Yesterday, Dutch startup WeTransfer, which operates a cloud-based service for sending large files securely as email attachments, announced funding of $US25 million to expand into the US and beyond. It’s the first investment the company has ever received.
CEO and cofounder Bas Beerens describes the move as a “milestone” for WeTransfer, a company with an annual revenue of as much as $US23 million. Things are looking plush for the startup.
We spoke to Beerens about what the he and cofounder Nalden plan to do with the cash injection. One idea is to forge a partnership with extreme camera maker, app, and photo community GoPro.
Business Insider: You’ve been around since 2009, but have never accepted investment funding before. Why now? What’s changed?
Bas Beerens: Up to now, we’ve been entirely self-funded. We broke even for a years and became profitable in 2013. We haven’t ever looked for investment or funding. Things have been going well. But we were approached by Highland Capital Partners Europe and saw possibility. We want to go to the next stage — now we can grow even faster. We want to conquer the US.
BI: What are you actually going to spend the money on? Besides sponsoring slots at the Grammys, that is…
BB: We’re going to open two offices in America: one on the West Coast and one on the East Coast. We’ve got 30 members of staff now and we’re going to be hiring more. We’ve brought in five new people here in Europe and we’ll be recruiting in the US. We’re also looking at WeTransfer TV — showcasing some of our best background artwork that we display on our site. (More on this later).
As well as sponsorship opportunities, we also want to forge partnerships with other companies in the US. We have a real affinity with GoPro and want to partner with it. We love the experience and imagination — it’s a great product and we share its ideals. GoPro has the same DNA. It has a community, people engage and there’s a conversation around it. We also have a community and we want to do the same — it’s about sharing content. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re going to approach GoPro, but I can’t say more than that right now. We don’t have full details yet. (We can only speculate it would be about sending GoPro files and/or using great GoPro photographs for WeTransfer background art).
We also want to increase our file sending allowances, for the free service and for our premium option. In an ideal world, I’d like to see an internet where all storage and file transfers are free — advertising would pay for everything. But obviously we can’t promise that!
BI: You mentioned the imagery/artwork that acts as the background to your file-sending service. Not everyone’s aware that this is actually one of your main revenue streams (in addition to the premium/business service). It’s quite an unconventional way to advertise? Does it work in the US as well as it does in Europe?
BB: We think it really works in the US. It’s actually really big there. Click-through rates are good; the model works and we grow followers through it. It’s twinning advertising with our creative community. Nalden brought this side into the business. It’s an even split between ads and artwork, but the ads are often art-based anyway, they’re unobtrusive. We strive to get it as pleasant for the user as possible. We like WeTransfer to look beautiful.
BI: It sets you aside from other file transfer/storage services such as Dropbox. But how do you want to continue to compete?
BB: Right now we’ve got 25 million active users and obviously with this investment, we want to grow. I think we’re different to our competitors. We’re not purely a tech company, we also offer creativity and a community. And WeTransfer is all about ease and simplicity. We’re design-led.
BI: Finally, how secure is WeTransfer? What measures do you have in place to keep peoples’ information safe?
BB: All files sent through WeTransfer are encrypted. We don’t read them, we simply provide the channel. We don’t intrude on what’s sent. Governments and major companies use us and trust WeTransfer. Obviously, we try to be secure as possible and if people use us for illegal activities, we cooperate fully with the authorities and we’ll always look at complaints.