Since making the shift from law to entrepreneurship, Constantinos Calios has raised tens of millions of dollars for his fast-growing European-based startup. His venture, KoRo, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Partech, Five Seasons Ventures, HV Capital, and Social Chain.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Restructuring your team and cap table
- What investors are looking for
- How big and fast KoRo is growing today
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
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 Constantinos Calios:
Constantinos studied law at the Free University of Berlin and Potsdam until he founded KoRo in 2014.
At KoRo, Kosta is responsible for the Finance, Quality Management, Logistics, and Operations departments and is responsible for the early automation of day-to-day business processes.
Constantinos knows every business process at KoRo inside out and has operationally supported and organized every system change since 2014. He would like to pass on this know-how to strong founders.
See How I Can Help You With Your Fundraising Efforts
See How I Can Help You With Your Fundraising Efforts
Connect with Constantinos Calios:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro: Hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have an entrepreneur joining us from europe I mean know you see a lot going on in Europe and I think that we’re going to be learning quite a bit here of going from becoming you know a lawyer or in the process of becoming a lawyer. Really, you know, being an entrepreneur and and scaling you know, financing firing the entire team. You know, buying out existing investors I mean it’s gonna be full of adrenaline in this episode. So I’m I’m sure you’re all going to enjoy so without further ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest Today. Konino Calius welcome to the show. So originally you know obviously the family from from Greece and Germany but you were born in Berlin so give us a walkth through memory lane. How was life growing up i.
Constantinos Calios: Thank you, Thank you? Thank you? Thank you? Thank you.
Constantinos Calios: Yeah, um, thank you for for having me here in the show. Um, so yeah, when I started to to grow up here in Berlin um was really nice life here. So my my dad’s from from from greece he came here in the 1950 s with my grandparents and then after a couple of years. He met my mother then um, she yeah, got pregnant. So I’m here and now I’ve grown up here in Berlin went to german school to greek school and after finishing it started to study law because. My biggest dream was to become a judge I was wanted to become a judge and to be I don’t know kind of kind of fair to the people because I don’t know what does it mean? What is fair but in my opinion I wanted to be a fair judge. Um, after a couple of years studying this I thought okay and. Maybe I should do something more creative in my life. Not only doing the same thing and I don’t know after sitting 30 years ah in my garden and thinking about law I don’t want to do this so doing something more creative so I started to to deal with entrepreneurship and next to my. Ah, next to my studies I um, yeah, read a couple of books about entrepreneurship and so took my best friend Robert and then restarted the business. Basically.
Alejandro: But what what trigger that I mean obviously ah None questions here from from what you just shared which is incredible. None is why did you want it to become a judge I mean why did you want to create a more fair world and then number 2 is the. Career of becoming a lawyer in Germany takes a long time and it sounds like you were already. You know in it, you know and and and and and you were already quite invested. So what was that trigger you know, ah you know on one end to really shift the mindset and wanting to do something else and then on the other end of. Wanted to make the world. You know more fair. What were the trigger for both things.
