Christian Owens started coding at just 12 years old. His startup has now raised nearly $100M, and is bringing in billions in revenue as they empower software startups around the world to scale.
During our time on the DealMakers Podcast, Owens shared how he got started as a young entrepreneur. He got his parents’ blessing to drop out of school at 16, and was pitching VC firms by 18 years old. Plus, his adventures with fundraising on Twitter, introductions, and airplane rides.
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Kids That Code
Christian says he was only around 12, maybe just 11 years old when his family first got a computer at home. From the moment it came through the door he was fascinated with it.
Living in a small town in the UK, getting access to the internet was really interesting. Even if it was dial-up speed. Back then you had to go to the library to get books about computers and teach yourself. He began learning HTML. And was hooked on the ability to punch in some characters and create something out of nothing.
And, he loved it so much that he started hitting the streets, knocking on doors of local businesses to offer them websites. He was doing it for fun more than anything else, but they were happy to pay him $100 a pop.
Then one day one of these local restaurants asked if he could provide them an invoice. He didn’t even know what that meant at the time. So, he Googled it. He found QuickBooks, but couldn’t justify the price when he could just build it himself. So, he did.
He started offering his invoicing software to others. Much like freelancers who worked on time or project-based billing. Still just 13 years old he started getting paying customers for this software.
Within six months he had already brought in several thousand dollars.
In 18 months revenues were already around $5M, and they began hiring a lot of help.
He still remembers that in the early days he still had a kids’ bank account. One with a little passport book that didn’t accept checks. So, when his website customers would give him a check, his parents would take him to the bank, cash the check and give him the money to put into his kids’ account.
They were used to seeing these $50 and $100 checks. Then one day the balance on his account printed out at $74,000. It was more than some adults were making in a couple of years of full-time work. It was a great tool for helping to convince his parents to let him drop out of school at just 16 and focus on his business.
Building A Real Business
As the numbers got bigger and things got more complicated, he and his co-founder Harrison realized they needed to get better organized like a real business.
They were selling their invoicing software all over the world. So, they pretty quickly had to learn to make money in different currencies online and via credit card. They had to juggle HR and payroll and understand pay taxes in all of these very different countries from the UK to Germany to Japan.
Pretty soon Christian says he found that he was spending far more time on all of these other back-office things than actually building software, solving problems for people, and doing the things he loved.
He reached out to his network and found that others were only solving this by either hacking together with other tools like duck tape. Or they had to spend $1M to get started with big software solutions. These tools were designed many years earlier and would cost plenty more any time you wanted to change anything.
Christian and his cofounder Harrison, began brainstorming this. They decided to take on building a better solution themselves.
So, they spent the next few months simplifying and automating their business to free themselves up and brought someone in to manage the invoicing software business.
Still, just 17 and 18 years old they decided to go all-in on this new idea and moved to London together, where they would spend the first four years of building their new startup Paddle.
They received their first $150,000 in seed money from an investor over Twitter, who also offered them some shared office space.
They created Paddle to be what they call a “revenue delivery platform.” A tool that manages all of the back office items for software companies.
Everything from when a customer clicks through to buy to handling subscription billing, pricing optimization, juggling multiple currencies, and even collecting and filing taxes.
They’ve now raised close to $100M, and have built a business they believe is democratizing the world of SaaS startups, as AWS did for developers.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Christian Owens was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
These guys believe that software startup success should be about who builds the best product, and gives the best experience, and has the best go-to-market strategy, not just who has the most capital to burn.
They now have a team of 150, with plans to almost double that this year. Christian and his team have crossed over from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in annual revenue. Paddle has offices in the UK, USA, Australia, Ireland, and China.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Christian’s top advice for other entrepreneurs
- Where to get more help building your own startup