Born and raised in Germany, Mike Mahlkow’s journey from a childhood devoted to Olympic handball to becoming an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley is a testament to the resilience required to navigate the unpredictable terrain of entrepreneurship.
Mike’s story is about adaptability and the pursuit of new passions. As he continues to build and innovate in the tech industry, his experiences serve as a source of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs worldwide.
His latest venture, Fastgen, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Y Combinator, Rainfall Ventures, and Rebel Fund.
In this episode, you will learn:
- As childhood in Olympic handball instilled invaluable skills of discipline, teamwork, and a competitive mindset, shaping his approach to leadership in the entrepreneurial world.
- The transition from competitive sports to startups allowed for the seamless application of the lessons of discipline and teamwork, proving the universality of these skills in the dynamic landscape of entrepreneurship.
- The move from Germany to Silicon Valley was motivated by the dynamic startup ecosystem, representing a cultural shift that fueled his passion for innovation and growth.
- Working at Stripe provided invaluable insights into a high-growth environment, offering lessons in company structure, fundraising, and the importance of surrounding oneself with brilliant minds.
- Blair’s attempt to disrupt student financing faced regulatory challenges and opposition, leading to a pivot and sale. The experience taught crucial lessons about adapting business models and the importance of regulatory assessment.
- The latest venture, Fastgen, addresses a gap in the low-code space for back-end development, aiming to empower developers with a visual drag-and-drop environment for streamlined backend creation.
- Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to find a balance between frugality and providing a conducive work environment. The stress is on the importance of carefully assessing regulatory landscapes to navigate challenges effectively when entering new industries.
For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here).
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About Mike Mahlkow:
Mike Mahlkow has diverse work experience. Mike co-founded and served as CEO of Fastgen from 2023 onwards.
Prior to that, from 2019 to 2023, they co-founded and served as CEO of Blair, where they helped thousands of students gain access to higher education and raised substantial funds.
In 2018, Mike worked at Stripe in a growth role and also held fellow positions at Kairos HQ and Sigma Squared Society. In 2016, they worked in operations and business development at Uber.
Before that, in 2015, they worked in business development and business intelligence at Sococo, Inc.
Mike Mahlkow’s education history includes attending Y Combinator in the YC S19 cohort. Mike also studied at the University of Southern California and WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, although the specific degrees and fields of study are unknown.
Additionally, they obtained a certification in Machine Learning from Coursera Course Certificates in February 2017.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So today. We have a repeated founder joining us. You know we’re gonna be talking about all the good stuff that we like to hear building scaling financing also exiting you know his last company we chain you know has all types of really exciting you know and war stories that we’re gonna be talking about. Ah, but without further ado let’s welcome our guest today Mike Malco welcome to the show. So originally born and raised in Germany so give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up there.
Mike Mahlkow: Hey there pleasure being here.
Mike Mahlkow: Life growing up in Germany was amazing. I was mostly focused on doing sports when I grew up I played like olympic handball in like 1 of the best youth teams from Germany that was my main focus for a long while then I injured myself so I needed a new obsession then I got into competitive video games. And then my next come like obsession afterwards were startups because I just noticed that this would be something that I could do my whole life and yeah, but I had a great childhood I loved growing up there but there’s also reason that I moved to the Us because I just feel that things are moving much faster in the Us compared to Germany.
Alejandro Cremades: Now as you were talking about. You know you you played Competitively Handball so how do you think that that has fueled your drive and and you being an entrepreneur later on I mean how how do you think that that they. Intensity and and ambition you know has been fueled by that leadership and that competitiveness that you experienced growing up.
Mike Mahlkow: Yeah I think there’s like 3 major points to that number one I was just very used to being disciplined. We had training 6 times a week I did that for like 9 years straight I didn’t think about it twice until like ten years later so this being disciplined sticking to the plan and just like grinding that was. Number one skill I think that I learned number 2 teamwork because I played a team sport. It was very important to play the role that was most pertinent for the team to be successful and sometimes it was me scoring the goal. Sometimes it was me like playing like more of a background role and trying to make other people successful. So I think like. Trying to understand what the best thing for a team is was something that I learned early and then the last thing is um, having like some kind of competitive sentence. You want to win the game but sometimes you lose the game but then the goal is to win the next game and this is how I think about entrepreneurship as well. You can’t win every single time you actually often lose more than you win. But it’s all about coming back all about improving your chances of winning the next time that’s that’s how I think about it at least.