Constantinos Calios: So yeah, so the problem in law is as you said you have a long time to study so in Germany it’s about first five years then you do the none exam then you have to go to the curt then next two years and then do the None exam and then you’re ready with you with your with your studies and then you can start to become a lawyer or a judge or a Tony everything um and the problem is that you are sitting I don’t know in the library the whole day and ah sometimes you’re reading book of book and it’s sometimes kind of depressive. And in the end if you don’t perform you’re like a number yeah because in Germany there are a lot of lawyers. So I thought okay, um I don’t know maybe I can do my own thing and the good thing is that my dad when I was 16 he had ah had his own company. He was selling um, ultralight planes. So um I was not not directly part of it but I was every day in the company and so on so I saw him and he was kind of an idol for me. So I thought okay, why can I do can I do the same and ah maybe I don’t know doing my own thing being my own boss and. Yeah I like to be a leader I like to be um, yeah to be the the first of the company and to tell people what to do so I remember 1 story when I was a kid I was six years old and um, we had ah we had a like like a circus circus show and I always wanted to be the director and. And then I um said to my mother I I want to be the director. Everyone everyone wanted to be I don’t know like like ah I don’t know a cow or not another animal but I wanted to be the director and that that was part of my mind and um, yeah I don’t know. Um so I thought okay but why not let’s try this. So I can I can finish my studies later and yeah, fair I don’t know in Germany it’s yeah, kind of difficult. The the judges are sometimes really I don’t know they have they have an opinion so when you’re study law. You always have an opinion. Yeah, and I was like I don’t know. Um there’s so many opinions. Um, and I will I will I will um, show the people how how you can um I don’t know being fair. Ah when when it comes to to yeah to ah but but they when they have a problem then they come to me and then I can I don’t know give ah give a a good good answer.
Alejandro: So then let’s talk about you and and and your cofounder Robert so your best friend so in this case, you decide that law is probably not going to be for you at that point in time and then you started to read. You know some books about entrepreneurship. So what.
Constantinos Calios: You know.
Constantinos Calios: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Alejandro: What was that process like of hey you know I think I want to start something on my own and then what was that process of incubating what you actually wanted to start and then how you went about you know launching it and bringing it to the world. So.
Constantinos Calios: And yeah, was first I was reading the books and it was all always only theory in my mind and um, then I thought okay if I want to execute it if I want to do do this I have to start doing this. So um, yeah I just started. Um, randomly I don’t know doing a lot of research and products and what I can do and um, yeah, after a couple of researchers I found out that in Germany yeah, ten fifteen years ago online shops started to to become more bigger and so on people. Had the awareness to buy things online. So I thought okay, why not and so I was looking for for things um over products. Ah which are not being being sold ah online and then um I thought okay, why not? So I found um, grocery products. And my and and saltiment and then I thought okay, why not? um, just try it out and so I contacted I contacted a lot of suppliers. Ah, and then um, finally I found a supplier in and Hamburg in Germany which had a a broad of yeah let’s say daily products. Yeah. Dried fruits nuts ah oats. So I thought okay, why? not just start and then let’s see what happens so I don’t know just came directly into business.
Alejandro: I Love it now. Let’s talk about coming directly into business. You know what? what? what were the next steps there.
Constantinos Calios: Yeah, So ah when you study law and you have like your your low mindset. You don’t know about nothing about structures. You don’t know what is an online shop what is in I don’t know what is software. Um. How can you I don’t know sell our tickets online so I was starting to do a complete research um about allhand shops and I found a ah solution which cost me ah None to start. It was my None ah shop software and then um, yeah I don’t know I was starting to um. To to teach myself how I can improve ah the website so they were were my None steps and then um, when you were doing this then you have um I don’t know to think about how can I ship them the products out so I started to look for a logistics company i. I did not had any time to do it by myself so I looked for a company who can who can do it for me and so on so lot of research lot of structuring. Lots of process building and so on. But yeah, that made. Yeah that was good.
Alejandro: Now in this case here I mean for for the people that are listening what ended up being the business model of Kora How do you guys make money.
Constantinos Calios: So yeah, when we started um with a company. Um the um, the main idea is that we sell products online which are groceries um everything what you can what you need in your in your daily life. Um, such as. Dried fruits cashews nuts oats everything which is a ah minimum best be before it of six months and the idea is to sell sell it not in the um yeah minimum size retail packages to sell it in a box so five hundred grams to one kilo and yeah what we do is we have short supply chains. We are not working with wholesalers. We are working together with ah yeah, with the people directly in the in the countries. So with farmers for example and or importers and when you have a shortened supply chain. You have a better purchase price because you skip all the. Wholesalers in the supply chain. And yeah, the idea is to avoid? Um, yeah, the complete communication of ah how how is an etiquette how is an how is a label how is it design and so on so we’re doing this. Really simple There’s only None one None label you can print it directly. Um, and um, that’s it. So this is maybe this is the online business and now we have a sortment over None products. Um, which you need in daily life and um, yeah. So how the saudi make money.
