Christian Gaiser is the cofounder and CEO of NUMA Group which is a German technology provider for short and mid term rentals and travel accommodations. The company has raised so far over 60 million euros from top tier investors which include DN Capital, Cherry Ventures, or Kreos Capital to name a few. Prior to this, Christian Bonial which raised a strategic investment from Axel Springer.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Gaiser’s experiences with his first venture in arbitraging iPhones.
- His transition from investment banking to entrepreneurship.
- The journey of kaufDA, its challenges, and success.
- The inception of Numa and its adaptation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Gaiser’s advice to young entrepreneurs on raising capital and decision-making.
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Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Christian Gaiser:
Christian Gaiser is the Founder & CEO of NUMA Group, where he spearheads the mission to reimagine the accommodation industry.
Previously, Christian founded Bonial.com Group, the leading drive to store platform in Europe serving >25m users, which he also led as Group CEO for >9 years. He sold the company over various stages to Axel Springer, one of Europe`s largest internet holdings. In addition, Christian has been involved as an early investor in >20 technology companies in Europe and Latam.
Christian has worked in various positions at Goldman Sachs Private Equity or at McKinsey & Company. Christian is a graduate of the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management and HEC, Montréal.
Christian holds both German/Italian citizenships, while his emotional homes remain Sweden and Brazil, with a big passion for house music.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro: All righty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmaker show. So today. We have a really exciting guest. You know we’re going to be talking about building scaling find a good stuff that we like to hear we’re gonna be talking about the importance of timing we’re gonna be talking about dealing with covid and dealing with cycles also about. Acquisitions and also raising money and and and building something you know, really meaningful. So I guess we thought farther do let’s welcome our guest today Christian Gezer welcome to the show. Thanks.
Christian Gaiser: Um, Alejado It’s my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
Alejandro: So originally born there in in Germany and then you grew up literally in the hospitality industry so give us a walkthrough memory lane. How was life growing up.
Christian Gaiser: That’s correct I actually had the pleasure of growing up in a small family-run hotel business in a beautiful ah black forest in the southwestern part of Germany’s and very idyllic setting and that came along with ah you know. Um, mornings lunch times evenings spending the time in the hotel so early on I had the pleasure of being fully exposed to what it means to being a hotel here. Um, and I’m very grateful for that experience.
Alejandro: I Mean that’s ah, there’s a lot of sacrifices and when you’re in the hospitality industry. So I’m sure that you were able to see that you were able to see the whole experience too and the dedication and and the commitment. No so how was that for you as well. Okay.
Christian Gaiser: Hundred percent I mean ultimately it’s um, a very emotional industry. It’s probably 1 of the most emotional products that that you can imagine because when you travel somewhere as a guest for business or for leisure you have a lot of expectations. Yeah, and it’s a detail driven business and you need to make sure you. Match that expectation I’ve learned a lot from my mother and my father in this context because there are always things that can happen that you haven’t anticipated right? and you need to stay calm and need to be prepared to to step in an improvise. Um, and. Yeah I mean it’s ah it’s a twenty four seven job um and I learned early on what will be very important for me in what I’m doing today. Yeah.
Alejandro: And then you know, definitely the as you say Twenty Twenty four seven job you know entrepreneurship you know it also about that it’s is always about thinking how you’re resolving whatever problems you have in front of you and and it’s tough to really disconnect that now I guess for you
Christian Gaiser: Are.
Alejandro: The Adl coming up with problem solving you know really came up early on you know while you were in university you were literally paying yourself with importing iphones so tell us about this? Yeah so.
Christian Gaiser: Yeah, you’re absolutely right? So um, you know we realized that when Steve Jobs launched the iphone one and was still the case for the iphone 2 that Apple first rolled out the product. In the us and in the uk so there was like a four to six months time gap until you could um, buy that product actually in continental europe and you were able to to buy the iphone in the us or in the Uk then you had to jailbreak it that was to. Code word back then because there was a provider look in there and then you could sell it for a 2 x markup in Germany via Ebay or other platforms and that’s what we did I think we sold several hundred of them. And that basically financed our entire university program and I’m very happy that that we did this. We actually sold the very last iphone to the to the dean of our university that was a nice anecdote. Um, and we learned a lot from that because ultimately. And that was a very narrow time window and it was obviously an arbitrage business so not sustainable, but it helped us you know, get the initial funding for the university but also for our first entrepreneur adventures.
Alejandro: So now it’s really interesting here because you got the taste of entrepreneurship at that point but you didn’t go right into it. I mean you you did test a little bit. You did Goldman Sachs you did mckinsey you know, kind of like their analyst programs. You know that they had but. But why did you do that? You know it sounds like you really already got the taste of entrepreneurship with a cherry on top with selling to the Dean. So why? why you know exploring corporate.
