In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Carl-Erik Michalsen Moberg, CEO and Co-Founder at TicketCo, an event sales solution for organizers and venues. Join us for a playful conversation about a wild guy who took a wild ride to become wildly successful at selling tickets.
If you missed episode 224, check it out here: Building Meaningful Connections with Co-Selling with Alex Buckles
What You’ll Learn
- Why money alone will never be enough
- Find love in what you do and for the people around you
- How your early career will inform the later part of your career
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Show Agenda and Timestamps
- About Carl-Erik & TicketCo [00:40]
- Biggest lessons in building a business [06:35
- The power of remote work [11:03]
- Pay it forward [19:38]
- Sam’s Corner [23:31]
Show Introduction [0:05]
Sam Jacobs: Welcome to the Sales Hacker Podcast! Today, we’ve got Carl-Erik Michalsen Moberg, the CEO and Co-Founder of TicketCo. He’s 38, lives by the fjords of Norway with his wife, two daughters, and a dog called Junior. He spends a lot of time outdoors doing everything from fishing to skiing. He’s also a strong believer in staying healthy. He gets up at 5 am every morning, which is insanity. Carl, welcome to the show. Tell us, what is TicketCo?
Carl-Erik: It used to be a ticketing company, but it’s evolved into a digital assistant for everyone who creates events. All the heroes out there who are trying to make the world a better place by throwing great events get a system that helps them create the best event ever.
Sam Jacobs: Tell us about the journey.
Carl-Erik: It’s actually 10 years old, going since 2012. After COVID, we really amplified things. We have between $6 and $7 million US and about 30 employees in Norway, the UK, Sweden, Ireland, and Ukraine. We’re all over the place.
Sam Jacobs: Walk us through finding your way into the event industry.
Carl-Erik: I’ve been in the industry for 22 years, I started when I was 16. When my parents were out of town, I had parties in their house and sold tickets to get in. On the weekdays, I did water ski lessons for people in the community. I made my own money, mostly from the events side.
When I was 19, I started renting cruise ships from Norway. I wanted to go to business school which cost a lot of money and I didn’t have any, so I needed to make it myself. I rented a big ship that fit around 2000 people, filled it up with students, and sent them to Newcastle in the UK. I did a festival in the mountains of Norway. I booked 1000 beds but there was really no good ticketing solution.
I needed to sell quickly to market my events. I had to fax in to get the event on sale. The week after I wanted to get the event on sale, I would get a confirmation. Once I got confirmation two weeks later, I could start selling. It was impossible for me to get started. I decided to build this myself. I’m a developer, and I convinced someone to develop a solution on credit for that festival and ended up selling like two tickets. So it wasn’t a success.
But we had this ticketing system that we had built for this festival. I thought, let’s try to sell that. I started selling it to student organizations across Norway, and they loved the solution until it completely broke down, it was a disaster. I spent two weeks in Excel trying to sort things out. But I managed to sell to the same customer a year after, people saw that there was a need, and we started building the business.
Biggest lessons in building a business [06:35]
Sam Jacobs: What are some of your biggest lessons?
Carl-Erik: There’s been a lot of challenges. There’s always some sort of crisis. You need to focus on what you’re doing, keep your motivation, and don’t think about everything that can go wrong. Think about what can happen if things go right, and work towards solutions. Even if you might go bankrupt in one month, you should still be out there signing contracts, hiring people, and building a business because things sort themselves out if you’re doing a good job. That’s my key takeaway.
We sell to clubs and venues across Europe. Next time, I’m going to go global much faster. Starting a tech company in Norway is hard because it’s such a small market. Once you have product fit, you should try and go out immediately. I think we waited too long. If we had gone out earlier, we would have been much bigger today.
We’ve raised around 11 million, we’ve been growing, we’ve been investing in the company all the way, and we’re going to continue to do so.
Sam Jacobs: How are you planning for 2023? In the wake of all the volatility and economic uncertainty, are you still focused on growth?
Carl-Erik: The challenges we’ll meet now are nothing compared to what we went through with COVID, it was a complete disaster. I was working 24/7 trying to save the company for a year and a half.
People will still buy what we offer, but traveling or a new car, that can wait. I think people will follow their football club and go to a festival. They might prioritize that instead.
In March this year, we were cash flow positive. Next year, we’re going to make a little money, but we’re still going to focus on growth. We have some product development to do, and then we’re going to see much stronger and more sustainable growth. That’s the plan.
The power of remote work [11:03]
Sam Jacobs: Tell us why remote work is so powerful.
Carl-Erik: I think every founder that wants to go into another country needs to move, learn the culture, meet the customers, get product feedback, and make sure that you have a product fit within that market.
