In an interview, WHU alumnus and home24 Management Board member Marc Appelhoff discusses the successful IPO in mid-June of home24, the online home & living company
Founded as a start-up in 2009, home24 has grown to become the leading eCommerce platform for home & living in continental Europe and Brazil (where it is known as “Mobly”). home24 offers its customers more than 100,000 products to choose from – from bedside lamps to chairs, garden loungers, beds and sofas, there you will find everything for your home. Regardless of size and weight, the furniture is delivered free of charge to the home. home24 has a worldwide workforce of more than 1,000 employees. In addition to Marc Appelhoff and Christoph Cordes – both WHU alumni – the Management Board of the Berlin-based company also includes Dr. Philipp Kreibohm and Johannes Schaback. Home24 successfully went public on June 15. The stock started trading at 28.50 euros, well above the final offer price of 23.00 euros, and subsequently stabilized above this level.
Marc, when does one decide to take the big step of taking one’s start-up public?
A decision like this is not made alone. There are the coworkers you’ve been working with for the past several years to develop home24 into the leading online company for home & living. By the way, they also include several from WHU, such as my fellow Management Board member Christoph Cordes, but also Brigitte Wittekind, who is in charge of the Operations Section for home24, as well as our Marketing Manager, Sascha Vitzthum. Also involved in the decision are advisors at banks and law firms who provide support with decision. And of course we worked closely with the Supervisory Board and our investors, too. For us, the environment was ideal. home24 is growing and developing toward the profit zone. At the same time, we had set the course for future growth within the company itself – by adjusting the IT and logistics systems, for instance. All of this was helped along by favorable conditions on the capital market, so finally we decided together to take this step.
What can go wrong in an IPO? What were your thoughts on the eve of going public?
There wasn’t much time for reflection on the eve of the IPO, because we were sitting on the train from Berlin to Frankfurt with a large group from home24. We all spent the night in a hotel before driving to the stock exchange together the following day. It’s a very emotional moment, of course.
Did you ask anyone for tips for the IPO?
Certainly, you’re going to seek out the advice of experts. After all, an IPO takes place according to precisely defined rules. These range from planning the road show, where you try to attract investors, to determining the offer price. At the same time, all of us on the Management Board are also part of the start-up scene here in Germany, and some had already taken the step of going public before we did. But in the end, I think this experience is unique for every company. With us, this was compounded by the fact that the initial listing was considerably higher than the offer price and held this level, too. That was an additional highlight for us, because you always hope for a success like this, but you can’t expect it.
How does the day unfold, from a management point of view, and what was the finest moment?
There were lots of special moments, so it’s hard to single one out. One such moment was certainly the train trip I already mentioned, which had some of the relaxed atmosphere of a field trip with a school group. Then, of course, there’s the moment when you ring the famous bell together. But also the fact that so many companions – from banks, law firms and the Supervisory Board – approached us on the floor that day, too. We were really pleased with that. It was always important for us to remember that this was a very special day for all the “homies”, too, so we broadcast the event live. Certainly, one of the most emotional moments came when I greeted all the employees and our families from the trading floor. Because lots and lots of coworkers had worked very hard for this IPO. Many families, spouses and partners occasionally had to take a back seat during that time, too. All of us on the Management Board were well aware that this commitment is not a matter of course.
Based on your experience, what advice would you have for any start-up founder or entrepreneur considering an IPO?
Find a good team, demonstrate endurance, work with outside consultants you trust, and listen. And when the time comes: enjoy the moment. Because after that, it’s back to work and full speed ahead. An IPO is always just an intermediate step in a company’s development, and there was no difference in our case, either. Now we can continue working hard to establish home24 internationally as the online store for those who want to make their home more beautiful. And to use the capital collected to create the relevant positions in the company, and to fill those positions with great new coworkers.