Building a Big SaaS Company
How a Slovenian Entrepreneur Partnered with FP to Build a Big SaaS Company and Eventual Exit to LeanIX
Dusan Omercevic, a Slovenian national, learned how to code when he was in elementary school. His father encouraged him to pursue a career in computer science. Dusan pursued his passion in college and graduate school, where he majored in Computer Science. By 2016, he was the Head of Product and VP Engineering at Zemanta, an ad tech start-up with offices in NYC and engineering HQ in Ljubljana. As part of his job, he tracked all the different SaaS tools Zemanta was using. He initially managed these in an MS Excel spreadsheet and then subsequently decided to automate the Excel tool in his free time. The solution worked so well for his own needs that he consulted with some knowledgeable friends about building a company around this product. This is how Cleanshelf was born.
After securing a small seed investment from Silicon Gardens, a local Slovenian angel group, he set his eyes on the US market, knowing Cleanshelf’s biggest customers were located there.
Around the time when Cleanshelf had 5 clients and $200 in MRR, he met Brian Flynn, co-founder of FounderPartners (“FP”). After several weeks of internet “business dating,” he and Brian formed a deal for Cleanshelf to move its HQ to Silicon Valley and partner with FP.
The other alternative Dusan explored for entering the US market was to join a Techstars accelerator. Dusan decided against it since his goal was to build a business in the US, not to learn how to raise money. FP, in contrast, made a long-term commitment to Dusan and Cleanshelf to actively support all the aspects of building a big business. Upon forming the partnership with Cleanshelf, FP went to work: incorporating as a US legal entity; arranging and jointly attending 20+ customer discovery meetings in Silicon Valley (to improve product marketing, pricing, go-to-market); securing more, higher-paying customers; providing additional seed capital; recruiting and helping establish the US sales engine; navigating several in-bound M&A approaches from strategic parties and many other activities.
Four years later, Cleanshelf is the leading enterprise SaaS management platform focused on tracking, controlling, and benchmarking SaaS applications. Cleanshelf currently provides an enterprise-grade solution to over a hundred clients, including Hilton, Looker, and CoStar Group. In 1Q20 the company closed a $8MM Series A financing round with Dawn Capital, a London-based venture capital firm. And in 2021, LeanIX, a leading enterprise architecture and cloud governance company, acquired Cleanshelf for an attractive profit.