One of the most important lessons we learnt was: sometimes you only know what you want after you've done what you don't want. Only then do you truly realize what you have and that it is worth fighting for, even if it means taking a detour or two along the way. The best example of this was when we were 'married' to 1&1 (or if you prefer, United Internet). We took them on board as an investor in 2008 -- they wanted to use our software as the basis for their own product to sell to 1&1 customers. In perfect Jimdo style, we hammered out the details in double time (working as a single team on sprints) so that everything was ready to be presented at the CeBIT. That's when the 'fun' started.
Except that it didn't. Actually, everything felt wrong, even leading up to the launch. We realized that the working methods of the two companies did not get along well together. As the months rolled by, our sense of discomfort began to grow. Working at Jimdo wasn't fun anymore. We were losing our relaxed attitude and our sense of who we were. Finally, we realized that something had to give. It was time to leave, otherwise we would stop being...us.
Jimdependence Day: Free at last
Some members of our team were ready to throw in the towel, and even the three of us were sick of the way things were going (to say the least). The question remained: where to go from here? Only one way out: we had to become profitable and buy back our freedom (the 30% stake) from United Internet. From that moment on, it was time to tighten our belts: we went over every expenditure to cut costs.
Looking back, it was a difficult time but a good one, a period that had a big impact on who we are and which brought us closer together as a team. We weren't forced to fire a single employee, and no one left of their own free will, either. We all worked together towards a single goal: independence. Since then, the day when we finally got there has been known in Jimdo parlance as "Jimdependence Day".
What this time taught us:
1. People and cultureSeeing what we don't want (to be, to become) allowed us to appreciate what we've achieved. This phase in Jimdo's history is definitely one of the reasons we care so much about culture and try hard to take care of the people around us.
2. Our product. Our customers. Our responsibility.We want to build our own product, not be an agency for someone else. It just didn't feel right to be spending a large portion of our time doing account management for a single key client. We were convinced that the way to go for us was to focus our complete attention on our end users - and on making Jimdo great.
We want to build a product brimming with beautiful details and we want to be as close to our users as possible, so we're able to hear feedback and criticism right from the source.
Making this decision meant changing our strategy. When we partnered with 1&1, we wanted to use the proceeds to finance our own end user operations. Separating from 1&1 made things much easier and faster. We were able to fully concentrate on developing our own product. It was about time: the cooperation with 1&1 cost us nearly 10 months in development time.
3. The negotiation tableNegotiations were rough. It was clear that the two companies would go head to head after the separation. Both parties went into the negotiations with the least possible willingness to budge an inch. Since it was important for us to make the right decisions, we departed from our usual strategy of going into negotiations together; only two of us went to face off with 1&1. Christian stayed on the outside and had the task of keeping a cool head and picking apart the tiniest details of the contract. It turned out that we had chosen the best approach possible.
In the past, we had often 'caved in' when talking to 1&1. This time around, Christian managed to keep us focused on the real reasons it had to be different and we had to hold our ground. That made certain parts of the negotiations more difficult, but it was worth it. There was simply too much at stake. And when it was all over, we had gained some great firsthand experience in tough negotiation tactics.
Even though it was hard going at times, the results made it worth while. 1&1 was no longer 'on board', we bought back our shares and we were happy to be back doing what we love most.
We knew it was a huge step. But it wasn't until later that we realized how big it really was.
Co-founder at Jimdo
Fridtjof and Christian started their first company, dream-up.de, while they were still in school. Fridtjof went on to found another company with Christian and Matthias, which evolved into Jimdo in 2007. When Fridtjof is not in the office, he likes to mountain bike in the Alps, kite surf, and dream up other extremely frightening things he can try.