Interview with Fabian Heilemann, Founder of Dailydeal.de

Fabian Heilemann (left) and his brother Ferry Heilemann

It had been the most talked about startup showdown of early 2010 in Germany: Dailydeal vs. Citydeal (now Groupon Europe).  The Samwers achieved yet again another fabulous exit-story with their hundreds-of-million exit to Groupon after just a few months and seemed to have outrun Dailydeal for good. But the Dailydeal founders did not give up and surprised many in the German internet scene by selling the company for 114 million US-Dollar to Google, which became public in late September 2011.

First of all: late congratulations on the sale to Google. How did you celebrate the sale?

Thanks! Surely we’re happy and proud to be part of Google now, but there hasn’t been this one excessive party which you might imagine. After having signed the contract we drank a glass of champagne at the Google Germany headquarters and back in Berlin we met Michael Brehm (one of our business angels) at a pub.  That doesn’t sound so glamorous but it still now feels okay to us. Winning Google as our shareholder is a nice interim result, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Stepping back a little to the beginnings: as we don´t  have to ask you how you got the idea for Dailydeal: why did you like the daily deal business model so that you introduced it to Germany?

Regarding to the win-win-situation couponing creates, there were two reasons for founding DailyDeal: We love to enrich customers’ lifestyle showing them hip locations in their own town and offering rebates for products and travel and we’re certain that there’s a big need for the cost-transparent and efficient marketing-tool we provide to companies. The statistics show that we’ve made the right decision: At the moment DailyDeal cooperates with more than 8,000 merchants and has sold 1.22 million coupons in the first three quarters of this year.

Some people have been skeptical in the beginning: “Oh, that won´t work”. You proved them to be wrong. So now people are skeptical again and have been a little surprised by the valuation of the company. Do you think that the German internet scene will experience more attention from global investors, which will add also a new global “strategic value asset” to some companies?

I’m not quite sure. Of course Berlin is trendy and said to become the European Silicon Valley, but in my eyes the provenience of a company isn’t a convincing “reason why” for global investors. To interest a global investor you’ll have to be innovative or at least (the upcoming) leader of a strategic relevant market. If you’re successful it doesn’t really matter if your company is based in Berlin, Moscow or New Delhi.

Have the negotiations taken place here in Germany or did you also fly out to the Google center? As 114 million dollars is not such a small transaction: Is there at least a short meet and greet with Larry or Sergej?

We’ve spoken with several managers of Google on different levels yet and we’re looking forward to meeting some others, too – no matter if in Berlin, Hamburg, Dublin or Mountain View. Google and DailyDeal suit each other very well.

Your local salesforce, which provides the connection to the merchants, is one of your most valuable assets. How do you react to the launch of deal marketplaces? (which, like every other market place increases competition between deal platforms and could reduce commissions) 

We respect deal marketplaces, but they don’t fit with our philosophy. We don’t use our salesforce just to acquire deals. We’re aiming for long-term relationships with our merchants and so our salesforce has to counsel them intensively, too. Couponing’s still a new marketing tool and so there’re several questions to be answered to ensure the best fit for the merchant and the user.  That’s a task marketplaces can’t solve

In which direction has Dailydeal to move in the future to be even more competitive and maybe even outrun Groupon in Germany? Can you reveal some plans?

We want to be more useful for merchants and customers. Renewing our conditions was a first step: Since November ‘11 DailyDeal is the only couponing company in Europe offering a 100% guaranteed pay-out for merchants. A few days ago we overworked our terms and conditions for consumers. We’re now able to sell gift coupons. Some other, more technical features will follow. We’ll inform the public when they’re going live and we’re sure they will make significant impact.

Which great deal or which company would you like to have on the Dailydeal platform?

There’re several sections we’d like to enlarge, our verticals travel and product deals for example. Right now we’re close to win a well-known airline as a merchant. Some other contracts will be signed in the following weeks. Abstractly spoken we’re aiming for long-term relationships with market-leaders and other renowned companies.

What would be your next dream deal in your career?

Frankly I’m living my dream just at this moment. Winning Google as a shareholder opens up possibilities we couldn’t even imagine before. My brother Ferry and I are looking forward to being a part of DailyDeal’s success story which just has begun.

As every investor quotes the importance of a great team, to which of your colleagues would you especially say “thank you”?

I don’t want to name specific persons. Our success isn’t the merit of one or two employees. It all depends on the team. Ferry and I are very thankful that every single team-member has worked hard for the company’s goal.

Guessing that you will expand business in the next time: which people do you seek for your team? 

Right now we’re looking for and hiring sales staff, a email-marketing manager and employees for our merchant and customer service with a minimum of two, better three or five years professional experience.  For us it’s important that new employees aren’t just experienced, they should also fit with our result-oriented, sustainable philosophy. Though still growing fast we’d like to keep fluctuation as low as it always was and retain the typical DailyDeal spirit.

 

We thank Fabian for the interview and much success for the future. 

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