Alejandro: So in this case for you I mean the the cofounders didn’t work out so tell us about what happened with the co-founder because the co-founder lyft and obviously when a co-founder leaves. That’s a breakdown. So so what? what happened.
Constantinos Calios: Yeah, this is ah I don’t know that like 1 of the none rules I and needed to learn so when the management team has problems. The company has problems and um, yeah Robert was my best friend so we started this business on of on a friend friendship way. So we were friends and we were like okay, let’s do it. Let’s have fun and so on but I don’t know when you start the business and and it’s like when the business is getting more and more professional. So your mindset is getting more and more professional and um I just wanted to learn everything and I don’t know to become. Stronger in the things to improve myself and so on and he he um, after a few few months and years he he was I don’t know thought he’s not the the kind of person who wants to lead people and ah so he wanted to leave the company and um I said to him. Okay, it’s nice. Um, but um, yeah, what can we do with the shares so and then I had some seats ah seat ah investors in the company and then we started to have some problems with them because they wanted to buy the shares so we had a lot of discussions and then they wanted to to kick Robert out as a bad lever. So the classic.
Alejandro: Um, now.
Constantinos Calios: Classic story and um so we went to the court and had problems. So Robert did not trust trust me anymore because when too much people talking to each other There’s too much communication and you don’t know the truth. So um, yeah, red love trouble and um. Then um, was my luck that I met piran my my partner in crime today. And yeah, we we made a buyout together so we made a suggestion to the to the investors we made a suggestion to Robert and piran was um at that time he was trading a lot of ah yeah pokemon cards.
Alejandro: Um, yeah.
Constantinos Calios: So he had he had enough money so he said okay I can invest in the company if you want and um, then we took everyone together on a table and said to everyone hey guys. It’s really easy so they now how we have to know how and we can start a new company. We don’t care. So it’s your choice if you can take them if you want to take the money or. We can we continue and then they started to be a bit scared and then they said okay good. We we leave and Robert did the same um but this period was really hard because we had the discussions with the investors. Ah, there was a core thing and so on and um, in parallel we need to to manage a daily business. Yeah, because at this time we had ah none revenue a year and um, lots of customers at this time and so I don’t know. Yeah, we we managed it but it was really hard and um, really funny um, got in got of got the Facebook request from him.
Alejandro: Um, and how did you meet piran.
Constantinos Calios: And none um I’m kind of guy I don’t like this this emails and then hey hey I’m my friend and so on and but got a message. It was really funny. He he takes at me hey you know I would like to do affiliate marketing for you and none I was like hey what do you want affiliate marketing I don’t need this. But. Um, then I thought okay maybe I don’t know maybe I talked to him. Maybe he can help me and then we met together and um, he he told me yeah you know I really like to work to work at the company um to get an impression about start of life and so on so I hired him as a working student to help me and after. A couple of months we found out hey this is not ah, not the relationship that I’m his boss and he’s my he’s my employee so we acted tight like partners and then ah we saw the opportunity when it comes ah comes to to a conflict with Robert so um, then we said together and then he said hey I have some money I can invest. And then um, yeah, we have restructured the company. Basically.
Alejandro: Nice and obviously you guys also have kind of like their Ceo mindset. So how do you guys? distribute roles.
Constantinos Calios: And yeah, so yeah, I’m responsible for all the internal things. So I’m handling all the operations in the company. Um quality Management logistics customer service accounting and um, all the processes which need to be optimized. Piran is responsible for the shop for the online shop and for the marketing and for the sourcing for the new products which are coming into the online edge Shop. So.
