When Michael Hollauf and Till Vollmer founded Meister in 2006, they were two mind mapping enthusiasts with big dreams and shallow pockets. Today, they are proud to announce the successful completion of a deal to raise $52 million in growth financing from the growth equity investors Verdane. This investment package will change the company — and the landscape for European-made online productivity tools — forever. In this post, we learn a little more about the Meister story, explore the process that led to the investment, and look forward to a bright future for our ever-growing company.
Today is an important day. It is an exciting day and, in many ways, an emotional day too. Meister, which started with just the two of us, has just received $52 million in growth financing. This massive sum of money is hugely significant both to us as co-founders and the hundred or so people who now form the Meister team. In short, it is a confirmation of our desire to disrupt the market for productivity software with beautifully-designed, easy-to-use tools that help teams get more done together.
The 15-year journey that led us to this point was a long one with more than its fair share of twists and turns. Back in 2006, we had just quit our jobs at a growing software company, looking to try our luck with IT outsourcing projects. However, the market turned out to be far away from what we had imagined: a race to the bottom where creativity was stifled and nothing sustainable could ever be grown.
However, this disillusionment led to inspiration. We realized that there was plenty of room to grow in the emerging market for online collaboration, and with a handful of talented developers already at hand, we turned our attention towards something close to both our hearts: mind mapping. With that, MindMeister was born.
As we often say with MindMeister, it all starts with an idea. At the time, this idea was reasonably simple: to become the first company to create a genuinely collaborative online mind mapping experience, an end to the endless back-and-forth of locally saved versions that killed rapid alignment and the simultaneous creation of ideas.
Looking back, we can safely say that it was one of our better brainwaves. That over 20 million people now use our software, added to the fact that endless competitor products have emerged on the market, probably confirms this hunch.
As MindMeister grew, so did our company, as we scaled up our operations to continue providing quality features and service to our legions of loyal users. This growth led to teething problems that are probably familiar to many other startups trying to formalize workflows and processes as they expand. First and foremost: how to manage tasks in a structured, secure and easy-to-use way.
While a number of tools existed at the time, none quite met our specifications or the demands of our team. Figuring that we couldn’t be the only ones in this particular boat, we decided to create our own Kanban-style task management software. Enter, MeisterTask. Eight million users and thousands of happy teams later, we can only assume that we were right.
Now in 2021, we’re growing the Meister Suite even further. The recent beta launch of MeisterNote is the latest string in our bow.
Naturally, both strategies came with their own potential risks and rewards. While the possibilities associated with a significant investment package were naturally tempting, caution was of the essence. Many up-and-coming companies are routinely put to the wall through a combination of unrealistic investor expectations, a structure that cannot stand the weight of this additional pressure, and a decimation of team spirit and company culture.
On the other hand, while refusing investment would maintain the look and feel of Meister for longer, the comparative limitations of our development potential would risk a long-term stagnation in competitiveness and the loss of our momentum in a hugely-competitive market.
It’s a Match!
By the beginning of 2021, we realized that the time had come to take the leap. This required an intense period of preparation internally in order to ready the team for the exciting developments ahead. This is a challenge they have risen to in predictably magnificent fashion. Then came the decision of which investor to choose. Not all partners are equal, and selecting a prospective partner that shared our vision, values and goals was crucial to ensuring a rapid growth that led to long-term sustainability, not simply boom and bust.
This is why we are so pleased to welcome Verdane, our new investors, on board. Not only is their financial commitment of $52 million a strong statement of their belief in our ideas, team and ethos, our conversations with them have shown that we are two companies with a similar approach to business and the world around us.
Our partnership with Verdane essentially allows us to get the best of both worlds. We gain the opportunity to change the way the world works, using our improved financial clout to muscle our way through a crowded marketplace. However, this path of accelerated growth comes with the unique opportunity to maintain our culture and grow the team according to the Meister principles. Among these are the values of equality and work-life balance, which have always made us a much-appreciated employer and an attractive destination for commercial and technical talent alike.
Continuing the Journey
Of course, an investment of this magnitude will result in changes to our company and the ways in which we bring our outstanding products to the world. While the overriding goal of the company — to create outstanding collaboration and productivity software that helps teams work beautifully together — the impetus provided by Verdane will essentially empower us to do this faster and to create tools that meet your needs exactly. We have plenty of ideas for the coming months and years, which will revolve around the following objectives:
- Continue to provide intuitive, beautiful productivity tools. Our tools will stay user-friendly, stunningly-designed and uncompromisingly-effective.
- Add features and functionality. We will carefully select the features our users need most, using our new resources to develop these as efficiently as possible.
- Add more tools to the Meister Suite. When the time is right, we will look to enhance the existing Meister Suite with innovative new tools that add value to your daily work.
- Provide best-of-breed security and data protection. We will continue to blaze a trail for safe, secure workplace collaboration, abiding by the strictest European data security standards.
We’re growing our team to meet the challenges of the future. Sounds like you? Check out the open positions on our all-new careers page.
Thank You for Everything
Before we embark on this exciting new chapter in the Meister story, it would be wrong not to thank everyone who has participated on the journey so far. Meister is a concept that involves so many individuals, from our supportive new investors, to our talented team, to our millions of active users worldwide. Without your support, none of this would be possible, which is why we promise to continue growing Meister in the best possible way, for you.