Hi, I'm Lars Holdgaard

30 Years old and entrepreneur since 2012. Currently building the fintech growth-startup, Likvido, helping thousands of companies get more time & money.

Previously I co-founded the fintech startup Monera, which got to 45 employees but later went bankrupt. I also built the software outsourcing company Jarboo with 10+ freelancers and I sold my first project, GodeKarakterer.dk, in 2014.

The rest of the time, I'm trying to cross items from my endless bucket list.

I love technology

Software is eating the world, and we're just getting started. To me, this is more than an interest - it's a guiding principle of how I see the world and my own life. That is what I write about on this site.

1.

We will live (much) longer

Biotech and nanotech will explode, making 100 the new 60 years. Already today, the richer poulations add 0.2 years to our expected living age - every year. I believe we will hit the longevity escape velocity within (some) of our lifetimes.

2.

Jobs will be automated

AI and machine learning are not widely accessible yet. This will change dramatically, year by year. As more and more corporates and startups get access to better technology, people will be in astonishment about how many tasks and jobs we automate.

3.

We will travel the universe

Cost of space travel is plummeting, which will result in the privatization of space. Mars trips, space vacations and space habitats will be extremely unpractical starting out, but the novelty will result in an explosion.

4.

A much better world

Every metric: peace, starvation, famine and illiteracy - are all improving at a very significant rate. Technology will help solve the biggest problems in the world - making the world better, safer and more open to everyone on the planet

Latest posts

Below is my latest posts. I try to post at least monthly!


How multiple bad habits compound

23/02/2020 in Life philosophy

Disclaimer: This post is more like a diary. There are no deeper points, nor any learnings. These are just some thoughts I have at the moment.

Right now, I’m in a tough period of my life. Not in a bad way – on the contrary. I’m working on the most interesting company I ever had, and we’re doing insanely well (more reflections here). However, while having such a crazy project, so many other things in life can suffer.

An example of this is that during the last ~6 months, I’ve:

  • Kept gaining kilos, so I’m now around ~88kg. This is roughly 10kg more than it should be
  • I sleep an average of 6-6.5 hours per night (measured on my Oura ring). Should be at least 7-7.5 hours of actual sleep
  • I do not meditate
  • I’ve seen relatively few friends

The list goes on.

It’s not that I’ve not had fun. I definitely have:
I’ve traveled a lot, I’ve met many new people, I’ve dated and I’ve had lots of fun. The challenge is that I’ve let my good habits slip. First I let one slip, and then another… And suddenly, 6 months later, I’ve realized a lot of habits have slipped.

Habits compound

What I’ve found for myself, is that good habits give birth to more good habits. The opposite is also true: bad habits give birth to more bad habits.

The bad habits, for me, tend to come in periods when I’m working a lot. This is not an excuse; merely an observation.

Here are the list of habits I’ve managed to accumulate over the last 6 months:

  • I wake up at 8:30 am and have less than 30 min to wake up and meet at work. This means my mornings are stressed, I do not always get breakfast and I don’t get to do morning exercise (…meaning many days I won’t exercise, as my evenings are typically very busy and packed)
  • I drink 3-4 soda cans per day (… obviously stupid as fuck)
  • I started eating both bread, carbs, and cakes instead of limiting it to one day per week (…my default behavior)
  • I started saying yes to a glass or two of wine on some weekdays (…fucks up my sleep)
  • I listen to podcasts instead of audiobooks (… typically more swallow content than real books)
  • I go to bed late and don’t read before sleeping OR just check social media (… lost opportunity to get smarter)

Now, some would see this list and say “live a little!”. However, I’m extremely ambitious for myself in terms of both work/health/relationships/knowledge/state of mind. These habits are indeed very, very damaging and are in the end causing results I cannot accept.

What is really surprising to me, however, is how habits spread. One habit broken? It eats the next one. And then the next one.

Breaking the wheel

If I now started on some chapter about “5 Steps of break the wheel” – I’d lie. I’m at the time of writing caught in the wheel.

However, I’m pissed at myself for being in the wheel and I can feel the fire inside me to break out of the wheel. I know I’m standing at the edge of what I accept them myself. I will break it.

When I check back in a week on my blog, I want to say: yes, the habits have started to turn around. Luckily, it all starts with just one habit. Then the rest follows.

How does it feel to run a venture-backed business?

12/01/2020 in Entrepreneurship, Likvido

When I started out becoming an entrepreneur, I set out to make profitable businesses. I was fascinated by selling software development: it was easy, I could money and I turned a profit every month. I was able to travel the world, save lots of money each month and have lots of fun.

