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Interview with a Successful Startup Founder

Growing a Digital Product Business to $10K/Mo

Maximilian Fleitmann
Maximilian Fleitmann
May 5, 2022
Category of startup
e-Commerce
Country of startup
Germany
Revenue of startups
$10k-$25k/mo
Interview with a Failed Startup Founder

Growing a Digital Product Business to $10K/Mo

Maximilian Fleitmann
Maximilian Fleitmann
May 5, 2022
Category of startup
e-Commerce
Country of startup
Germany
Cause of failure of the startup

In 2019, Maximilian acquired BaseTemplates, a website selling pitch deck templates. Through content and free tools, he has grown the business to 5 figures.

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Hi Maximilian! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?

Hi! I am 29, based in Berlin, and I have been building web projects and companies since I was 13 years old. Back then, I started selling graphics, websites, and scripts online and always thought: “Wow, that's amazing. I can get money for something I would do for free.”

Maximilian speaking in public

After some entrepreneurial experiments, back in university, I created my first big company, called StudyHelp, with the idea of bridging the gap between offline and online tutoring. The company scaled quite quickly to over 200 cities and a million website visits per month; we also raised several rounds of funding.

But, feeling stuck on the things I was working on, at some point, I decided to leave the company on an operational level. And I found something that I couldn’t stop thinking about - the relationship between founders and investors and how everything about fundraising works.

Since then, I have been spending my time on two fronts. On the one hand, I decided to become an investor myself and since then have been investing in companies all over the world, from India to Brazil. On the other hand, I have been growing my company BaseTemplates and some other projects.

BaseTemplates is your go-to place for fundraising material. We are selling different templates, such as pitch decks or financial model templates, and offering custom pitch deck designs. In addition to that, we are also sharing knowledge, lessons & best practices around fundraising and entrepreneurship.

BaseTemplates' website

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

When I was first raising money for my education company, I had no clue what I was doing. I neither had the network of investors nor knew how to fundraise or build a pitch deck. So, I ended up making many mistakes.

Back then, I bought a pitch deck template from a small website. I liked it because of its perfect structure. Later on, I met the website’s founder, and he told me that he wanted to sell the business.

BaseTemplates’ old website

After checking some of the numbers, it became evident that I had to buy the company and use my experience to bring it to the next level. And that's what I did. In 2019, I acquired BaseTemplates and grew it from one product to five. Over the years, I  have helped thousands of founders raise money for their idea.

How did you build BaseTemplates?

Because I had been in the shoes of my customers and made all the mistakes myself (building a bad pitch deck, talking to only a few investors, etc.), the whole process of building the company was quite natural for me.

I started with my own experiences and shared them as content pieces. These were not just simple blog articles but little helper tools that I wished I had when fundraising. For example, you can have a look at our collection of pitch decks or our investor pitch training tool

PitchDeckHunt's website

I always kept thinking about which products should be added. I started with pitch deck templates but knew that for successful fundraising, founders would also need a solid financial model and a way to track their investor relations. So I came up with products for that as well. 

BaseTemplates’ products

Luckily, I would describe myself as a swiss-army-knife, meaning I can build and design most of the stuff myself. That has saved me a lot of time and money. Another very useful thing in building BaseTemplates was no-code tools like Webflow or Airtable.

Nevertheless, during the first months of running the business, I had the feeling that we were not growing and that only very few people knew about BaseTemplates. That changed when we first launched on Product Hunt. It was a quick start of what became a steady growth to the point we are now.

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Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?

I am a big believer in giving before taking. And that's why I decided to build a content engine around BaseTemplates. I create valuable content like blog articles, free tools, interviews like this, and more that I use to bring people to our website.

If they like the content, they will convert at some point into paying customers. Using this strategy, we have not spent a single $ on marketing for our product.

One thing that was particularly helpful for us was working with partners. There are plenty of sites that are targeting early-stage founders. Many of them are happy to include BaseTemplates as an additional service for their customers.

Over the last years, this strategy helped us to go from hundreds of $ per month in revenues to over 5-digits per month.

What are your goals for the future?

I think that most people who are fundraising still have never heard of BaseTemplates. And I definitely have to change that. Every startup founder who thinks about raising money should be aware of us, our products, and our resources.

I believe that to accomplish that, we have to work on two things. First is obviously the product itself. We have to expand the product range to help founders in every stage of their founder lifecycle. And the second is distribution. We need to be everywhere, which means more content, tools, and networking.

In my vision, we will be creating a whole ecosystem for the founder & VC space. And BaseTemplates will only be one building block of that. We have already started adding additional products like FounderResources, VCStack, or Startup&VC, and we have some more big ones coming up soon. Make sure to follow me on Twitter to be the first to see it.

Other products besides BaseTemplates

In the end, it all comes down to the topics that I am interested in. And I believe if I just keep going in that direction, the business will succeed for sure. 

What were the biggest challenges you faced and obstacles you overcame?

For me, the biggest challenge has always been maintaining a strong focus. I am the type of person that comes up with more ideas than I could ever bring to life and gets excited about them quickly. 

But having only minimal resources in my startup phase, I had to learn the hard way that I couldn’t do it all at once. And if I nevertheless tried realizing many ideas at once, I often ended up with a bunch of half-done tasks.

That’s why I always create three months OKRs for myself and the company to know exactly what I will be working on - and even more importantly, what I will not be working on over the following weeks. 

That helps a lot, but staying on my plan remains a huge struggle to this day.

Which are your greatest disadvantages? What were your worst mistakes?

The whole startup fundraising market is very crowded. On one side, you have all these providers of cheap templates that are bringing out new designs weekly. And on the other side, you have very focused software providers that came to the market with a lot of funding.

For an independent company like ours, it's always hard to find a place in the middle and especially have visibility. That is ultimately what we are fighting for with all of the competitors. Luckily, the market in total is huge and every founder needs something different. So there are still enough people who see BaseTemplates as the best solution for them and we try to be as outspoken about it as possible. 

Another huge mistake that I made repeatedly was not being consistent with content creation on our blog. I hate writing, so this is something that I always pushed to the bottom of my to-do list and ended up dropping quite often. But especially with SEO, it is important to stay consistent with your content creation. And we could have been twice our size if we had just continued to create blog content regularly.

If you had the chance to do things differently, what would you do?

When I was taking over BaseTemplates, my biggest fear was losing my initial investment because we would drop on the Google rankings, or no one would see the products anymore. But looking back, that was total nonsense.

I would now tell my former self to have trust and just do the things that feel right, and the business success will come no matter what.

For me, the biggest lever in our company history was getting our strategy right and really finding out what works and what doesn't. I wish I had spent more time on that at earlier stages. 

What are some sources for learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?

I think there is so much amazing content on the web that can keep you from making the same mistakes that hundreds of founders did before you.

I believe one of the best sources on earth is Product Hunt, where you can find amazing products & resources every day.

Also, a good idea would be to use the search to find older products that might be helpful for you. I have found some of the best resources for myself there.

Besides that, I would always encourage you to join a community or find a tribe of fellow entrepreneurs. Talking about your current challenges and learning from the experiences of others is a real game-changer.

Last but not least, OnDeck is doing a fantastic job in helping people start their companies and find co-founders or their first employees. I would recommend checking that one out - (Side note: I am an investor in OnDeck).

Where can we go to learn more?

The easiest way to learn more about the stuff that I am working on is to follow me on Twitter (@MaxFleit), LinkedIn, or take a look at my personal website.

For everyone who is thinking about raising money for their startup, I highly recommend taking a look at our content section at BaseTemplates. We have a ton of content and tools that will help you on your startup journey.

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