Alejandro: Nice now I know that you know it’s not the None time that you had to deal with them with issues with the team. In fact, you completely fire the the team in its entirety. So what happened there.
Constantinos Calios: Yeah, yeah, it was really crazy times because when we started to to get the none money in the company. The None thing we have done ah was to just to hire people from everywhere. Um and was like a completely wrong way to do this because um. There was no system. Um, we’ve just received applications and then we thought okay good good fit. Okay, let’s try this out. But um, there was no um, we had no no nothing. No no, no how how how we can how we can um, hire people. What what do we need exactly and so on because the structures were not fixed at this time and um, we started to do this and then after um, yeah, we had a team of None people came a guy who um, acted like a virus. Um, he was responsible for a sourcing team and then he made wrong decisions. And what we have done is we have not controlled the people we just left them doing this what they want to do and we were. We had not acted like entrepreneurs to to lead the people to guide the people we thought okay, the people who work as we do. They would do the same. They have the same Ceo mindset maybe the same vision. Um, it comes come um, comes from inside. But that was completely wrong. So um, after um, after some months um, nobody has done what we wanted them to do with asked. Ask them to do things to take over tasks that they said no and then after firing this guy who acted like a virus. Everyone left the company and everywhere then.
Constantinos Calios: None people again then we thought okay okay, what can we do now and then ah we started to um, read some books again about entrepreneurship about leadership how we can I don’t know act better. Um, how we can show the people our way and so on um, but that was really crazy because we started again. By 0 and yeah, it was a really tough learning.
Alejandro: I Mean everyone talks about team and culture being number One. So I’m sure that this was a really unbelievable learning experience for for you guys I Guess now looking back and I’m sure that there’s going to help a lot of the listeners right now that are tuning in but now looking back. When because having one of those I mean I’ve I’ve dealt also with with this and and it’s Awful. Ah, how do you looking back? How would you have been able to identify that that individual was a virus and how would you have blocked that virus From. You know, creating a toxic environment. Yeah.
Constantinos Calios: Um, maybe the probably best way. Um, would be or is what I know today is when you talk to people. Um, first is what you need ah like a complete ah process of um how you can choose the people you know. Um, do they fit in the team. Do they fit in the company and house the way the work how the way they think what is what? what is their vision in the next five years ten years maybe um um when you can check their cv. Yeah I don’t know um, too many stations maybe is there a hole somewhere. Um, and in the end it’s about emotions. So for me, business is pure emotion. So um, when I talk to the people and then there’s no wipe and then I don’t know I don’t like them and they don’t like me and the wipe is not okay so I don’t care about about their their exams and their cv and so on and their performance in the past ah the past stations so um if this does not work. Um I will I will not hire them so and this people or this guy. Um I had not the not the best feeling and I was like okay, good Let’s try it on that sea and that was completely wrong. So um, if you don’t have the.
Constantinos Calios: But they have a good feeling in hiring people. Don’t do this? yeah.
Alejandro: God and get they got feeling nothing like that now in your guys this case I mean you’ve raised quite a bit of money. How much money have you guys raised today.
Constantinos Calios: Ah, the last ah round we did was about None so quite big number and um, yeah was ah was really hard as well because we have done some rounds before with a company in Germany they’re like ah. Really popular in influencer marketing. Um there at the stock market. There is the stock market and the investor his name is geer kfller he’s ah, an um, yeah, an investor in the german tv show ah similar to shark tank and.
Constantinos Calios: So he’s really popular here in Germany and he has founded some Tv channels here so he was um, shareholder here. He’s still shareholder. But after some financial rounds he has bought the majority so we have sold the majority to him and um, yeah, after yeah, doing this. The company started. To grow really fast because of corona and the covid the whole thing company started to grow much faster than before and then we we went to him and said hey we need some money and he was like guys sorry my company’s not growing that fast as your company. So we thought about okay how can we restructure the company. So then um, we made an outreach and found some new investors here in Germany um, or Europe there are ah yeah, some popular vcs. Um, we are working with um and then we have structured this with them so it was a buyout. So yeah.
