Interview with Lasse Clausen (FOUNDD)
FOUNDD is a personalized discovery engine for digital entertainment.
I interviewed Lasse Clausen, FOUNDD co-founder and CEO to find out more. This is the hundred and twenty third in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Lasse!
Describe FOUNDD in under 50 words.
FOUNDD is a personalized discovery engine. Whenever you want to find something without knowing what exactly you’re looking for, can’t handle a lot of noise and are input lazy, FOUNDD finds you something you’ll like. The main use case is entertainment and later on for anything that people discover.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
Purpose driven entrepreneur who believes that it all starts with an amazing product that has a positive impact on people’s life.
Tell us a bit about your background. What made you decide to start working on FOUNDD?
I’ve always been a geek so I love trying out consumer tech products. I was the one in the family who had to set up everyone’s computers and smart phones etc.
I started FOUNDD to fix my own problem. I never really watched linear TV but always consumed digital media on demand, connected to the internet with a laptop. When you’re faced with such an overwhelming choice, it’s really tiresome to find something. Especially when you’re laying on the couch and don’t want to do any work.
Can you introduce us to your co-founders. What roles do you each take?
Benjamin is our visual designer. He’s a real artist, for example he himself built the couch on our website with his own hands.
Christian is our CTO. He’s an unbelievably good all-round guy, from front end development to architecture to structuring our development processes.
Peter is our Chief Data Officer. He handles the implementation of the recommendation algorithms and all APIs. We crunch a lot of data very quickly, and he’s one of the few guys out there who can set up a computing structure to get that done.
Who came up with the name?
I did at some point, it just describes nicely what the company is about. If you think about it, nobody searches because they like to search, it’s just to find something. With FOUNDD we want to take it one step further so you don’t even have to search anymore. You’re being “found” by what you’re searching for.
What’s the start up scene like in Berlin?
It’s binary. On one side you have an older, more risk averse German community who executes very well on existing or X of Y variations of e-commerce models. On the other side you have a young and international community which is incredibly passionate, creative and takes bigger product risks. And it’s growing a lot, even beyond the global growth of entrepreneurship. And I think we hit a tipping point: If you’re in Europe now looking for a place to start your company, it’s Berlin.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing FOUNDD?
Building and scaling the algorithms.
How long did it take to put together FOUNDD?
After 3 months we deployed the first beta version to see if and how people would use it. Then we had 5 months of customer development, refining the product before we launched. So in total it took 8 months.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Working with such an amazing team on the product. Creating something and then seeing a large number of people using it is incredibly rewarding.
Where do you see FOUNDD in 5 years time?
As the world’s discovery platform, helping anyone discover anything, anywhere.
It’s early days, but has FOUNDD got the feedback and growth you expected since launch a couple of months ago?
Yes, very positive. We hit 1M ratings within 5 days after the launch and we see continued engagement. That’s important at this point, to make sure we have a product that people use continuously before we step on the growth pedal.
Netflix famously held a contest for a better movie recommendation algorithm but never implemented it. How do you plan to recommend movies better than other existing movie rating sites?
We’re focusing on providing the easiest and most reliable way for everyone (and not only movie buffs) to find things, starting with movies. In our opinion that is just as much about the user experience as it is about good algorithms.
The Netflix competition was all about predicting how much each person will like every single one of their movies. But when you’re laying on the couch you don’t really care whether you’ll dislike 17,000 movies with 2.3 or with 2.35 stars. That’s why we give you more accurate predictions over a smaller number of movies and build a product that makes it very easy to access and manage those lists.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
As most B2C startups, we will always work on growth. The technical challenge is the continuous scaling of algorithms.
What is your all time favourite movie?
The Boat That Rocked. It’s incredibly funny and touching in a very genuine and yet light-hearted way.
What is the last good movie you watched and would recommend to readers?
Charlie Bartlett, which I found through FOUNDD. But I actually recommend using FOUNDD, because everyone has a different taste and you might not like the movies I like.
Which entrepreneur do you most admire?
Elon Musk. It’s very hard to build one successful company and he’s doing it over and over again. And then in some of the industries that are most important to the future of our planet and mankind. That’s admirable.
What one piece of advice would you give to startup founders?
It’s advice about advice:
Listen to advice that doesn’t depend on context. For example, “as your company grows, the CEO’s role becomes less about doing things and more about enabling other people.” That’s universally true, regardless of your situation.
I’ve had some bad experiences following contextual advice. It worked well for the person who was sharing it, but not for me because even though we were trying to achieve the same goal, we were in different situations.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Expanding to more product verticals, such as internet videos and apps. That’s when people will be able to experience that FOUNDD is about more than movie recommendations.
Can you convince the reader to start using FOUNDD in under 50 words?
Imagine you’re coming home, tired from a long day. You know that your time is worth more than watching the Kardashians, cat videos on YouTube or playing angry birds, but you’re too tired to search. That’s where FOUNDD comes in, finding you something amazing within 30 seconds.
Finished reading? Check out FOUNDD!