We opened up in Poland and Sweden. I had three days in each of those offices, following up on sales, looking at pipelines, and at everything we did. By traveling and meeting people in person, now we hire the best people we can find regardless of where they are.
If they’re in Bergen, Stockholm, or London, doesn’t matter, as long as they’re the best person for the role. It also means that you are much less disconnected.
Before, I was having to travel to those employees and meet them in person, and then I was disconnected for maybe two or three weeks. Now I’m remote, everyone is remote, and everyone is still very close. That’s brought the company together in a completely new way. Talent, culture, and being a huge money saver, make me believe in remote work.
If you’re headquartered in one city, and you have people working remotely in other places, they’ll miss the physical presence at the office, and it’ll become a disconnect. If you implement the full remote policy, with a volunteer office solution, everyone is remote, and you don’t get that. So I’ve done exactly that.
Instead of spending money on offices, I’ve scaled down and focused on quarterly get-togethers where we fly everyone to Norway, we do a great event, we have speakers, and we do something together. That’s made the company much stronger.
When I was running restaurants and bars, it was very money focused. I wanted to make as much as possible. That’s what was getting me up in the morning, hustling and bustling. I actually ended up buying a couple of nightclubs and bars, I was a bar owner for a couple of years. I’m never going to do that again.
When you’ve built something for 10 years, you go through the ups and downs, you go through COVID, and you have to think about why you’re doing this. If you don’t love your customers, and what they’re able to pull off by throwing amazing festivals and experiences, you’re never gonna make it. You have to bring the love down to all the employees. Then customers understand you’re there for a purpose.
At the end of the day, you need a purpose. You need to love what you’re doing.
I’m not wasting an hour watching Netflix in the evening. I go to bed, I rest for the next day, and in the morning at 5 am I go to the gym. That keeps my head and my health in a good way. Then I wake up the kids, make breakfast for them, and we have a conversation around the table. I love that. This is what I do every morning. Sometimes I go into the office in Bergen or I work from home. I can’t sit still all day.
Pay it forward [19:38]
Sam Jacobs: We like to pay it forward and understand the people that have had the biggest impact on you. It could be founders, VPs, or investors, it doesn’t have to be people you know. Who comes to mind?
Carl-Erik: My dad was a proper crazy entrepreneur, like the ones you read about. He was so optimistic, and so creative, that it was just unbelievable. He invented a lot of different stuff, from seaweed creams to sausages made of salmon, we had a pool where we had salmon swimming around. He taught me you can do whatever you want to do, and you will make it. He made a huge impact on me because of the way he handled downturns, and he was always positive, always supportive. I think that’s a superpower.
Joining Pavilion has made me a better CEO. I really thank you for that idea. I’m here in Norway but I’m there with a lot of great CEOs in the US, one of the most competitive markets in the world, and I’m able to get insights directly from them. They’re so open-minded and engaged. That has definitely helped me turn from being a growth company that lost a lot of money to becoming revenue-generating.
Sam’s Corner [23:31]
Sam Jacobs: Hi everybody, Sam’s corner. Sam Jacobs, host of the Sales Hacker Podcast, and author of the new bestselling book, Kind Folks Finish First.
I loved that conversation with Carl, he’s a classic entrepreneur, somebody that understands it. He talks about how working for money is not enough. It’ll get you out of bed a couple of days a week, but it becomes a grind. You have to find love.
It reminds me of this interview between Howard Stern and Jerry Seinfeld, where Howard says, I think our careers are emblematic of the idea that hard work pays off. You can outwork the competition, you can outwork other people. I was at the radio station all hours of the night, I kept working at it, and pretty soon I was Howard Stern, everybody knew me, and I’m rich. And Jerry said, no, Howard, hard work, discipline, consistency, creativity, those are the troops in the army, but the General of the army is love. Love is the thing that enables you to work hard. Love is the thing that enables you to show up every day at the gym, in the weight room, writing if you’re an author, love is the thing.
You have to find what you love. There’s artistry and passion in everyday work. You don’t have to be Jerry Seinfeld. I create things every day with my company. Even by working for somebody else, you can find love. So when I say find what you love, I’m not saying quit your job to become a poet. That’s not my point.
You need to uncover the raw atomic elements of the things that bring you energy, joy, and passion. Attach purpose and meaning to them, then you can have a fulfilling career and you are much more likely to get the things you want.
If you’re early in your career, get wisdom and experience and figure out what it takes, what brings you passion, creativity, and purpose, and then leverage those things as you gain experience in life.
Have a great week, everybody!
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