Alejandro Cremades: So eventually you end up coming to the Us. So how was that you know of a culture shock you know because obviously you know in the us obviously the land of opportunity startups left and right you know obviously now in Europe you know things have been taken off quite a little bit more. You know when it comes to.
Mike Mahlkow: Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: Startups but they you know it has taken some time and still. It’s not as advanced as what you would see you know here in the Us the landscape. So how was how was that the that experience of coming here.
Mike Mahlkow: Yeah I had 2 very different experience. So the very first time that I ever was in the us was for an internship at a Silicon Valley startup it was in the middle of Palo Alto I didn’t do anything during that summer other than just work really hard for that startup and then the next experience was like. Nine months later or so I studied abroad in Los Angeles and then I I saw how much fun people can have while they are in college because college in Germany works very different. It’s way more academic way more focused on at least the college that I went to. And but yeah, so like that’s also where I met 1 of my cofounders who’s also german but who studied in l a at the same time as me and we just noticed that both of us really liked startups but at the same time we like the us startup school a bit more than the german startup school which is like a bit more technical. It’s very close to like the way see. Crado of talking to your users building very fast iterating and the german setup school is a bit more like building a business plan first and then like building once you have the business plan figured out which is not usually how I think about it. So yeah I think the the culture shock was. More exhilarating than actually shocking and we we tried to move over pretty soon afterwards we had a brief stint in Europe but then once we started our first actual company. We basically moved over the second day after we decided what we wanted to build.
Alejandro Cremades: So now working at stripe was pivotbotal. You know it was like the experience of really having that exposure into a rocket ship. No I mean one of the most valued companies right now and and incredible. What what? they’ve done. But how was that experience of of seeing that of working there and then also on helping them with the expansion to in East in Eastern Europe
Mike Mahlkow: Yes, stripe was a very interesting experience because I basically I knew straight out of college I wanted to build a company but I didn’t really know what I wanted to build so the the head of Northern Europe like back then of stripe basically tried to like recruit me a couple times and then right before I gradiated. He told me the following thing that. Was in hindsight very helpful. He was like okay Mike what you should do is you should join stripe and you get paid very well for working with startups while you can think about what you should build and then once you want to build a company. You just leave stripe and. Ah, so I did exactly that I joined the I joined the stripe team when there were like I think like 950 people at stripe or something that was back in 2018 and I was mostly ah in Berlin but I also had like stints in San Francisco and Dublin and my role was basically to. Built the startup partnerships in the german speaking market and help with the eastern europe expansion but the cool thing was that like I was never planning on being there for a couple of years and there was like pre-planned so my whole role was basically to build this up and then someone else who would join afterwards and. The cool thing about stripe was a the density of smart people I don’t think I’ve ever seen any company from outside or inside so many smart people in 1 place it. It was amazing like I had so many people that I could talk about so many different things with and the other thing was they had a very.
Mike Mahlkow: Interesting internal structure where very like many things were very transparent I could just read about a decision that was taken in like the Singapore team of whether or not a specific deal should be pursued because I had access to it. So basically what I did after I worked like my actual like. Day job at stripe I was just reading and absorbing all the information that I could find and just try to find patterns that I would find interesting so the time at stripe definitely helped me a lot in learning what a great company should look like and we try to emulate some of those things at fashion.
Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s talk about that moment where you realize that hey I think it’s a it’s my time to to go at it. You know like how did that the incubation process and to the moment where you’re like I gotta do this thing? yeah.
