ADRIAAN: Hi Roel, thanks for making time to chat with me today. I know you have a busy schedule – so let’s dive right into it!
Roel: Absolutely! Ask away.
A: First off, can you tell us a bit more about your background. What were you doing before coming to Open Social?
R: The path that has led me to Open Social started in 2008 when I finished my degree in Small Business & Retail Management in Utrecht. I moved to London and started my career there. In London I got the opportunity to set up my own sales team within an agency focused on fast-moving consumer goods. Eventually, I ended up in my previous role at an Amsterdam-based PR Management SaaS company where I was the Chief Commercial Officer
In this role, I experienced how the company developed from being a startup to becoming a fast-growing scale-up. I drove the development of the outbound and account executive team and together we grew the company from just 2 to over 350 enterprise clients.
A: As you know, Open Social is also at that inflexion point of going from a startup to a scale-up. Was this one of the reasons you wanted to join Open Social?
R: Yes, definitely. On the one hand, I believe that I have relevant experience that I can apply to Open Social as it scales up – which really allows me to immediately add value here.
On the other hand, I also like to be involved in setting up things from scratch, bring structure and create something unique and special. For example, I am excited about setting up a top-tier sales team at Open Social and driving the establishment of a good internal structure for the sales and customer success department.
I have to mention that I had a great time at the company that I previously worked for, but after nine years I was really for something new! To be part of the scale-up of another SaaS company and do something new and different is what drew me to Open Social. Especially with the plans we have for next year regarding the product, there are extremely exciting times ahead for Open Social!
A: Was there anything specifically about Open Social’s software or services that attracted you?
The software Open Social offers is very interesting and the fact that the software Open Social offers is open-source, or more accurately: open-core, makes it really interesting and unique. The philosophy of the company also piqued my attention, as it allows other companies to add extensions to their platforms and build a unique online community using a very flexible out-of-the-box solution. So this idea of ‘openness’ (I mean, it is in the name of the company) is quite different and exciting.
A: You mentioned plans for 2021 earlier on. Can you perhaps tell us more about that?
R: In the past several weeks I had internal meetings with every team member and discussed their current goals and plans for achieving them. I’ve been amazed by the sheer number of motivated professionals I met and the willingness to grow Open Social.
After talking to the team, we’ve been working really hard making plans – together with the investors – for the ramp-up for next year. We plan to grow the sales team and our customer success team, so we can ensure the quality of support and onboarding concierge remains top-notch.
We are going to focus on new market areas where there is a need for our kind of software solutions. Companies are now really discovering the need for online community platforms, and the software behind Open Social is very strong and we have great use-cases for these organizations to see just what they can achieve with Open Social.
Another exciting thing coming early next year is our rebranding that includes a whole new look and a redesigned website.
A: How do you see your role as Head of Sales impacting Open Social’s growth beyond just sales?
R: I think one of the most important things is that my role is to help streamline Open Social’s internal processes, so we can get the most out of the motivated people that Open Social has. Good internal processes, career paths, and so forth also attracts new talent that wants to be part of this journey. This really helps a company to grow and become more effective and efficient – which is important also for serving our existing clients.
Then of course, at Open Social new clients often come with unique problems we need to solve. Many of the most interesting product extensions were sponsored by clients – such as the Crowd Innovation feature Open Social originally built for foraus. These then become available to existing clients. So really, as the sales team helps add more organizations to the Open Social family, we also have an impact on expanding the product for existing clients.
A: It seems like you have dived headfirst into your new role at Open Social! How has the onboarding process been over the last month?
R: You know, it’s ‘COVID times’ so it is a bit different than your normal onboarding. But so far it’s been very good. The team has been very welcoming. I think all the activities that you lot do to keep in touch and keep connected while working apart has made me feel welcome very quickly.
When it comes to actually understand the product, I really have dived straight into it. I’m attending demo sessions and client onboarding calls as I really want to get some good hands-on experience of how everything is done. It’s really about just getting my hands dirty and going with it!
A: Just to get a bit away from talking about work I want to ask you what your passions in life are? What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
R: I like doing outdoor activities a lot! So, swimming, gardening, really just doing anything outside. It can be challenging in COVID time to get some fresh air, so that’s why I always plan some time outside during the day.
Also my wife and had a baby back in February, so I really like spending time with my new daughter. Especially now she is crawling and developing fast!
Cooking is one of my other passions. We love to cook food from Yotam Ottolenghi, he is an Israeli-English chef and has some amazing recipes. Some of them will take you the whole Saturday, but others from the book “simple” are done much faster.
A: Congratulations on the baby! I guess it is a good time to be working from home for you then. I want to ask you one last question: Before tackling 2021, what are your plans for the Christmas holidays?
R: I guess that really depends on the new COVID rules. But if it stays like this, my wife and I invited our parents over the two Christmas days for some small get-togethers. We organized a tapas dinner where everyone prepares a dish or two and we can enjoy sharing.
A: Thank you so much for talking to me. It was great hearing about your plans for next year, as well as getting to know you a bit better.
R: The pleasure is all mine.
Even though Roel only recently joined Open Social, it is clear that our new Head of Sales is going to be the rocket-fuel we need to make 2021 Open Social’s best year ever.