September 29, 2015
Michael Brecht is the CEO of Doodle, the world’s leading online group scheduling application. His mission is to grow Doodle to a worldwide standard for online scheduling, today the service is used by more than 25 million people monthly and available in 20 languages. The entrepreneurial story behind Doodle – When, where, why and what will the future bring us?
You have over 20 years experience in Information Technology (IT). What were your career highlights before joining Doodle?
Michael Brecht: I’m a serial entrepreneur in the tech space, not within IT, but with a business background. I joined CompuNet, nine days after the fall of the Berlin wall. Seven years later we sold the company to GE Capital. I founded and sold two other companies and have been a board member since. I like to grow businesses internationally and make them go global.
What made you decide to join Doodle?
Michael Brecht: I was recruited by Swiss Media company Tamedia, who acquired the remaining 51% of Doodle in 2014. They were looking for three particular things for their new CEO:
One: Someone who had been a founder and seller of a successful business.
Two: Someone who knows how a start-up works.
Three: Someone who could integrate the company into being part of a big corporation, but still keep the start-up vibe alive.
And from there onwards our aim is to grow the business globally.
You have been the CEO of Doodle since the beginning of 2014, what was your first impression of the company when you joined?
Michael Brecht: My first impression was it was a brilliant company and team with a great product. The first months I worked together with the founders to make the transition as smooth as possible. The rest of the management team stayed in place. This resulted into a smooth transition for all stakeholders.
What is your personal mission with the company?
Michael Brecht: Officially Doodle is not a start-up anymore, but a high-growth company after eight years of existence. My aim is to streamline the business for further growth. We are the market leader in online planning group activities. A global brand with 25 million users, but our mission is to grow it to become a 250 million users brand over the coming years.
Can you tell me something about the founding of Doodle and how it answered to the growing demand for a scheduling service?
Michael Brecht: The founders felt a need for a web based group scheduling tool to organize meetings, BBQ’s, get-togethers and more, both for professional and private use. The viral element that every user who invites new users to schedule with Doodle made it grow exponentially international right away. This happened without spending a lot on marketing.
Doodle was founded in Zürich, but you recently moved to Berlin. Does this new city increase Doodle’s potential?
Michael Brecht: We centralized our app development, marketing and international support team in Berlin for further international growth. In Zürich we have our desktop development, sale and some centralized services such as legal and finance located. Also Tamedia, our holding company is located in Zürich. In Switzerland, Doodle is a great start-up success story, and one of the main digital achievements.
How is the Doodle user in 2015 different from the Doodle user of 2007?
Michael Brecht: The mobile element is getting more important every day. We renewed our iOS and Android app recently. Doodle is less of a novelty in Europe, but expanding rapidly in huge new countries like Brazil, and continues to grow in the US. Our business model also evolved into premium accounts with branded pages and extra functionalities for businesses. For private users, we have highly targeted premium ads based on keywords associated with the polls people are working on. The targeting is done with our in-house advertisement tools.
Many other services like Gmail and Facebook offer integrated scheduling services, how do you convince people to choose Doodle?
Michael Brecht: At the end of the day, these services offer one-on-one scheduling. We are specialized and the standard to-do for groups. Of course, we also do one-on-one with our product Doodle MeetMe that has hundreds of thousands of users around the globe.
Which (technical) developments in the market are particularly interesting for Doodle?
Michael Brecht: Our new one-on-one service Doodle MeetMe has lots of improvements coming up. We also added a new feature to all scheduling functions to be able to plan whole weekends or holidays and not only a single date: we call these Multi-Day events and they are particularly useful for families and friends as for event managers, all having a need to schedule meetings covering a few days in a row. Tens of thousands of people started using this new feature right away when we tested it in the US.
How does Doodle see the future of planning and scheduling? How will Doodle fit into that?
Michael Brecht: We are a consumer-centric company, we listen closely to the feedback we get. We will always improve our product based on that. A good example is our renewed iOS and Android app, which is free to download. We will continue to fuel productivity of millions of businessmen, consultants, universities and others around the world into our product management.
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