Alejandro: Got it and you talked about like the last round being 50000000 now in total. How much capital has been invested in the business.
Constantinos Calios: Now we have a clear structure here.
Constantinos Calios: Ah, around about 60,000,000
Alejandro: None okay, got it now in terms of for the people that are listening. You know. Also how is the process of restructuring because in this case, you know, probably the people that are listening are more used to raising money to just like you know. Put it into the business and grow. So in this case, it was more a combination of equity and then secondary which is used to buy out existing shareholders. So how is that process of blending in secondary with equity. How.
Constantinos Calios: Yeah.
Alejandro: How do you go about that and what does that look like.
Constantinos Calios: Yeah, was really hard because we had a lot of negotiations. Um None step when you have a majority shareholder. So basically the majority shareholder does not want to sell the majority. Um, so with a lot of discussions. Um, but in the end it was.
Alejandro: Yeah, yeah.
Constantinos Calios: We did it on a really entrepreneurial way because um, when you when you when you made an outreach and then you get a lot of offers and um, there are really a lot of people are interested in the company and they offer you something? Um, then? um, you just your founder so you have to know how. Um, you know how to how to run the company when you leave the company. There’s still Company. So Basically you can just play a bit with it and then um you can I don’t know if you talk to a lot of people. You can just tell them hey I’m just comparing the offers. Yeah and this is the best offer we can do for the company. It’s not for me for myself. Just want to to have a big company and I want to to make a company grow. So Um I think or we think as a management team. This is the best. Um, this is the best way for the company. So if we can do this we will stay motivated Otherwise we will not be motivated to root the company and this is the most the most. Um. Yeah I know scariest thing for investors if the founder is not motivated so this is my my experience. So um, yeah, we made we made that big outreach talked to lots of people and then after strong negotiations with the shareholders. Um, um, they Yeah. We sat together and made the deal. Yeah was really Easy. We sat on the table talked about the numbers and then it was that yeah but there was complete complete process. Yeah.
Alejandro: Amazing! Amazing there know I I hear you now for the people that are listening. You know to really get an understanding on the scope and size of Quora today. How big is the company I mean anything you can share in terms of number of employees or anything else that you feel comfortable sharing.
Constantinos Calios: We the so right now our revenue is around about None um last year we were ah we went read the run rate around about None a year a year so we grown up really fast.
Constantinos Calios: Um, the year. Um, two years ago we had around about none so growing up really fast right now and um, yeah, employees. Um, we have around about None employees. We’re working for us. Um, we have a big. Big office in Berlin but our logistics company is not not our own logistics companies or logistics are separately a separate company and there. Ah for this company. There’s some I don’t know let me think None about round about None employees were working for the logistics company. Um, so. None people are working for covid right now and in our portfolio we have one thousand two hundred um yeah products and we want want to grow up with sortment. Um within um, two years to over 2000 articles.
Alejandro: Wow now you know it’s very interesting here. You know, ah going from 20000000 to sixty plus you know None a year I mean it’s significant. It sounds like you guys hit a nerve on the market. You know there’s something there that you touched that really.
Constantinos Calios: That’s the idea. So.
Alejandro: Help to to go skyrocketing on on growth if you had to pinpoint what could that have been. You know what would you say that was for.