Mike Mahlkow: Yeah, we we like my I have 2 cofounders now and 1 of my cofriends and I we’re looking at like different ideas different problems that we wanted to solve for a little bit and we’re looking into 3 different spaces mostly one was financial empowerment. The other two were. Gaming and mental health back in the day and then what happened was we we found this great accelerator that was based in San Francisco that was specifically for immigrant founders and it was founded by a couple of white combinator alumni and ah the whole idea was like very intriguing to us. The idea was. You can go there. You have a very early stage we will help you get it off the ground and they had some very cool perks. They had the perk that they would connect you to a visa lawyer that would help with the us visa which is a big thing for every single immigrant founder and one of the biggest blockers for people from other countries to move to the Us and build the business there. And then it also offered free housing for the first three months that we would be in the Bay Area so we applied to this one. We didn’t think we would get in because we were super early with our idea but they they just really liked us as a team so they said well you can come over it starts next week and then the problem was we were still living in Berlin at the time like we had family friends like both of us had like girlfriends back there and but then we’ve just decided. Okay, we moved to San Francisco we booked the flight ticket and then we flew to San Francisco without having much for the business and then just on the way to San Francisco got our third cafauna on board which also like very.
Mike Mahlkow: Cool story. So basically we’re still studying in college back then and we told him Costa we have to chat and then we told him we’re flying to San Francisco next week we’re building a company. Do you want to join and it took him like less in a minute. He’s like okay I’m dropping out I’m dropping out of school and. Ah, to this day. He joined us like 5 or six days late so we sometimes joke that he’s like not a real cofounder even though it’s not even the same company anymore. But yeah, like we we had been the 3 of us from the beginning and we lived in Oakland ah free housing at first and then just started grinding. And trying to trying to build a fintech for the us a student financing platform.
Alejandro Cremades: And why were the 3 of you the 3 mostketeers you know like how were you guys like really blending you know into each other skillset so nicely that you thought the 3 of you you know could really make a good cofounding team.
Mike Mahlkow: Yes I think part of it was just the skills that we each had like um, like like for example, like 1 of my co-founders David he’s ah a a superb designer. He has like a great design sense. But he’s also a very good salesperson like he he can basically sell anything and has like sold many different things before ah Costa is a very like a very technical like just just a great engineer like I I’m also like I’m a self dot engineer I can build things but he’s just on a level that is. Like unmatched to most of the people that I’ve met so far so he was just like supposed to be the technical lead and cto from the beginning and ah then I’m very good at building longterm relationships I’m I’m good at doing go to markete stuff. It’s not like I can do sales but also like more like product, let growth things and content and marketing around that. So we had like a very complementary skill set. Um both on the analytical side and and on the like more softer side but 1 of the most important things beyond that was just that we had a very similar idea of how we wanted to build a company and like similar incentives we all wanted to build a massive enduring company. And we just liked and trusted each other David and Costa had worked a lot together while they were in college David and I had built a couple of site projects together Costa and I I met him through David so basically very good friendships and a base of trust and then very complementary skills that was basically the the recipe.
Alejandro Cremades: And what ended up being the business model blair. How are you guys making money there.
Mike Mahlkow: Yeah, so basically to describe the business model that we started with the whole idea was that the us student financing system is very flawed and lots of young people are being I don’t want to say tricked but like nudged into. Long-term debt agreements that are not necessarily good for them. So our idea was actually born out of something that we’ve seen work in Germany where we use something called income share agreements where a student would only repay the money they got if they earned more than a certain income threshold. So let’s say. If you earn less than $60000 you don’t repay anything in that given year so we wanted to align the incentives between the financer the student and also the university and we started doing that direct-to consumer where we raised money at first from high net with individuals and then we gave it to students after them. Giving us some information about themselves. We underwrote them based on like our algorithm and then said hey we can give you this much money if you pledge this percentage of your income for a certain time after you gradiate and that went reasonably well, it was twenty nineteen until covered hit early Twenty twenty because the problem was we we basically were relying on raising debt to then invest it into students but then covid hit and because covid hit. We couldn’t raise any debt anymore at first because ah like all the financial markets didn’t really know what was going on especially consumer. There was a lot of worry.
