Stories of Growth
Mattias Kaneteg, Miss Group: “I get bored fast”
As part of our Stories of Growth series, we hear from the serial entrepreneur behind a leading web hosting company.
27 January 2022
Miss Group received an initial £6.4 million from BGF in August 2018, followed by a further £13 million the following year. We exited our investment in the digital solutions business when it was acquired by private equity firm Perwyn in 2020.
In this in-depth interview, serial entrepreneur Mattias Kaneteg discusses his career journey and why Miss Group is his proudest business achievement to date.
I created my first company when I was 15. I got the idea when we were visiting my grandmother in Wales. We saw some people outside supermarkets advertising that they could etch your registration into the window of the car to prevent the car being stolen and its numberplate changed. I thought it was a good idea, so I started a car security company with a friend.
I sold the company when I was 20. Some years later, when the internet came along, I saw an opportunity to start a web design company, but while I was trying to grow that business, I realised that web hosting was a better business – recurring revenue, an easier way to make money. I started a hosting company.
“I’ve created a lot of companies over the years, but Miss Group is my proudest achievement”
I’ve created a lot of companies over the years, but Miss Group is my proudest business achievement. We started it in 2014. I’m Swedish, but I had moved to Miami with my family after exiting a previous business. I get bored fast, so I decided to create a new hosting company. Today we have a million customers globally.
The luxury of other offers
Fredrik Björklund, our chief operating officer, is the co-founder. Fredrik joined immediately. I then got some other guys down to Miami to put the plan together. Everyone I called was willing to leave their jobs and work with me. We also have a great CTO, CFO and CMO but Fredrik is the guy I talk to the most. He lets me focus on mergers and acquisitions. Without him, I couldn’t talk to lots of people and travel a lot.
From the beginning, our plan was to grow organically for two years, then through a ‘buy and build’ strategy. We raised finance from a US hedge fund to fund our first acquisitions. Shortly after that, we came into contact with BGF.
We had the luxury of other offers on the table, but chose to take investment from BGF, while also raising money from HSBC. With that money we acquired many more brands and, in two years, we were at a size where BGF was able to get a return on their investment.
We started thinking about an exit and got a lot of interest. After a year-long process, we decided to go with a private equity partner, Perwyn. They acquired the company at the beginning of 2020, just before COVID hit. Since then, we have carried on doing acquisitions, and doubled turnover since they acquired us, despite the pandemic.
Put customers first
My biggest learning is that you can’t buy every company. Many of them might look nice but it might be on a legacy platform that’s impossible to migrate away from. The companies we buy must fit into our culture and, most importantly, our systems.
Another thing I’ve learned is that you must never stop thinking about sales and marketing. Without that, the wheel stops turning. It can be distracting when you’re raising money, but you have to stay entrepreneurial when running the company.
“I still read every single review”
I still read every single review today. Many big entrepreneurs say you should put employees first, but that’s wrong. You should put customers first. If you do that, you’ll have a financially stable company, which makes it easier to care for your employees. That’s super important.
I do other things as well as Miss Group. I’m working on a company with my 25-year-old son, Robin. It’s called ROI, a lead generation company. BGF has invested twice. I also have a real estate company in Spain building luxury houses.
Personal balance sheet
The worst moment in business for me was the global financial crisis. I owned a media company and it was devastating. Going to the US and seeing the offices empty made me understand the magnitude of what had happened. I lost a lot of money and it took two years before we saw any light at the end of the tunnel. I had to sell the profitable part of the group and keep the tricky parts in order to survive. It wasn’t good, and it hurt, but I learned a lot.
All my mistakes are on my personal balance sheet, so I can look back and learn and know how to avoid making same mistakes again. I’m more careful nowadays. I won’t take risks with investments and I’ve made sure no one can ever pull the plug on my company.
One of the reasons Miss Group has been successful is that we generate sticky revenue. I was confident that COVID wouldn’t be a problem for us. When you have a million customers, each paying a small amount on a credit card, you are in a good position, whereas if you’re a consultancy business that’s trying to bill thousands of hours a month to be profitable, that’s not such a good position to be in during a pandemic.
Blank sheet of paper
One of our strengths at Miss Group is that we started from scratch and didn’t have any legacy platforms to deal with. We used an easy and mobile-friendly control panel. Most rivals aren’t mobile-friendly, but with us, you can build your website on your iPhone in a couple of minutes.
Then there’s our approach to marketing. You can do marketing the expensive way – doing advertising – or you can have affiliate networks and resellers instead. We created a reseller network before we even had any products. This is the main driving force of new customer sign-ups.
Our growth strategy is that we try to acquire the local champion. To be successful in a new market, you always need to advertise in the local language, not just in English. We find a local champion with a great reputation, then we add in all our marketing and sales skills. All the brands in the group are more profitable and growing organically faster than before.
“We try to acquire the local champion”
I didn’t go to business school. I learn by doing. So, now, I’m better than ever before. At Miss Group, I have the best team I have ever worked with. I’m super happy with the business because it allows me to do what I love – continuing to create and invest in companies.