ITU startups: Billy
Frustration can drive man to many things. In the case of Toke Kruse it led to the development of an easy-to-use accounting software and the successful company, Billy.
Billy was created from the idea of tasting your own medicine. Founder Toke Kruse was a happy entrepreneur for a number of years but always ended up spending big chunks of valuable time on the most boring part of it all: accounting. It was confusing, it was ugly, and it was time consuming.
So Toke flexed his big ol' entrepreneurial muscles and developed – with his business partner Sebastian Seilund – an accounting tool that was neither confusing, ugly nor time consuming. It was, in fact, the exact opposite.
The tool became a startup which they named Billy and it quickly turned out that Toke wasn’t the only one frustrated with financial management. Today 16.000 people from around the globe are significantly less frustrated with financial management as they are costumers in Toke’s self-made, successful store that made the move from Copenhagen to startup mecca San Francisco in 2012 with a dream of conquering the American market.
What prompted you to start your own business?
"The desire to develop your own thing where success depends solely on your own effort and limitations. Personally I’ve always needed great freedom to do my own thing - a place where I run with my own ideas and deliver 110 percent. The reason why I started Billy with Sebastian is because there was no easy, user-friendly accounting software. I was part of my own target audience and that has been an advantage the whole way through."
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as entrepreneurs?
"Funds! Denmark isn’t the country where we’ve been able to loan funds for our startup on a fair basis. The investors have demanded too large of a piece of the pie and they have not had an international profile that we could bring with us to the US."
How has your time at ITU prepared you for the task?
"The ITU has given me both IT legal and project management tools that have helped us coordinate the comprehensive IT project that an accounting system is. I’ve also been introduced to great tools within marketing that I’ve used at Billy."
What is ITU's greatest strength in relation to entrepreneurship - the students, the teachers or the environment?
"A combination of the very open and flexible system that allows you to combine your courses yourself, and being with others that think practically instead of solely theoretically."
What is ITU good at?
"ITU has made a difference for us, because you offer both theory and practice. Combining theoretical knowledge with practical example is unique."
How can ITU become better at supporting entrepreneurs? What is your best advice for those who are considering starting their own business?
"Although I have been at the ITU as a guest lecturer one time, I think you could get much more out of someone like me and ask me to teach in order to bind theory and practice tightly together. Most of the time it’s more fun to hear about real life and what you can accomplish with your tools than just having a toolbox when you leave school."
"Go for it! If you have a good idea and the knowledge it takes to lift the idea to a professional level. Besides that you must learn to focus and even though you have to be ambitious, you also need to understand the core of the problem that you’re solving to prevent your solution from becoming too complicated or too broad." Where do you see Billy in five, 10 and 20 years?
"In five years the American Billy is bigger than the Danish one. We’ll have more than 100.000 users and we’ll have a well-functioning business that continually develops new IT products in accounting. As the surrounding world changes we’ll have opportunities to further develop Billy in new directions."