Maximilian Bittner has raised over $1B in capital for his two startups and already sold one for $4B. He has hopped continents launching and scaling companies at an incredibly fast rate, and he isn’t done yet.
During our time together on the DealMakers Podcast, Bittner shared his journey to becoming an entrepreneur, how to create hyper-growth companies at an incredible scale, how to take the best of one culture and apply it to commerce in another, and what you do after selling a startup for billions of dollars.
Born in Germany
Maximilian Bittner was born in Munich and spent a lot of time traveling with his father who was in banking and consulting.
They spent time living in the US and abroad, Maximilian quickly expanded his perspective and understanding of the world.
Around 15 years old, Bittner’s parents sent him off to boarding school in Scotland. He went on to study in London. He was passionate about history and studying revolutions of the past. He balanced that out with also studying economics, to have some type of real career prospects upon graduating.
During university, Maximilian had started internships at tech startups. Yet, the dot com bubble burst before he graduated, leaving few jobs to pursue in that arena.
So, he joined Morgan Stanley to do investment banking. Of course, the reality of that prestigious career for new associates is mostly working an insane number of hours.
He took the opportunity to step back and go get his MBA. He saw this as a chance to round out his skill set, and spend time figuring out the big thing he would do. Even after earning his MBA, he didn’t feel ready to go at it. Google and Facebook and the big tech startup success stories were barely getting started at the time. So, he joined McKinsey to get a taste of consulting.
McKinsey gave him six months off to work with a London based private equity firm. Day one they shipped him up to the north of England to become the Chief Restructuring Officer of one of their portfolio companies. He went, and he turned it around.
He describes that experience like Neo taking the pill and discovering The Matrix. It opened his mind to a completely new world, and he wasn’t going back.
A few months later Maximilian, his wife, and their brand new baby were moving to Singapore to launch his own startup, Lazada.
Launching Rocket Ships
Lazada simultaneously went live in five countries in Southeast Asia. Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Followed by Singapore within 24 months.
They hit it hard. Maximilian would be flying to multiple countries every week, getting up at 5 am and working till 10 pm. While he was in his early 30s at the time, he had younger CEOs heading up these different countries who were still in their 20s. Some of them jumping in to manage 1,000 reports of their own.
They knew they were in a race against time. One which required them to stay ahead of Alibaba and Amazon.
They ran into plenty of challenges as they disrupted traditional retail. In addition to revolutions which overthrew governments in the markets they were in, and major floods, they fought to get licenses and were hit with death threats and threats of blackmail.
Lazada was propelled by the merging of several super trends, including a 50-60% increase in mobile phone penetration.
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