Turning a profit every month is great. That means your business is default alive, instead of a business that loses money – that’s default dead. By default dead, I mean: if you don’t improve things, the company dies.

When I ran my profitable software business I had a few employees. I worked a bit more than the average person – probably around 50 hours per week. While I was ambitious for my business, I was not in a hurry. What I didn’t do today, I could do tomorrow.

Running a profitable business felt great. I always prioritized other things in life. I traveled the world & saw countries. I was in great shape. I often tried new things. I partied more.

It was A LOT of fun.

Writing this, I kinda miss this.
Fast-forward 4 years, I’ve since built businesses that have lost money every single month. I’ve not turned a profit for 4 years.

My first venture company was Monera. After becoming 40 employees, my partner and I went bankrupt in a pretty brutal crash.

Now, during the last 2 years, I’ve been on the same journey with Likvido. Unlike Monera, however, Likvido is doing really damn well. We have a really solid product customers love, fast growth and we’re days from signing a large seed investment that will be announced widely soon (I’m very confident that TechCrunch article on my goal list can be checked off 😉 ).

Losing money every month is not bad. It can also be a choice. When you run a company like Likvido, our goal is to become the global leader in our space. To become a “global leader” – you need to grow at insane levels. To grow at insane levels, you need to invest a lot. When you need to invest a lot, you also spill more money. You’re not as efficient per dollar as you could be, but you raise a lot of money to make up for that inefficiency.

And this is what I wanted to write about:
“How does it feel to run a venture-backed business, Likvido?”.

Here are some of the things I’ve met during the last year I wanted to share:

Fact of life in a venture-backed business:
3x yearly growth

What makes venture brutal, is the underlying expectation: you need to grow 3x year over year. If you have 1 million USD revenue in 2019, you need that to become 3 million USD in 2020. If you have 10 employees, you will typically need to be 30 employees.

This is of course oversimplified. But you cannot run away from the underlying fact: it’s not healthy for a business to triple yearly. Yet, you do it anyway to scale fast enough.

This underlying fact cascades to a lot of challenges in your business. It’s those challenges I wanted to write about.

Fact of life in a venture-backed business:
Everything is a bit of a mess

I’m by nature someone who loves coming into an office, and everything is just working. I love it when the customers have a great (consistent) experience. I love it when the application has no obvious bugs and doesn’t have down-time. I love it when sales say the correct things to potential new customers.

Forget that in a venture-backed business. Everything is a bit of a mess.

Why?

The underlying 3x growth year criteria really fuck you up. Take an example number such as “number of received customer support emails”. If they 3x as well every year, that means you need to hire new supporters – and more and more of them. Whenever someone is new in their support job, what happens? They give worse answers.

The answer for this particular example is then: you need a formal training program for them.

Oh yeah? Who the **** is going to develop that? Me? I’m busy with not replying to customer support tickets.

This gets back to the fact many startups don’t have the capital to hire experienced people. That’s why you also typically higher younger people, that don’t have the experience. When you then get enough money to hire the senior hire, you get two problems: 1) Suddenly the junior employee gets a boss – they might not like that and 2) It takes A LONG time from job-post to having your experienced role hired – easily 4-6 months.

The customer support is just an example. It’s like this in every department. Of course, this gets better and better as you get better processes & training – but then you scale 3x again and your situation just changes again: new products & new markets. I don’t believe this ever gets easier for you as a founder.

Fact of life in a venture-backed business:
Lots of changes on your team

Another big problem with venture-backed startups is that your business model typically changes a lot. At Likvido we originally thought we should sell to medium to large companies, and had hired staff to support this target audience.

Later we found out, our sweet-spot if customers with 10-50 employees. What happens with your employees who were good at supporting larger customers?

They quit. Or you end up firing them.

In addition to the skills, some employees love the state when you’re 3-10 people at the office. When they support have their own team, and cannot participate in all meetings anymore. Then they want to quit.

You can try to keep these people (we’ve managed to do with a few!), and that’s really important because they’re the only one having the history with the company.

But it’s just another fact of life: you have a much higher turnover (and hiring) frequency than normal companies.

Fact of life in a venture-backed business:
You cannot keep doing what you did 6 months ago

There is a saying in venture-backed business, that every 6 months, your business is totally different. I find that is very true. Roughly every 6 months, my (and my co-founders) tasks have changed completely.

To show my point, try to see my list of responsibilities below. It’s worth saying I have a commercial co-founder who manages everything around funding, sales, marketing, and finance.