Christian Gaiser: Yeah I mean it’s a great question I think to me I was always fascinated by the world of investment banking and consulting and I always had this visionary. Imagination of how it is like to work for example at Goldman Sachs behind the scenes doing all these big blockbuster deals and I had the pleasure for example to take a look behind the scenes in their private equity division um ended. Deals that you’re working on are massive and and you know you move. Ah, your part of moving a very big needle. Um, and I’m very grateful for that experience. But I also learned that myself I’m probably better suited in an environment where I can build things. From scratch which takes a lot more improvisation. You know, convincing people investors employees partners and when you get to this environment. It’s often about optimizing more smaller details and or financial arbitrage. Um, and ultimately for me the the question that I then asked myself is okay, do I see myself in that environment long term or am I okay with you know, taking a lot of risk and that’s what I did because I had an offer to join both of them after university and you can imagine what.
Christian Gaiser: Especially my italian mother told me that why I used so stupid to decline a safe job in 1 of the most prestigious banks. Um, but in hindsight it was the right decision.
Alejandro: So why? why did you decide to you know to decline you know that offer I mean what was that conviction that you had that made you say no okay.
Christian Gaiser: Yeah, so my co-founder and myself we spent a few months in Silicon Valley actually before we were supposed to start there and then we developed the initial idea for our first company called bo. Or better known in Germany as calfta which is essentially a classified business for driving people to local retail stores so we helped consumers to never miss out on the greatest offers from carfur and. Legal media mark so the equivalents of Walmart Target and and Macy’s in Europe. Um, and we just felt that this was a pretty big idea to be completely honest, we were super naive in the beginning we were didn’t not. We did not know what we were getting into. Um, especially dealing with very large scale retail companies which are the main customers of that business. But I think that was also our biggest strength that we approached this with a so-called beginner’s mind and that we didn’t pay. Too much attention to all the challenges because otherwise we probably wouldn’t have done it. Yeah.
Alejandro: So I guess in this case, what ended up being the business model of the company. How are you guys making money.
Christian Gaiser: So the business model is actually very simple so we basically transformed the offers that you know from let’s say Walmart’s Target o macy’s these big old school print leaf flats. Transformed them into a format that is attractive and and super convenient to use for mobile smartphone users and then we created a centralized app experience. Um, where you never miss out on the greatest offers so we essentially provide an aggregator from a consumer standpoint and then for. The retail companies we sold that reach to them through a what we called cost per engagement model. So it was a mix between a cost per click or a cost per mill so. It’s essentially a much more efficient form of advertising um and because we managed to. Launch the business basically in a similar timeline to when Apple really doubled down on the app store that was a huge push for us in terms of organic reach. And we managed to build a really profitable business right away.
Alejandro: So for building this business to I mean you guys you guys raised some money. So um, typically the first company is tough to raise money you know for? So how was that experience for you guys.
Christian Gaiser: I mean it was super tough. You know we started in 2008 and we were super happy that we managed to raise one hundred and fifty Thousand Euros only from angels for the first year in operation for which nowadays probably no entrepreneur would. Happy to lift the finger anymore in the berlin ecosystem I’m exaggerating obviously but that has actually proven to be a really good thing for us because we had to be super disciplined in monetary terms early on and then we went on to raise 1 more round I think only. One and a half million Euros in additional money and then we got the business to profitability so within just 3 years the business was producing cash in Europe and that proved out to be. You know a very good thing for us ultimately and I think it’s very similar to today. You know when.
Christian Gaiser: Capital resources are scarce. You know there’s a lot of things you can do to grow your business to finance your business outside of pure equity financing.
Alejandro: So what were some of those and lessons you know around this because I’m sure that there’s a lot of founders now with the macro environment that you know they’re finding it difficult to to raise money. So what piece of advice. Do you have for them.
Christian Gaiser: So a few thoughts number one just be super focused on delivering a very strong um sales process and really got. Sales strong salespeople on board to to close deals yourself and I have been involved in that myself in in several deals so you know, um, we had the fortune of getting a very experienced set of sales on board very quickly. So I towardsured throughout the country with him I learned. From him how to do sales he learned from me how the internet and the iphone ecosystem works. Um, so get your hands dirty yourself. You’re the number 1 salesperson as a founder and as the Ceo and if you have customers financing your business. That’s obviously the best outcome. So that’s number 1 number 2 find ways with your partners to finance your business. So for example, 1 of our investors was the venture capital arm of deutsche telecom or t-mobile as they are known in the Us. And back then we had the possibility to push our reach through um their mobile subscriber base so they had an app push program once a month you know you could send out a text message to all of their subscribers and we use that and.