Mike Mahlkow: So we actually shifted the business model into not offering it to so to students but offering the technology that we build to enable schools to offer these income share agreements. So we we rebuilt the platform a little over a couple of months then started selling this as a saas product to schools directly and if I say schools I mean. On the one hand universities just like traditional universities that that you might know but also some other educational institutions like boot camps where you can learn how to code or how to become like a salesperson in a couple of months or ah blue color educational institutions where you can become a plumber or an hvac technician and so we had this saas product. And sold that like with a monthly fee and then a per student fee. Um, and then afterwards we noticed very quickly that some of these schools were reliant on additional capital inflows so we raised a pretty big debt fund that we then used to purchase some of the agreements from the schools. And the business model there was that we got some of the margin basically of the financing so the school got some of it. We got some of it but we also had this this risk sharing there with the students sorry with the schools that the school got some of the money upfront and then it would earn some of the money once the students start students started repaying. Um. So that was a basic business model. There were a couple of nuances to it like we basically grouped the students so that we could share the risk a bit more and yeah it was. It was a bit of like financial um like structuring and then like getting some basis points of that.
Mike Mahlkow: And then also traditional Saas fees were from people using our software.
Alejandro Cremades: Now what about going into YCombinator and and then also the experience of raising money because I mean coming here to the us building a company and then getting investment and and also being part of the best accelerator I mean it’s pretty amazing right.
Mike Mahlkow: Yeah, like we we got into ways c pretty early in the journey of of the first company like after a couple of months we did the immigrant accelerator that I talked about earlier and then we got into way c the same summer. It was life changing in many ways. It definitely changed the trajectory of the company. It also made it much easier for us to stay in the country because getting a ah visa. Ah, if you have Yc is much easier than if you don’t have it and then I needed to get very good at fundraising very quickly because I didn’t only need to raise equity. Um, which we needed some of but not that much because we were always believing and achieving a lot with the small team but I also needed to raise the debt right? that we could then first invest in the students and then later use to purchase the agreements off of the schools so we started by going to some high net with individuals that we had some kind of contact with um. And then the the early investors were either people we knew or people we introduced to so I still remember like our first 4 investors in blair were 2 people that just um, like were building a very massive company in Germany that we met a couple months early and that were like almost friends of ours and then two of the other first investors were um. Like a childhood friend of my brother whose dad had sold his like last company basically not a tech company but like we knew them they knew that we were like very hardworking people and then the the last one was one of my former college professors at Usc and I didn’t even want him to invest I I talked to him I wanted some advice and he was.
Mike Mahlkow: So excited about it that he invested and his personal wealth manager also invested so these were the 4 first 4 people that ever gave us money and then from there we basically like went into like a more a better cadence and a better structured process of actually raising money and I used to become very good at. First getting money from highnet with individuals then getting money from family officers and at some point getting money from big wall street firms like asset managers hedge funds and these kinds of people so it was a learning journey like the whole time and then one of the issues was You’re probably very aware that. Raising equity is very different than raising debt. So I needed to become good at raising equity. But I also needed to become proficient at raising debt which is a whole different beast because the incentives for the debt investors are very different than the incentives for the equity investors equity investors at least in the early stage startup scene. They invest for almost unlimited upside or at least like very high upside so they they don’t get fired if they make a bad investment but the dead investors get fired if they make a bad investment so their whole risk profile is different and they can also usually only make a limited upside right? They get their. Certain interest rate or they’re they’re like Ai target depending on how you structure it but they don’t make more than that. So every single deal needs to at least repay the money and then have like a safety buffer on top of that.
Alejandro Cremades: And now in that case, you know like how much capital did you guys raise in in total you know on the equity side and then also on the deb side for the business. So.
Mike Mahlkow: Yeah, on the equity side. We we raised like a bit more than $7000000 um, we we didn’t even like spend most of it until we sought the essences of the company. We. We always try to be very lean on the side of the team in hindsight we should have hired a bit more I think. Because we like when we when we raised a $7000000 equity round. We also very briefly before that raised our first one hundred million dollars debt fund and we were 7 people at the company at that time and no one had any like finance background. It was just like me raising the money. Everyone else was mostly working on the product. So yeah, um, in terms of the like. Site. Um for the students we raised like hundreds of millions headed in like different fund structures and invested it in like students and schools all over the country which also comes with like some additional like requirements of like we had to go through an audit for the first time and the problem is. You can’t talk to most other companies in the early stages if you are start about going through an audit because almost no one has to go through an audit. But if you want to raise like a very like a 9 digit amount from like an asset manager then they want to audit your financials and they want to audit some other processes so we were 6 people. 7 people I don’t know 6 or 7 at the company had to go through this massive audit and the auditor had never worked with a company that had less than 1000 employees so they were very confused about what what they were going to do but we we made it work. We made it work.