My responsibilities in Likvido:

  • Jan 2018-June 2018: Smash a prototype together, launch it, get our license and get our first customers.
  • Jul 2018-Dec 2018: Adapt prototype to customer requirements, talk to customers, hustle customers and revenue at any cost, spec tasks to the first freelancer
  • Jan 2019-June 2019: Hire the first developers, manage support department, build processes, launch features.
  • Jul 2019-December 2019: Scale development team, implement sprints, tweak product a lot, scale operations team to manage themselves without me, hire people in different departments
  • Jan 2020+: Now I need to scale my own product team to +10 employees, and make sure our new head of support and head of operations succeed in their jobs.

At every role in the company, because of the 3x growth, the role changes. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been able to “scale myself” the whole way so far – but it’s just important to understand “testing your MVP prototype” is VERY different than having 1:1’s with 10 developers in a day to make sure they perform – and it’s 1.5 year between those two scenarios.

Who knows? Maybe I’m not the right fit in 18 months because the role changes so much. I obviously hope I will be, but it’s just very important to look at yourself in the mirror and know there is a huge difference every 6 months.

Fact of life in a venture-backed business:
Long working hours & it’s not enough to get to “inbox zero”

At my profit company, I used to have inbox zero and all my todos solved when I went home.
That felt great!

In a venture-backed business, you can work 24 hours per day, and still be far away from having done the things that you should be doing. Everyone who has been a manager knows that you can always do more for your team, but as a founder, you always have so, so many things you can do.

What this essentially boils down to, is you need to be really, really good at prioritizing. Of course, it helps to work (really) long hours, but when that doesn’t allow you to “finish your todo” – it’s extremely easy to prioritize the wrong things, and not what is most important right now.

I’ve come to believe that prioritizing your todo is the number #1 most important thing. So important I want to share a pretty long example of a recent prioritizing we made:

Recently my co-founder and I had such a talk about priorities. We have a really good customer that pays 3k USD a month for our product, which used to be a very large percentage of our revenue. This customer is not in our target audience but is happy with our product. It’s not a customer we can replicate.

However, the customer has a large problem and needs us to drive to their office (4 hours away) and meet them to discuss this issue. My reaction was that obviously our new client success manager and my co-founder should go right away and save the customer.
My co-founder said something that made me change my mind: “Lars, this customer was extremely important to get where we are today. But, look at our budget. What got us here, will NOT get us there. We cannot scale this type of customer, and if we focus on this customer we will NEVER reach our goals. I will NOT go meet this customer, and our new client success needs to focus on the customers that make us reach THIS budget. Losing this customer is a good thing for us”

What this essentially boils down to, is that having the right priorities, are often better than working 24/7. And if you work 24/7, you get stupid, and you will more likely make the wrong decisions.

So yes, you have to work extremely hard – but just remember the trade-off.

Do I enjoy running a venture-backed business?

Running a venture-backed business is hard. Really hard. It’s A LOT of hours, it’s a lot of very hard decisions and you can always do things better. You’re “default dead” because you’re essentially burning money every month, at least until you’re cashflow positive. We’re after 2 years getting to a stage where we’re closer to being “default alive“. We have a very solid monthly revenue which is quite predictable, so we could turn around things if things went bad. But this is a really new thing, and 6 months ago that was not the case.
Still, this fact of life is still hard.

However, intellectually, it’s the most amazing job I could imagine. It’s challenging, you learn a lot & you meet amazing people. I get to hire people smarter than myself and building a product that helps thousands of companies (and hopefully soon, tens of thousands). That part is absolutely amazing.

Day-to-day, I think it would be “funnier” to have a normal company or job. I think I would live healthier. I would travel more. I would date more girls. I would see my friends & family more often. I would experience more new things. This website & blog would actually be updated instead of being a wasteland without updates.
I would definitely spend fewer hours in the office.

Yet, why do I continue?
That’s because I get someone else. I get something deeper than “fun”. I *love* going to work every day. I *love* building our product. I *love* hearing stories from our customers. I *love* building our team.

But is venture-backed companies for everyone? Absolutely not. Nor do I think it’s good for your health (physically or mentally).

Can I recommend it anyway?
If you’re up for the challenge – hell yes.

Status of my current startup Likvido

20/07/2019 in Entrepreneurship, Likvido

18 Months ago, I started to build Likvido together with my co-founder Max. We launched in April 2018, with the goal of becoming a smarter and more digital debt collection company.