Christian Gaiser: Was part of the reasons why we managed to become the number one most downloaded app in the german app store for like two weeks in a row so that’s a second example so work with your partners your suppliers often. They have possibilities to provide you with reach with you know growth ammunition. That you can structure in a way that you don’t have to pay upfront for and then number 3 is just like you know, be focused on and every send every euro that you can save early on and that is tough. Yeah and often involves you know, being tough on yourself initially. And those are the 3 main outcomes that I would recommend to anyone.
Alejandro: But I mean in your guys’ case you ended up being quite successful because you raised a $90000000 so how was that the experience of going from one cycle to the next.
Christian Gaiser: Yeah, just to be clear that was I am you right? So that was that was then for expanding the business globally so we actually um, sold the company over various stages to a group called a fingerer.
Christian Gaiser: I think yeah for a total of 150000000 us. Um, and the business is doing very well. Um I think one of the things that I would probably have. Hindsight Dan differently is to expand more quickly in other foreign markets because you need to reach that time window. Especially you know when when the app stores were very young. It’s a bit similar to Google 10 to twenty years ago you can build up a lot of organic reach for nothing. Yeah for. Nowadays you have to pay a lot of money to get the same attention and exposure to users and when you have reached that organic branding It’s so much easier in an app store environment and it’s the same probably for all new platforms that they’re merging.
Alejandro: Now in your case. Um there was you know obviously here you had to deal with tough negotiators big accounts in the retail space the large retailers. So.
Christian Gaiser: Are.
Alejandro: What kind of lessons did you learn around negotiation that perhaps you know, served you very well when it came to deal-making later on.
Christian Gaiser: Hundred percent so just a few thoughts on this number one you have to think of path dependency right? It’s like playing chess when you make a move today. What impact does that have just that move have in you know. Several years down the road. Do you open up new possibilities or do you close some? So for example, pricing is a huge component. The retailers can be very aggressive when it comes to negotiating price because they are the masters in in that art of negotiation. So sometimes you also have to work away right? if a deal um is on the table that doesn’t match your criteria and that hurts short term but in the long run to For example, keep your price level stable can provide to be very meaningful. So that’s number 1 number 2 I think is what we learned you need to invest in training and process and some people are born negotiators but often you know when you invest in in training and this can have a huge outcome on your bottom line. And again, it’s a short-term investment that probably hurts but in the long run it will pay out nicely. Um, and then the third component is what we learned you know, especially when you deal with large organizations as a very young.
Christian Gaiser: Innovative company and we’re talking about a time in which most people in the retail world still thought that this thing called internets and ecommerce will disappear and was just like a short-term thing. It’s hard to imagine today. But that’s what it was back then? um. That often you have to find different angles to get inside an organization and find your champion. Yeah so big b two b enterprise sales is just so different in that context and you often need. 20 maybe 25 or even 30 attempts to to make a deal happen and you need to have the perseverance and the patience to keep going
Alejandro: So in your guys’s case you know as you were alluding to this ended up being aity investment from actual springer that ended up um you know allowing you guys to reach you know to that liquidity event as founders. So what happened next you know what was that the transition into. Their rocket ship that you’re rid today. Callneumma.
Christian Gaiser: Yeah, great question. So I decided to leave the business after 9 years operationally then it took just a little break I went to China for a month to Japan for a month just to discover. You know the culture and the ecosystem there and. Think the moment when I left the business. It was clear to me that I want to build something again because I love the energy I love you know the mission of of building an ambitious um company with with a very driven team and of course i. You know I have to admit that I’m also a little bit addict addicted to the adrenaline that you get when doing so um so I took a little bit of time but then I got inspired by all the problems that I ran into when traveling especially due to my family heritage. So we realized that there are 3 main problems in the hospitality industry right? So number 1 when you travel nowadays you either have the choice between the big hotel bunkers. The hiltons at the Marriott or the individual airbnb hosts so we saw a wide space opportunity to combine the best of both worlds. So. You know home away from home combined with the standards of a hotel so we’re essentially building with nuuman that is the company. Um a and a brand on the supply side of short-term rentals. So think of what Hilton has done for hotels. We’re doing for the world of airbnb.
