedication and want to deliver the things they promised.

So I would say there’s no reason to worry, they will get the things done. It might not be today or tomorrow, but they will make sure the things are delivered to you whenever they have a possibility to actually work. 

I heard a story from a friend of mine who also works with some Ukrainians that wrote to my friend and said: “I’m very sorry, I cannot work for the next few hours. I need to go make some Molotov cocktails and when I’m done with that, I’ll come back and I’ll finish this job” That displays the kind of dedication they have to their country, in protecting their country, and at the same time, still have this dedication towards their responsibilities and getting them done even though there’s someone attacking their country and their homes around.

— Who would you recommend Redwerk and why?

— Based on my experience, Redwerk works very well for small development tasks, that’s what I’ve seen. They are very good at handling those. I haven’t used Redwerk yet for bigger projects but looking at how it can be done with small projects, I’m very confident that Redwerk could also work if you had a bigger project with more complicated requirements. It would be a little bit more overhead, which is natural when the project grows, but seeing the skills that I’ve seen, I’m pretty sure Redwerk will be very good at delivering other big projects as well.

— What is the most meaningful way to support Ukraine?

— That’s actually a good question. I’ve had a hard time supporting the Red Cross or some of these big organizations. It’s hard for me because I don’t know where the money goes. So I’m actually not sure how I’m helping or what I’m helping when I’m paying these big organizations.

What I’ve done is, I’ve tried to support the locals. I tried to find some people I know or people in the areas I know are actually doing good things. So I’ve been looking for people that are helping either on the ground, or in my case, I have family there. So I’ve been doing a lot of things to help my family.

I traveled to Budapest to pick up my parents-in-law to make sure they got to Denmark safely and away from the war. So I’ve been trying to do things myself as well to help the people closest to me. So I think if you don’t have someone nearby and if you don’t know someone in Ukraine that you can help directly with, I would definitely try to go to official sites and look at what they are offering.

Maybe talk to people at Redwerk and ask them how they believe that you can help the most. Because I think, unfortunately, there are a lot of scammers out there trying to make money on the crisis and the invasion that’s happening right now. So you can very quickly pay money to the wrong people that will just end up in some person’s pocket and actually not be used to help the locals.

— Name one thing that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

— From the top of my head, it must be that you should help people. I’m not sure if people don’t agree with me because I think a lot of people do agree with me, it’s just that it’s extremely difficult to do.

I don’t know if anyone has ever tried to just go up to someone and try to help them. Most likely they will be angry with you for helping them, so there’s a challenge with I would say maybe not mentality, but if you understand what I mean. People don’t want help from strangers because they don’t know if what they’re getting is actually help. There’s a kind of trust issue here.

I believe that we should help each other more. I actually think it’s extremely difficult to do it. And that’s where the disagreement comes in. Because even though it’s something that I believe, most of us think we should do and help each other, it’s just extremely difficult to actually do in real life and try to help people. Because either you’re helping someone and they turn around and they just run away, or you try to help someone, and they get angry with you.

— What advice would you give your younger self?

— I don’t know. I’m actually pretty happy with what I’ve done. I think I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had changed my past, so to say. And so I actually don’t want to change anything about it because then I would end up as a different person today if I’d known those things.

Of course, there are always things that you would have liked to know before, so you wouldn’t have made certain mistakes. But those mistakes are also what make you who you are and what you learn from. So, if you hadn’t made those mistakes, then you would not become the person you are today. In my case, I’m actually pretty happy with where I am.

I’m happy  with my life. So there’s actually not much I want to change. There are some things about the future that I would like to change, but that’s something I have to do from today going forward. And make sure that that happens.

Work With Ukraine

The people of Ukraine have been bravely withstanding the russian terror for almost a year now. Ukrainians have proved their will is made of steel, and they will find ways to continue working despite power outages and air raids to support their country economically.

And it’s true. Many coworking spaces in Ukraine are now equipped with power generators and Starlink terminals. Internet providers keep working for at least 4-6 hrs after the outage, while remote employees invest in portable power stations. 

But the war is not over, and the support of foreign businesses is still very needed. If you’d like to help Ukraine resist, please continue your partnerships with vendors from Ukraine. By supporting our entrepreneurs, you create new jobs, donation opportunities, and help the average Ukrainians survive through the war.

See how we helped Orderstep increase subscription revenue by building premium webshop module

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