Constantinos Calios: Um, when we started to to run the business in 2014 we were in Europe we were like one of the none companies who started to test out influencer marketing. Yeah today. Um, when you I don’t know when you’re looking I don’t know you’re you’re searching around and in the web web web and then you. Open Youtube yeah, the lots of people were ah yeah, were recommending your products so everyone knows they’re getting paid for yeah um, when in 2040 no one um, had had known this so when we started this business. Everyone was scared and everyone was talking about the conventional channels. So um, hey take an agency just start to do performance marketing start with Facebook start with Google um, just just be cons conservative and look for your numbers. But what we have done was we have just simply sent out some passwords to influencers. Um. And said to them hey guys listen here’s a puzzleel for you I’ve run about 50 or hundred euros and then um, just I don’t know show it show it in the camera and recommend the product. So um, we have done this with I don’t know a couple of people and in this years then um, we found out that I don’t know. But they’ve done the video and showed the products. The revenue started to increase directly and then was really fun because um it then um, stayed on a level so and then it grown up slowly slowly slow slowly faster faster faster and then um, yeah, we have. Put everything in this influencer marketing channel and um, yeah, have built up our own. Let’s say small agency here so we have a influencer marketing department and we have we are controlling. Yeah or we have ah direct direct contracts with the influencers. So that was our historical. Um, yeah. Historical. Best thing what we can do and yeah today it is a mix. Yeah, but that was our pinpoint and.
Alejandro: That’s amazing I love that now. Imagine you go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world Five years later I can imagine you’ve never slept like this in your life. You wake up in a world Five years later where the vision.
Constantinos Calios: To her.
Alejandro: Of course is fully realized what does that world look like.
Constantinos Calios: Wow. Um, so when I when I wake up in None ars Um I want to see cool being euro number one here. So we we are we are best on that shop for. All the groceries you can find you you look and um, when when I don’t know customer. Ah yeah, finds a new product at and at the competitor of us I want that everyone thinks oh okay I can buy this product at core and then it’s much better and um. This is a vision for europe and maybe the vision for for us is to to get there as well. Yeah to establish a company there and um I don’t know to be ah, a world brand to be ah to be the best I don’t know. Brand for for groceries in the world.
Alejandro: Amazing now. Um, by the way we’ll we’ll we’ll edit this piece but just they the clicking off the pen um were we’re getting that just just so so that you so that you know, no clicking well will it will let that hour and hour hour and hours we’ll related this piece now. Let me ask you this.
Constantinos Calios: Sorry.
Alejandro: You know, imagine if I was to put you into a time machine and I was to bring you back in time you know maybe to that you know moment where you were at your house. You know in the garden thinking about that law was not for you that you wanted to start something of your own or to become a director. Of an orchestra on the business side of things and imagine if you were able to go right? there sit down with your younger self and give your younger self one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now yourself.
Constantinos Calios: So I would I would tell him. Um, when you make decisions. Um just decided emotional because um, sometimes when I I don’t know when I ah made a lot of decisions I made them really fast and so On. And sometimes I was I was not listening to my feeling and I was like okay I don’t know maybe um, okay, let’s try it out and so on and do it on a really rational way but in the end it was always my feeling. Um, when I had a good feeling and it was always right? So um, this. This is what I would say just just trust your feeling if this is your feeling just decide it on this way and um, do not think about it don’t um, don’t I don’t know don’t don’t be don’t be scared of do this of doing this just decided. Yeah.
Alejandro: Amazing and now for the people that are listening to that that want to reach out and say hi. Well, what’s the best way for them to do so.
Constantinos Calios: So best way for them to do so Um, so you what do you mean to be the ah to contact me you mean to contact me. Yeah, you can do it directly by Mail if you want
Alejandro: I mean you said Linkedin do you use Linkedin or Twitter or anything like that. Yeah to contact you.
Constantinos Calios: Um, or Linkedin also I’m available on Linkedin contact me. um um I’m open for everything I can I don’t know ah share you some insights? How how you how you can run the business. Um, maybe some experience. Um, how not to lose the team and um, how to be I don’t know. Ah.
Constantinos Calios: Be a good entrepreneur and um to yeah how how you can run over 300 employees yeah and to decide right.
Alejandro: I love it. Well Constantinos Calios: thank you so much for being on the dealmakerr show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Constantinos Calios: So thank you for inviting me.
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