Alejandro Cremades: Now as Mike Tyson says everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face and it sounds like a covid was the you know a punch you know for at least for the way that you guys were planning and how you guys you know, needed to shift things. So how do you think or mean how did.
Mike Mahlkow: Yes.
Alejandro Cremades: You know, not how you think because you experienced it. How did Covid change things for you guys.
Mike Mahlkow: Yeah, covid changed things in a couple of ways like number one as I like alluded to earlier just changed the way. The debt market worked so we couldn’t raise any money for at least a couple months because like everything was just that we had. We had 2 term sheets on the table already but they were withdrawn because of covid. So like we had to change our whole plan and then the other problem that was a bit more unique to us was um, we needed to renew our visa but all the consulates were closed. So basically Trump ah back then like Trump was present back then and he announced a like travel ban for like foreign nationals and he announced it. On the day that we wanted to fly back to the us so we had the decision to make like do we fly into the us now. Um, or do we like stay in Germany and then like wait out like the renewal of the visa because it would have. Basically ended while we were still in the u. So like there was a lot of like v session endings that were going on. So then we decided we stay in Germany for now. But the problem is all of our customers were in the u and also the investors that we raised money from were in the us. So basically what I had to do was I had to change my sleep rhythm. And so for nine months nine ten months I was up until 8 am german time every single day and I slept until four p m every single day german time because I only had to talk to all the investors and everyone else like during the night so I didn’t see a single Ray of sunlight probably for like almost a year.
Mike Mahlkow: And that that was like a bit of a stressful time. But ultimately what I did like I raised the first hundred million dollars debt fund from my childhood living room and the problem with my childhood living room was number one. My little brother was still living back at home because I like moved like in with my parents because I thought that’s the like best environment I can have to drink covid. But ah, my my little brother was sleeping next door. So I like I bought this like audio insulating wall that I could between it so that I could like be loud at 3 am in the night and not disturb him and the other funny thing was I was talking to all these like wall street funds like people in their forty s fifty s very tenured people. And I had like my childhood bed like in my background so I bought this like like thing that I could put in the background so people wouldn’t see like the bright green color of my living of my of my bedroom and so basically what I did was I raised the first hundred million dollar debt fund that we raised from the same desk that I did my eighth. Great math homework at which a pretty cool story to tell now. But it was it was very frustrating at the time. But yeah I think we got through it.
Alejandro Cremades: So then so then what happened next with you know, carving things out and and and going for an exit here.
Mike Mahlkow: Yes, so basically we were growing very very well in 2021 like we closed a school a week like things were going like very well we invested the money that we made and like the the students were paying back which was great. So everything was going well and then the regulation. Ah, so basically we were in ah in a slightly unregulated market where there was a law that had been introduced to the senate and the house in the us but it it hadn’t passed yet and the problem was then when it ultimately didn’t pass. The state started to regulate the like submarket that we were in these like income share agreements they so they started regulating it and then California started and then it went nationally more or less and basically what most states said is you can’t offer this and the reasoning that they said there was like multitude of reasonings but I can give you 1 like 1 state. For example, said. Student needs to know in advance. How much they’re paying for their education which makes sense to some degree because there were some like fraudulent schools that were charging schools like students more afterwards. But in our case, we had a maximum amount let’s say the maximum amount was like $20000 and the only thing that could happen is that the student paid less but at the same time. The regulators didn’t want us to offer that they said oh no, you have to tell them they have to pay $20000 you can’t have them pay less because it’s against the law so we are fighting all these stupid rules everywhere and then we were also starting to get sued. Not.