18 Months later, I’m constantly in surprise how smooth everything has turned out. With this post, I’d like to give a brief update with our progress:

Many of our original assumptions were indeed, absolutely correct:
– Yes, debt collection sucks. Yes, it can be fixed.
– Yes, companies spend A LOT of time on administrative tasks around invoicing and getting paid. Yes, it can be fixed.
– Yes, you earn a lot of money in debt collection. Yes, it can be achived.

Because the majority of our assumptions were correct, it turns out we managed to find product-market fit quite fast: We have a product that works really well, the product is spreading slowly through word of mouth and we have ridiculously low churn.

The real fun part, however, is that we realized how big the problem around “getting paid” is. We thought the problem was debt collection (and indeed, debt collection sucks), but the problem is so much better. The whole space of “account receiveable” – getting paid – is a crazy mess. That means we made a bit of a pivot and changed our product to become a really sexy full-account receiveable platform.

In terms of company-building, we’ve also been quite lucky. We’ve managed to get around 1 million EUR in funding and build a solid core-team of great developers, supporters, and salespeople.

Our biggest struggle has been finding product-channel fit. We’ve grown very well through basically word of mouth, and that means all metrics are quite pretty. However, we want exponential, 20% MOM growth and to do this: you need a product-channel fit.

We’ve spent (a lot) of money testing out different sales methods & channels, without any significant success. However, 1.5 months ago we believe we found what will be our product-channel fit. IT’s still too early to celebrate, but we’ve made a pivot in our business model and is now selling subscriptions (starting from 500 USD / year, going 1000 USD / year). We’ve found a way to sell this on the phone with a scaleable sales setup.

We now have roughly a thousand companies, growing at least 100 new clients every month. With our new sales model, I am sure we can double or triple this, so we can grow even more. We are not yet profitable, because we spend a lot of money on investments, but we are in a situation we could stop these and be profitable tomorrow – and this makes me insanely proud.

We still have a long way to go, of course, since when I Google “Likvido Unicorn”, we’re not there yet. However, I would say: these last 18 months have been fucking awesome. We’ve grown much, much faster than I would ever hope to believe – and I look so much forward to the next 18! But it’s a great start. Today we even hit the front page of the biggest Danish business magazine, Børsen:

Looking further ahead, we have a very interesting decision to make.

We’re currently only in Denmark. And if our current sales model works & we scale it, we will hit some kind of maximum in Denmark with that channel within 6 months. Then we have 2 options:

  1. Take on a new market
  2. Go up-market

Here, I would be inclined to take on a new market. And this is extremely interesting. Denmark is so small that many niches are not interesting. One of our big successes in Likvido in Denmark is hairdressers. Here we help hairdressers collect money from “no-show-fees”. This is a great but extremely small niche in Denmark – and it’s very hard to use marketing to hit these. If we went to the UK, this would be very different.

Another thing we’re looking at is crypto. I love cryptocurrencies and believe they will play a huge part in the future. Imagine if Likvido could be used to both pay all bills in crypto (such as Bitcoin, Dash, and others), but as a company provides us a crypto address instead of a bank account. By doing this, we could help all companies in the crypto space a great way to stay in crypto on larger bills.

Q1 of 2019 is getting to an end: reflections and looking at Q2

24/03/2019 in Journal

Every quarter I go back end review how my last 3 months have been, and then also try to look ahead towards the next 3 months. These are always based on my goals for the years and then broken into quarters. As described in my “2019 post“, my overall theme for 2019 was going to be lots of work, significant experiences, get ripped and broaden my network.

Generally speaking, the last 3 months has been awesome. I can’t say that I’ve been doing a good job following my goals, but I’ve enjoyed the last 3 months tremendously.

January, February and March

In terms of the fun stuff, I really have a lot to mention. I’ve had so much fun the last couple of months…

I made the goal to be “more cultural”, and have both been to the theatre twice, an art gallery (Lousiana), been to a TedX event.

I’ve been to Lisbon and Saint Petersburg.

To top it off, I’ve seen so many friends last 3 months. I haven’t counted, but it has been 10+ at least, and it has been really great.

But, fun aside, work has been my priority. I’ve had 70+ hour work weeks most weeks, and it has been insane. Without going into much detail, especially January and February was absolutely brutal to me. The company is doing very well, but it’s definitely coming at a personal cost.

What I’ve noticed is that when I get above 55-60 hours, my private life starts to get problems. I start to do less exercise, I eat unhealthy, I get more tired, I don’t find the time to do awesome things, sex gets worse, I forget to meditate and I sleep worse.