Christian Gaiser: Second problem that we saw is that there’s way not enough inventory for that product from a supply perspective especially driven by a regulation and so cities like Berlin Paris Barcelona have lost fifty sixty percent of the supply overnight due to increase in regulation. So what noma is doing is repositioning all hotels hostels commercial real estate into that use case 100 % acid light our real estate partners financed the vast lion share of the underlying capex. Um, and today we have about 4300 units under management so rooms or apartments about half of them are live in Europe’s triplea neighborhood so Berlin Rome Barcelona and you name it and then the third problem that we saw is um. The industry is stuck in the stone ages when it comes to technology right? sort of about 70% of the process landscape can be automated or improved with technology and pneuma is inspired by tesla in this context that we’re building a meta software layer on top of the physical infrastructure. And so we’re improving mainly free things number 1 is the guest experience so check and check out is very smooth. You don’t have a reception on site where you need to answer things that they should already know um to is top line improvements. So we’re often able to improve the top line of a given.
Christian Gaiser: Building by 20 or 30% and then free is opex process improvements and all of that you know has led to a ah, very strong.
Christian Gaiser: Growth and underlying performance despite all the challenges that the industry have to face over the last few years
Alejandro: Yeah, because I’m sure that Covid was not easy for you guys. How were you able to overcome that.
Christian Gaiser: Yeah, covid was in hindsight the best stress test that we could have imagined so just to give you a quick context. We started the company and launched the first property in October Two thousand and nineteen and then a few months later we had to think the first 4 or 5 properties life and then covid hit us. But I immediately had this feeling that this is a huge opportunity for us right? because in our case, um. The model also makes it possible that you can rent out the units for what we call long-term stay so people that stay for like 1 or two or three months um and for our product there is a massive need in that market. So while the industry faced a massive shock. In short state demand so tourism business travel was completely evaporated. We switched overnight to this other model and managed to get to 90% an occupancy and we really you know we created a war room mentalities every day we had the. Major team members in the same call and room and we really made it happen that we achieved very strong results. So essentially we turned that to become the biggest proof point of our business model.
Christian Gaiser: And in turn managed to really get a lot of trust from the real estate community because they saw hey in the biggest crisis since world war ii in that industry this product still provided a very stable cash flow outcome. Um, so we liked that and that’s the reason why we have been able to grow so quickly. Of course it was not easy because every you know several weeks you had to change and adapt course a little bit because. You know, depending on the region or the city politicians change their mind quite often. What is allowed and what not to so I think we had 5 times we had to pull out this playbook of switching from that model to the other one. But that created a strong level of agility and flexibility in our culture which I think was very beneficial that in the end we were quite lucky that we had to go through this early on right? It would have been very different if it was. And a 10 year old organization.
Alejandro: And in obviously in this case, you guys have raised the money again. How much money have you guys raised to date.
Christian Gaiser: So we’ve raised a little bit more than 60000000 um to date. Um, we’ve been very capital efficient and and we’ve mainly raised from technology investors and.
Christian Gaiser: Ah, players from the real estate world who have you know a very strong network and can help us grow the business.
Alejandro: So what did you do differently this time around when he came to raising money.
Christian Gaiser: What did I do differently I mean I have to say that you know having been through that journey a few times before it was of course a lot easier to prepare. For what is in our control and it’s a mantra that I tried to live by. Okay, you cannot change covid you cannot change the interest rate environment. But there’s like 100 things that you have in your control what you can focus on. So what did we do differently we of course thought of all the major objections that investors might have for the model and fought for okay, how can we address them. Sometimes it’s better to address them proactively and to outline that we are aware of several risk factors right? and and just. Make sure that investors know we’re thinking through all these components so that’s number 1 number 2 is especially in this market environment. You need to build a very large funnel. Yeah um, and it often comes down to also finding the right time. On their end right? Sometimes they’ve reached the end of a fund cycle sometimes they need to preserve the cash for portfolio companies. You know is better than me. But I think that’s always important to hit the right timing also on the investor side and understand their agenda and what it’s important.
Christian Gaiser: Again and that’s maybe a third point to give them the ammunition because often you have 1 or 2 people in the organization in a investor orc that like you and the business but then they need to push it through internally so what kind of ammunition can we give them. Content wise to to make that happen and there’s a lot of things so we have learned let me add 1 last thing I think also here, especially with our first investors you know we have made sure that we know them very well. Um, and that we also. Understand how they act in times when it’s you know, not just sunshine in the market and that has proven to be the right choice because all of our investors in this context, you know have a long-term sustainable view and I always like to say that. Um, getting an investor on board is a stronger bond than marriage because you can’t divorce your cap table right? So you really need to know who you’re dealing with and I was very happy because you know during covid even though it went well for us, you know from the outside everybody looked at us and said like oh. I mean you must be in such a you know, bad shape as a company and it’s probably not going well the relative he was. It was the opposite but you know from the outside. It’s just often for a brain. Not easy to understand because you need to think through all the um market dependencies.
