Time for a Klarx update! The Munich startup Klarx finalized a financing round for more than four million euros in September 2018. The online construction equipment rental company has already expanded to another country. We wanted to find out how the company is doing — after all, our last interview was a good two years ago. Communications Manager Christian Holzapfel answered our questions.
Christian, how did you use the investments from your series A round?
We predominantly used the financing round to continue to accelerate our growth. That is most strongly reflected by the significant increase in the size of our team. Klarx now has more than 60 employees. A great deal of our newest team members are active in business development and sales. Moreover, growth is being driven by our marketing department, where our headcount has also gone up.
Although we’re a digital company and online marketing is our domain: In the construction industry, we’re active in a B2B segment where trade fairs and events still play a major role. Bauma obviously stands out as the world’s largest trade fair, so needless to say, we were there as well.
Klarx Update: Internationalized to Austria, more than 60 employees and still agile
In addition to Germany, you recently entered the Austrian market. How did the preparations go for internationalization? What difficulties did you come across?
We’d had our sights set on the Austrian market for quite some time. That has less to do with the fact that two of our founders are Austrian and more to do with the high degree of structural similarly it has to Germany’s market. That’s what allowed us to prepare so well for our first step towards internationalization. That is particularly important for us because we require a network of local rental partners that has already been gradually established.
It’s similar on the customer side as well, but we have significant support because we already have investors from Austria. They’re active in the construction industry, and some of them had even already rented equipment in Austria before our official market launch. That made getting things prepared quite easy. In the end, the “biggest” difficulties were little things that needed adjusting and had been easily overlooked, such as on the website or in the terms and conditions. As mentioned earlier, however, our team has grown because Klarx specifically got new people on board who had already internationalized startups. That’s what made it such a remarkably trouble-free process for us.
A snowpark and a world record as a pre-launch event
Did you plan a special event for the launch in Austria? How was internationalization executed?
We announced the launch of www.klarx.at during a press conference on May 20 in Vienna. In our industry, it’s obviously relevant for our customers to hear about us through their channels. In addition to online advertising, specialized press is also of great importance.
That’s why we created a setting where journalists could talk with our founders and with me about the new developments. We were also already visible and active in Austria in mid-April. By being involved with Audi Nines, we supported one of the world’s biggest snow events with our equipment. Two of our founders are former snowboarding pros, which means they still have their heart and soul in the scene.
As a result, equipment that we rented out in cooperation with Wacker Neuson ended up at an elevation of some 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) to build a snowpark on the glacier in Sölden. In addition to impressive photos and being an awesome team event for us, a new world record was also set on the quarterpipe. So before the actual launch of our rental services in Austria, we were already visible at the event and basically signalized that something was going to happen.
“Invest more in internal communications”
As you already mentioned, you now have more than 60 employees. Have the corporate structures adjusted accordingly? If yes, then how? And have you managed to maintain your agile startup processes?
Yes, they definitely have. I’ve been with Klarx since 2016. In the beginning, the scopes of duties were much broader with people who were “Swiss army knives,” who took care of all kinds of things. As you grow, it all obviously becomes more professional, and defined structures in the form of “departments” emerge. I don’t think the word department is really appropriate, because we’re all still cross-functional in different areas and work just as agile on projects.
That also obviously means you have to integrate this working method into the relevant processes, clearly define roles and, in particular when considering the early stages, invest more in internal communications. That is completely normal as you increase in size and worked very well for us during our rapid period of growth.
The vision: Klarx wants to cover the whole range of construction site needs with its platform
How is your startup situated now? Where do you want to be in five years?
We’re clearly the leading digital platform in Europe for construction equipment rental. We work with countless rental partners, and they all make sure we’re able to offer our customers an assortment of equipment that grows every day in an increasing number of countries.
Our current focus is on expanding that role in Europe and on becoming the central point of contact for all construction equipment needs. In five years, we will have expanded our range and cover further areas of demand on construction sites beyond construction machinery. That includes building materials, waste management and other services. Klarx will be the central point of contact for customers to cover all of their needs on the construction site.
“Klarx has fared very well with investments from its own industry”
What advice would you give other founders?
For us, it was essential to have a complementary founding team that works well together. More figuratively speaking: Our founders have very different strengths and complement each other perfectly, which means they can pursue our vision with ease. That is the essential prerequisite for a founding to be successful.
Moreover, you should talk to customers about your idea as quickly and frequently as possible to actually create the product that your customer needs.
As for investors: Klarx has fared very well with investments from its own industry. They have benefitted from the product as well, which means they were also involved in feedback.