Matt Welle is the CEO of Mews, one of the world’s leading providers of hospitality systems, with more than 2,700 hotels on their platform from around the world. Notion Capital led Mews’ Series A in 2018. In this article he spoke to Notion Capital’s Stephen Millard, Operating Partner and Chief Platform Officer.
Taking investment from Notion is like joining a family
When I think of the different funds that we work with, there is a great person on the board who is in effect the fund to us. With Notion it is very different. Jos White is on the board and adds incredible value, just like our other board members, but the big difference with Notion is the Notion Platform, which connects me and my team to incredible expertise and a vibrant expert community.
It felt like we were joining a family when we started attending the Notion Platform events; we learned so much. After a while it was clear everyone knew me and knew Mews. Now, when I go to a Notion event I know all the Notion Partners and all the platform team, many others in the firm and I know very many other founders and they know me.
That's a big part of what makes Notion different, it's like joining a family.
Domain expertise and operational experience.
Everyone at Notion is looking out for Mews and connecting me to people who have deep SaaS expertise that can really help us, people such as Andy Leaver or the Notion Experts or other founders. That's where the Notion Platform value comes in, it’s the connecting layer between Mews and the rest of Notion Family. The extreme knowledge those people have makes a huge difference to us.
Expertise and empathy
When we met Notion, back in 2017, what struck us first was the SaaS expertise. We were talking to many VCs at the time and none had that level of insight. But what really stood out for me, when I met Jos for the first time, was that he really cared about me. I remember going for a coffee and he wanted to get to know me personally before discussing the business and we built a connection very quickly.
That set the tone. We had found a great board member who was going to add real value to our discussions, who would take the time to get to know us and would care about Mews. Jos constantly demonstrates a deep understanding of our business, but also empathy, that comes from the fact that he was a founder and operator first. That empathy and the value add ethos goes beyond Jos to the rest of Notion.
Getting real time feedback on challenges from other SaaS Founders and experts is invaluable
When we started going to the Notion Platform events I realised they were covering things we simply didn't know or appreciate. As a team at Mews, we are very curious, we read a lot and challenge ourselves to learn, but being in a room and telling our story to other founders and then getting feedback in real time from strong vocal people is invaluable. I remember the very first session first we did with Notion and Melissa Di Donato - Notion Capital Executive in Residence - and a group of other Notion Founders and Sales Leaders. She really nailed us and many of the participants on a few topics; she just cut straight to the chase. Straight afterwards we set out to make some senior hires to fill the gaps she'd identified. That's the difference the value-add focus and deep domain expertise has, Notion brings us together with people who make a big and rapid impact. That's just one example; there have been many.
Like superstars playing a small venue
I think of the events Notion puts on as being like a global superstar playing a gig in a small venue. It's so intimate and so enjoyable. That's what I like about Notion, they bring superstar experts and founders together but in a small and intimate setting - it feels like a family get together - we learn a lot and have a good time. What’s more, as you’ve grown, you've not gone crazy big, you’ve kept that small, intimate feeling and you've not lost your "value-ability."
It's not all about the founder
Something else that feels totally different to all our other investors, is that Notion Platform works with all my senior team. No one else does that. We will often go to a board meeting and have had discussions outside the board on different strategic issues with Notion. What's more, when decisions do come down from the board, as far as Notion's involvement is concerned, it's really demystified for my team.
The Notion Retreat is the highlight
The Notion Founder Retreat is probably the biggest impact for me. I love sitting in the room and taking in the knowledge. What do I actually walk away with? Sometimes I couldn't say, but I'm a more rounded person, because I am there, present, listening to these people, immersed in their conversations. I have become a very different leader in the last three or four years and much of that is because of the exposure Notion has given me.
There is more to a VC round than the highest valuation
Notion doesn't give the highest valuations, but when I speak to early stage SaaS founders I tell them, "Notion is the only fund I would choose at Series A. You should definitely speak to them and prioritise their SaaS expertise and value over money.”
What’s more I’ll say: “Every VC says they bring something to the room, but Notion actually has and continues to do so, long after they first invested, offering value add services, operational support, advice and a family feeling to me and my leadership team.” That's what makes Notion special, you followed through on your sales promise: SaaS experts and value add. And that's rare.
Now, when I’m talking to new VCs I say: "We do not need SaaS expertise in the room, because we have those people. What are you going to bring over and above money?" We have learned from experience to be clear what we want and need from our VCs and to ask for it up front: because if you don't ask you don't get.
Jos demonstrates that he cares about Mews being a great business first and foremost.
One last thing, Jos White in our board room is so thoughtful. He doesn't just say what he thinks and then leave it there, he follows up on his input. He always comes back with thoughtful emails with bullet points of all the thoughts that he has had, with recommendations for us to focus on, suggestions for people in Notion, the portfolio or the wider community that can help. He’s the only investor on my board that does this.
For example, after a recent board meeting, Jos made the observation that our margins were simply not good enough. They were OK, but simply not good enough for a world class SaaS business. So he made some recommendations, made some introductions, and connected us to Notion's Chief Financial Officer to discuss what other Notion companies are doing. What makes him different is he really cares, he's run a SaaS business, and he wants Mews to be the best it can be for Mews sake first of all, not just as a shareholder. He has a direct impact on our business and that combined with the Notion Platform and the rest of the family makes a big difference to us.
I wholeheartedly recommend Jos White as a board member, Notion as an investor and Notion Platform for its value add. The very fact that I’m prepared to spend the time to share my thoughts in this way shows how much I value them.