Mike Mahlkow: Us necessarily. But also the schools that we were working with because the traditional student loan lobby put a lot of money into lobbying against the agreements that we had because I think they thought that they just saw a threat versus like the traditional student loans. Because we just had a better product for the student and it’s not only us there were like other people other companies in the space as well. And so basically there were lawsuits throwing around everywhere in 2022 some of them hit us as well. Ultimately we won all the lawsuits like but it it just took a lot of time and then the growth. Just stopped in the market because everyone was afraid of regulators or like other companies suing them and the the the student loan lobby. Also they they funded a couple of ngos whose sole purpose. It was to start suing people who used these kinds of agreements so basically was like a. A learning experience for us to how lobbying and the legal system worked in the us and we were bleeding money unlike legal costs and couldn’t really grow that much anymore. So basically what we said was we have very. Have like great assets. We have like custom relationships. We have great tech and we have this debt fund that’s actually returning a lot of money. So ah, we carved up the assets into 3 separate um like acid bundles and then we sold them to 3 separate entities.
Mike Mahlkow: And it wasn’t the result that we wanted like we wanted to build a massive enduring company right? We wanted to like Ipo this. We wanted to have millions of students all over the country. But ultimately sometimes you can’t change regulation you want to change like the way you want to change it I literally talked to some house house members some senate um members some some state senate some like. Federal senate and like we talked about a couple times but ultimately like the regulation just went the other way. So yeah, we we basically sold the assets and then pretty quickly after started a new company.
Alejandro Cremades: So then what’s what’s happening now with fashion. You know how did you guys you know, go about hey let’s let’s go out and now with fashion.
Mike Mahlkow: Yeah, so we knew that we wanted to build another company like that that was never a question. We Also knew that we wanted to build it with the same cofo like we never like we never even once discussed would we change the team would we do anything there. The only question was what are we building next. And we looked at a couple of different ideas that we found interesting and had like a very fairly dedicated process for going through them. First thing we did was like do a like base level analysis of the problem answer a couple of questions that we wanted to figure out like what is the Founder Market fit is this a growing market couple of other things. And then if they didn’t if the idea or problem didn’t pass that stage we would kick it and then if it passed the stage it would would would do prospective user Interviews So We talked to people who we thought might have that problem and then try to figure out. Do. They even have that problem. And then fastion itself was born out of something that we experienced at blair the the last company. So Basically what we found was that there were great ways of like quickly building frontends with great local tools. We were for example, very big fans of webflow for a long time. But we couldn’t really find anything that makes it much faster in the backend but we thought it’s technologically very possible to build even though you have to build in a certain way to actually be helpful. So What we did was like talk to some people and like try to figure out whether they were running into the same problems and then very quickly we noticed that other people were having the same problem.
Mike Mahlkow: And we thought we have a good ah founder market fit because we both can like build great products and then also think about how to market them and how to bring them to market so we started building and then we did not only decide to do it with the same cofounders. We also decided. That we wanted to rehire the first 4 software engineers that we hired at at Blair as well. So basically we decided it ah around like right before Christmas Twenty Twenty Two and um so basically what I had to do over Christmas until like early January was raise some money so that we could like. Start paying the engineers that would start like basically January first so I raised a little bit of money over Christmas um, we also got into y see again. Um, so we did the winter bitch of ah y see earlier in 2023 and then raised some additional of money afterwards. But yeah. So basically it’s it’s very much the same crew same co-foing team same early engineering team even many of our investors are the same so a good chunk of our cap table like right now with fashion had invested in our last company as well and this is how we want to do business in general we like to find people. We enjoy spending time with that we think are great people at what they’re doing and that we also just personally like and then build long term relationships with them. That’s what we do want to do with our employees. That’s what we want to do with our investors.
Alejandro Cremades: Now talking about investors here. You know like the um vision is a big one. So um, imagine if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of fastion is fully realized what does that world look like.
Mike Mahlkow: Yeah, so we are a low code Backend. So The idea is that you can use a visual dragon and drop environment to build the business logic of your backend your Apis your Cron drops. We have a database for you to store data as Well. So What we want to do is to build the best low-code Backend. So Basically what webflow has achieved for the Frontend. We want to do the same thing for the backend. So if I go to bed and wake up with a mission achieve tomorrow then we have millions of people building their products with fashion as being like 1 core tool. And their tech stack and the idea is like from the very beginning one of the problems that we saw in the low code. No code space was that some of the tools are just closed systems. They want to do everything but that’s not how software and engineering usually works. You usually have multiple tools that you combine. Into your tech Stack. So What we want to do is be the prime solution for people to build backends with a low code stack and that’s what we’re working towards.
