Startup Founder Kasper Brandi Petersen
Since Kasper Brandi Petersen moved to Amsterdam 4 years ago, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. First, he launched a shopping service for men out of his apartment. The Cloakroom became one of the fastest growing startups in Europe (with a legendary burn rate) and was acquired by a German competitor in 2016. Next, he moved to Berlin, spend a year doing some M&A related tasks before moving back to the Netherlands. Again, he landed in Amsterdam, and again he turned to clothing. He founded LABFRESH: menswear that uses molecular cotton treatments so these clothes become stain- and odor repellant. LABFRESH launched in January 2017 and soon became the most backed fashion project in Dutch Kickstarter history. Kasper is originally from Copenhagen (Denmark) and lived in China, Dubai and Berlin before settling in Amsterdam.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
When I was 20 years old some friends of mine received a seed investment from a Skype founder. Back then being an “entrepreneur” was not a thing. We found it silly that some rich guy gave our friends a pile of money based on a 15 PowerPoint slides. We started hanging out a lot in the huge apartment they used for working and sleeping. It was a big inspiration to see how they and all their entrepreneurial contacts were looking at the world like one big buffet of opportunities. Soon after I launched my first startup. And those friends became my first customers.
Can you remember what the biggest barriers to entry entrepreneurship were for you?
I would have to say a misguided sense of prestige. Honestly. In 2010, I came home from China with a Master’s degree and I couldn’t help thinking that it would be bad for my CV to work for an unknown startup. So I took a job in the biggest company in Denmark (Maersk Line). I told myself it would be for a short time so I could learn new tricks and save up cash for a new startup adventure.
After 2 years of wearing a suit and tie every day and traveling around the world alongside amazing people I started realizing why it is so hard for most people to quit and launch a startup. Corporate life is amazing. It’s full of prestige, security, money, and advancement. I completely understand why it is hard to leave it behind.
What does success look like to you personally?
The best indicator is the quality of my sleep. I sleep like a baby whenever a new funding round is on the bank account and my metrics are in line with the expectations of my team, my investors, and myself.
What is your role at LABFRESH?
There are two tasks in an early-stage startup: product and sales. My main task is product development (clothes) and making sure we don’t run out of cash. I don’t need a real title because we are only 5 people in the team.
What does a productive day for you look like?
I read Pocket articles and sort my emails in bed from 6.15am. No answering, only sorting. Then, I do boxing or running at 7. Then I prep our team Trello. I prefer to always be the most prepared person in a meeting. It’s sick how much time I spend on LinkedIn and Dealroom before meeting new people.
Co-working spaces are a clear productivity booster. I live 200 meters from ours. I don’t have to worry about anything. Our space also has a bed, which I try to nap on as often as possible. I eat lunch in front of my screen every day. Half of the week I eat dinner in front of the screen too. If I need a break, I walk the dog or chill in the office bed.
Which problem are you solving with LABFRESH?
There are hundreds of cool nano-technologies that can make clothing more durable. For example, sports brands are great at embracing new technology, but the fashion houses are slow to adapt. 100 billion pieces of clothing were produced in 2014. That’s a sick amount of waste. We dislike fast fashion and have always pushed for quality above quantity.
With LABFRESH products you stay fresh and stylish for many days without having to worry about stains and smell. We truly believe nano-technologies, like ours, will revolutionize how we consume fashion.
Where does your motivation to solve this problem come from?
During my corporate stint, I spent a lot of time in Africa and the Middle East. I was always in deserts and ports, and it was always sunny and humid. I would often need an extra white shirt in my laptop bag, so I wouldn’t smell by the end of the day.
What does success look like for LABFRESH?
I always strive to make milestones tangible. It’s important that everybody knows where we are going both on the short and long term. Our milestones are built around revenue, product and funding. Each achievement unlocks the next. When we have a new product line or lower prices, we can afford a higher marketing spend and hence revenue goes up. Once revenue reaches a certain annualized level it is time for me to build a deck and start sipping VC coffees.
Which one thing would you love to tell your younger self?
Less planning, more living.
“Do a bit of planning first, bro.”
What has been your biggest failure?
We raised €3m with The Cloakroom and had great revenue growth, but it was a hard model to scale profitably. It made ‘financial sense’ for my cofounder and I to sell to a bigger player even though we were only 2.5 years old. I spent 1 year in Berlin with M&A [merger and acquisition]-related tasks. And integrating the two cultures has been the most challenging experience in my career so far. I am happy to see the organization is strong and profitable now.
What would you highly recommend aspiring entrepreneurs to do?
Don’t just do it! Most entrepreneurs will tell you to just go ahead and launch something. I say the opposite: Too many people jump into the deep end without having established a product-market fit or found a decent cofounder. Do a bit of planning first, bro.
How many users and paying customers do you have?
1,500 Kickstarter-backers who preordered for €200,000.
How big is the team?
What are you currently failing at?
Production. This is the first time I’m doing a startup that produces hardware. It amazes me to see how old school our factories are.
What are you currently struggling with?
Turning a successful Kickstarter-campaign into a sustainable scalable business model.
What makes you worry?
Loosing overview. Sometimes I get too caught up in operational tasks and I suddenly realize that I focused on the urgent things instead of the important things.
What’s your favorite emoji?
I only do one emoji: “:)”
Who is your favorite super hero?
Prince Valiant. Try to Google him. He looks incredibly vain, and he always cried when he reunited with other Camelot knights.
Challenges expressed are in no way meant to solicit commercial acquisition.
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