Now, I really don’t believe in the whole “it doesn’t have to be crazy at work” or the “never work more than 40 hours a week“. If you work with the ambitious we do, it’s simply not possible. But, I do find a stark difference between for example 40 vs 55 vs 70 hours. It’s very clear to me that if I need to accomplish all my goals from 2019, I can’t do it on a 70-hour work week schedule.

The two goals that I’ve absolutely failed are the health goals (both loosing weight and eating healthy) and the goals around meeting new people. I’ve done exercise 4-5 times per week, and I’ve done a weekly half-marathon every Sunday for 1.5 months now, but that is where the positive things end. I’ve lived very unhealthy & not been social and met new people.

April, May and June – goals

To determine my goals for next 3 months, I’m looking at my overall goals for 2019.

Experiences. It’s fair to say the “experiences” goal is impossible to miss. The first 3 months has simply been so much enjoying, that I’ve done much more than expected here. To add it up, I have the following travels booked for next 3 months:

  • Berlin in end of March
  • Kiev & Lisbon/Algarve coast in April
  • London in May
  • Lviv (Ukraine) sometime in June
  • Brazil in June (summer vacation with both Brazil, Argentine and Uruguay)

Put briefly, experiences should really not be my goal next 3 months.

Work. We’ve now entered a new phase at Likvido. We have a real team, we have good people at core positions and we have a real product people want.

As the technical co-founder, I can now focus on building product. First 3 months of 2019 I’ve been VERY heavily involved in support & operations, meaning I’ve barely focused on the product, resulting in these crazy 70+ hour workweeks.

Next 3 months will be different. I am going to force myself to a new working schedule. I will try to limit myself to 55 hour workweeks in order to focus on other goals as well.

Health. I’ve booked a marathon in September in Krakow, Poland. I have 2 more half-marathons in my calendar. I am going to continue with exercise 5 times a week, which is going to be the easy part.

The hard part, is finally loosing lots of kilos. This has been a continious goal (and problem) for the better part of 6 months, and it’s getting to a desperate stage. My most important (non-work) goal the next 3 months will be getting below 80 kg (~86kg now), cut sodas and medidate 3 times every week.

Relationships. I am not going to add any goals to this right now. I want to keep the next 3 months simple – and rather add that later.

Formulation of goals

Business & Economy & Work:

  • Keep kicking-ass at work, but stay below 55-hour workweeks on average
  • Setup at least 3 “business-events” where I invite people I know (ie. arrange a dinner, goto a restaurant or similar) (doing a horrible job)
  • See at least 8 connections 1:1 for an evening (a bit behind, but should be able to reach it)
  • Find a way to get to know at least 10 new connections (doing a horrible job)

Health & mind & body:

  • Get below 80kg
  • Get down to 1 coke bottle pr day on average throughout whole period
  • Keep doing sports at least 5 times a month
  • Run 8 half-marathons in the whole period
  • Meditate at least 3 times a week 
  • 7+ Hour sleep-average

2018 is coming to an end. What’s next, 2019?

30/12/2018 in Journal

Just like pretty much everyone else, I use new year as an event to look back on the past year. I’m not a believer in new year resolutions, nor that a new year will change everything. However, I do believe it’s healthy to review your life on a continuous basis and ask yourself: am I doing the right things?

This post, then, is my personal reflection of 2018 – and a look ahead towards 2019. I don’t see 2019 to be significantly different than 2018, but I do have plans of things I want to do differently.

Continue reading »

Review of the last 3 months: June, July & August

27/08/2018 in Journal

Every 3 months I update my personal goals, and last time was end of May. Not it’s time for another short review.

The last 3 months

I gotta admit things has been different than I thought.

I had a plan to live more balanced than last time I ran a startup. I planned to have time for friends, learning new skills & try new things. However, just like in my last startup, it has swallowed me. I work from morning to evening, leaving “personal time” to a minimum.

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Summary and review of “The Courage to be Disliked” by Ichiro Kishimi, [book]

28/07/2018 in Life philosophy

As a new attempt, I want to review the books I’ve read. My main reason for doing this is reflecting a bit more on what I read, and by reflecting, getting more out of the books I read. I read 2-3 books a month, track the whole progress on Goodreads, and feel I get a lot out of the books I read.

However, recently, I’ve started to “read” lots of audiobooks on Audible. This is a great gift as I get to read MUCH more books: I read while running, cooking, cleaning and every time I have a few spare minutes. DOWNSIDE is the books seem a bit easier to forget than when I read.

However, enough talk, let me dig into the first book I want to review: “The Courage to be Disliked” by Ichiro Kishimi

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