Christian Gaiser: And our investors proved out to be a very strong support in that timeframe.
Alejandro: So when it came to vision you know and we’re talking about raising money here. Imagine you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world Christian where the vision ofnema is fully realized what does that world look like.
Christian Gaiser: I love that question so waking up in this world would mean that numa has a huge fan base of consumers that come to our destination to get inspired whenever and wherever they want to travel. And especially when focusing on new emerging travel use cases. So think of workation or what the industry calls leisures or the mix of business and leisure and we have built up a ideally global supplyer power base. Um, for them to you know, dive into and experience the world’s greatest neighborhoods ranging from you know the alternative and trendy parts of Berlin down to the iconic history places in the piazza San Marco in Venice Italy and ultimately our vision is that both the way how we work and how we travel is changing dramatically in the sense of consumers have more flexibility you can do more from a remote work perspective and also when you think ahead, you know people talk a lot about. The impact of artificial intelligence and their business but actually I think on hospitality. The biggest impact is indirect because people will just simply work less. Yeah machines will take over more of our workload so in 1020 years you know you have more time available people will get older.
Christian Gaiser: You know people will probably work less asia is opening up. There will be a huge consumer and tourism influx from Asia and to Europe for example, so you will have a much higher demand for tourism and for entertainment and we want to. Be you know the favorite companion for for that use case and that’s you know where I think the the pack is going in the market.
Alejandro: And and I guess as we’re talking here about the future where is travel going to. You know what? where is it heading because I mean we’ve experienced so many changes now you know post they covered the world. So so where is travel going.
Christian Gaiser: Yeah, it’s a great question. So I personally think that you know also when you look at survey data from millennials or gen z that the last thing they will save on is travel and experiences. So. It’s frequently ranked as theyre 1 of their biggest priorities in terms of where to allocate their budget on so the industry is looking at a very bright growth outlook in general I think what the industry has to work on is how to integrate. Ah, tourism and travel more sustainably with the context of living in the city. So how can you balance the need for visiting and discovering cities for example with the local neighbors in town. So sustainability is a big component. And also solving you know the real estate or housing crisis in that context and this has to go hand in hand. But I think overall if you look at where the market is going. There will be a big shift in terms of travel use cases. So obviously it’s no secret that business travel will be. Um, significantly lower than precovid. But if you look at the growth pockets so work from anywhere. Um mix of business in leisure or longer length of stays that will from our perspective.
Christian Gaiser: In most categories probably overcompensate the the lack of the initial short stay business travel.
Alejandro: So we’re talking about the future here I want to talk about the past but with a lyn of reflection imagine I put you into a time machine and I bring you back to that time where you were thinking about you know, maybe corporate was not for you. You know after your stint with importing iphones you know and you are now oh my god you know I think I like this entrepreneurial thing. And you’re able to have a chat with that younger Christian and you’re able to give your younger self one piece of advice before launching a business only one but would that be and why given what you know now.
Christian Gaiser: It’s a brilliant question if I could travel back in time to meet my younger self I would tell myself that ultimately think through the path dependency of your big decisions right. Um, so for example, the investors that you get on board or the partnerships or the m and a deals. Whatever it is big, big items so you know when you make that decision today which additional opportunities does that create and. Also which opportunities does that close in the future down the road. So I’m not talking about tomorrow but in a few years ahead and I think that um.
Christian Gaiser: That’s a very important lesson to learn and I try to implement this every day today when we have big decisions in front of us. So for example to give you just ah, a very simple one. Um. Just taking the investor who gives you the highest valuation is not necessarily the smartest choice because there will always be things that deviate from the plan or so-called Black Swan moments in the case of numa we had. 3 or 4 of them already right? You had covid you had the interest rate shakedown and then you had the Ukraine war which had energy prices skyrocket in Europe um, so how do you find the right partner who is side by side with you for the next ten to fifteen years and thinking for that path dependency is is critical in my opinion.
Alejandro: So I love that Christian so for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Christian Gaiser: Hit me up on Linkedin or shoot me an email via um Christian Gaiser: at numastas dot com and I’m always open and happy to help if I can and yeah, hit me up anytime.
Alejandro: Amazing! Well hey, easy. You know oh Christian it has been an honor to have you with us on the deal maker show today. Thank you so so much for taking the time
Christian Gaiser: Alejano. It’s been a big pleasure. Thank you so much.
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