Alejandro Cremades: Now imagine if I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time back in time to that moment where you know you were perhaps thinking about starting a company you were getting on a plane you know on your way to San Francisco
Mike Mahlkow: Yes.
Alejandro Cremades: And let’s say you were able to sit down next to that younger self you know that is flying across the ocean the Atlantic and you’re able to give that younger self at that point one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now. Okay.
Mike Mahlkow: I’ll cheat and I’ll give myself 2 pieces of advice. So piece of advice number 1 is like it requires some context so basically in the early days of the last company we we were still like reasonably broke, especially because San Francisco is super expensive right. So we thought it was a good idea of me and 1 of my cofounders of not only sharing a room but like a literal like bed in the early days so like for nine months or living rumors our office I shared a bed with one of my cofounders and then the other room was our ah cto of the third counder and our first engineering hire who knew. Each other very well as well. But basically we lived in the same place worked in the same place and even slept in the same bed. We’re just a great story and it shows grid. But in hindsight it was very stupid because we had already raised some money we could have probably afforded our own womb and it was like very severely impacting like my sleep and just my overall stress level. So I think we would have done actually much better by just like selling like paying each other like a little bit of salary. We literally paid each like we we paid us like $500 of salary even though we had already raised more than 1000000 so that was just like in hindsight not a great idea because everyone told us all befrug will be frugal. But I think we were like a little bit too. Frugal. So that’s one piece of advice. It’s very specific to our situation I think the other thing is just like in hindsight ah going into.
Mike Mahlkow: Like a market where the regulation is like very unclear and you have like very strong entrenched interests paying a lot of money to avoid the new status quo it it if it works it works but the problem is you can’t really. Influence it as much and then also since we were not your citizens but foreigners. We also had like to be a little bit a little more careful with like breaking some rules that we might have broken back at home in Germany but we definitely didn’t want to break in the Us but also like there’s literally people that worked in our space before that. Um. Got like some very hefty finds because they were breaking some rules and some of them we think had like very good intentions. Some of them were actually committing fraud and I think we talked about that at some point that there were some very funny stories in the space where one of our former um customers. Um, like school customers like we found out that they were doing some shady things with their students so we basically ended their agreement like the relationship we had with them and then a couple of months afterwards we um, heard that they were actually being sued by 17 different state regulators. And then they sued us because they said we didn’t have the right to end the agreement even though we had and we also won the lawsuit but basically like that person was then like sentenced to to prison but he fled the country before before he he went to prison. So basically I have I have some good.
Mike Mahlkow: Good stories that you can tell in the bar now just from like what we’ve experienced in the last one or 2 years but at the same time what we want to do is build a business right? We really like building products we like building relationships. So I think I would pick a space that that is possible and I think we found one now with fashion where. Like the deaf tooling space and the lowcode space is just overall a more wholesome long term oriented space compared to the the space that we’re in before because we are very much in favor of being honest being truthful. And just making sure that you win by building a better product.
I love it. So Mike Mahlkow: 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.
So Twitter Works it’s just my my name Mike Melco on Twitter I assume it will be in the description. Linkedin Linkedin works as well. If you had me Linkedin like add a quick message because you as you know you get a lot of spam there but you can dm me on Twitter you can ah reach out on Linkedin. And I’m I’m very happy to help if I can if any 1 of you is interested in like some kind of local backend solution. Definitely reach out. But also if I if I can be helpful in any other ways. Um I’m very very happy to chat with almost anyone if the schedule allows it and see you how I can at value because so many people have helped me.
Alejandro Cremades: A moving.
Mike Mahlkow: In my journey over the years. So I like to pay it forward to other people.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing. Well hey Mike Mahlkow thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Mike Mahlkow: It was a pleasure. Thank you so much.
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