“To stay profitable and generate sales” that’s the key for every single company. Oliver Mauss, Founder of DRVE, was interviewed by Ramon Vela on The Story of a Brand podcast to discuss all things brands, online growth, investment and ecommerce.
I’m fascinated by this company, why don’t you give us a 100-foot overview of DRVE?
All the startups struggle with the same problems: they are trying to grow and they are looking for investment and once they get it if they are lucky then they struggle with the execution and putting the money at the right place.
At DRIVE since we consider ourselves growth investors we came up with a program to tackle this problem. We finance all the paid advertising, recover the money, commission and reinvest it immediately. We take care of the growth, we execute it, we have the partnerships, network, and capital to support that.
If it’s not structured as a revenue-based loan, do you require collateral or something similar?
What we require for this program to work, and it depends on the stage of the company, is: Where is the company? How much revenue do they already generate? Is social media working for them? Is customer support in place? It’s things like that and we have algorithms and people looking into this. Of course, that’s the bare minimum. Companies that are in a later stage, especially if we accelerate them, may need loans or equity partners and we do provide all that.
For me, it’s important to highlight that we are not a revenue-based company like other programs out there. We want to help founders manage and get these things out of the way so companies can concentrate on their products and we are the machine behind it that pushes it forward.
Again, if later on, they need money for things like inventory, we can provide that either through our program or with our partners but it depends on the company and where they are.
It occurs to me that people have trouble putting their heads around this model because it almost feels too good to be true.
Yes, that’s not the first time that I hear it! But if you think about it, it’s a very natural partnership that we go into with these companies. Once it works, if we can crack the formula so we have the growth rate we look for at the price we look for (it’s all about the customer acquisition cost at the end) then our program works.
The whole investment works and we can put the money to work so the company is earning money and growing. So it’s a very happy environment and all that is possible without collaterals, selling equity, none o that. Then, if everyone is happy and growing, we can look into other stuff. It can be easy but of course, there are bumps.
Firstly, we need to make it work, the numbers need to work. The startup also needs to be able to handle the additional pace we generate. All these things are part of this basic and natural partnership.
I go into thinking into a win-win situation for both parties but it feels you are offering so much to the brand and the investee that is interesting. Let’s take a step back and tell me a bit about your background. How did you get into this? What led you to start DRVE?
I did a couple of things over the years and now DRVE is an outcome of all of that. As an investor, I had over a dozen startups and they all had the same type of problems. You build the product, you put the team there, everyone agrees on a strategy, as an investor you give them money and after a while, they come back and they ask for more money.
All of the companies were facing the same type of problems: How do you make it grow? How do you do online advertising? How do you become profitable? And obviously, a startup can’t afford to solve a lot of this, I mean if you are a startup you can’t afford a CRM that costs USD 50k a month and things like that. They can’t afford to do these things and invest their money into them constantly.
If you combine this and put it into one very professional team of experts, with the AI behind it, systems, the partnerships contract, and the marketing dollars, then it can be easy. You break it down into small items and this is what we are providing.
It sounds like you are seeing a problem with the customer and saying ‘I’m going to try to fix this problem for a company’ versus saying ‘we built this model and then the company has to follow the model and our guidelines’. It sounds like this is customer-led, is that the right assumption?
Definitely. I mean our entire system of growth is also very customer-led. We ask the user, we ask the audience, and test a lot. Even for the existing companies in our program, there is a lot of testing. The growth usually comes from testing: new audiences, new channels, new creatives, and we do that through our program with firepower.
The program works and in the other hand, all the time we are learning, we are adjusting, we are improving, we have a development team. This development team is only developing more software, solutions, connections to find more opportunities for our startups.