This post is a Q&A between Michael Spirito and Kalle Torma, co-founder and CEO, of Flowhaven.
One of the central theses of Sapphire Sport is that nothing is more important than the connection between a brand and its customer. And it follows that the more data-enabled and digital product-driven that connection is, better engagement (and monetization) will ultimately result. Our newest investment is not only serving to help unlock more value in this connection, it is literally defining the new and growing market of Licensing Relationship Management (LRM) within the enterprise.
Flowhaven co-founder Kalle Törmä and his team have built a world-class product by licensing professionals for licensing professionals, and in this age where every brand, no matter the industry, is increasingly consumer facing, the marketplace is vast. I discussed this and much more recently with Kalle Torma, a veteran of the brand licensing industry who brings along with him unparalleled domain expertise. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: Kalle, we love backing founders who come from the exact world in which they are bringing innovative products to light – how has your experience in the brand management industry given you the right lens through which to see this opportunity?
Consider me an entrepreneurial spirit and a pop-culture enthusiast. So, naturally, I’ve been drawn to brand building and high-energy environments where people make a real impact, throughout my career. I joined the Angry Birds team right before it took the world by storm and worked with industry all-stars who slingshot the brand into a global success.
What I learned on the ground opened my eyes to the possibilities of creating a system that made licensing workflows run smoothly. I knew that if everyone got the information they needed instantly and collaboratively, we could get to market faster and (most importantly) focus on the creative work that made us fall in love with licensing in the first place.
Q: What is the major hindrance to a brand being able to best manage and monetize its assets currently?
You’ve probably noticed that a new blockbuster movie, character brand or viral meme pops up almost every day. To go from the silver screen to the hands of a consumer quickly, you need to optimise your workflows in order to maximize your sales window.
If brands don’t have systems in place that help them get from the first point to the last, they can make mistakes that eat away at profits.
Just think, if a question about a design is tied up in an email chain and the wrong version of a character ends up on a shipment of merchandise, you’ll not only lose money, you might miss out on your chance to sell the goods while customers are still hungry for it.
Q: Flowhaven is pioneering what you call LRM, License Relationship Management… what exactly is this?
I get asked this question a lot. After all, our industry is built on handshakes and good faith. And we’re a couple of young guys from Finland who are offering a new approach.
At its core, LRM is a strategy that puts relationships between licensing partners (licensors, agents, and licensees) first. We don’t believe you can remove the human-side from the licensing business equation. What you can do however is to make information flow instant.
If you don’t set up clear communication channels and find a way to make sense of your business data to improve the strategies, you’ll get weighed down by information silos and slow processes.
Our solution is end-to-end. It offers all of the tools a team needs to successfully build and grow a licensing program, from agreement templates to royalty recoupment tools and everything in between. Because we’ve accounted for each and every process, our users gain a new level of control over their business.
All that LRM requires is that you commit to focusing on unlocking higher royalty revenue and faster growth.
Q: In the current age of digital connection between brands and customers, almost every company must consider itself a brand. How do you see that playing out over time and how can Flowhaven’s pioneering position in LRM help lead the way?
We’re living in a unique era–companies can see exactly who their customers are and shape themselves around those tastes and needs. I don’t think that will end any time soon. That is what makes the Flowhaven system so timely!
Licensing is the magic behind the scenes that shapes memories of all ages by connecting consumers to brands. It’s the business that produces your childhood favorite toys or a music band t-shirt that you keep close forever. The quickest way for brands to reach customers with minimal setup, time, cost, and maximum impact is through licensing.
At Flowhaven, we help the teams in charge of brands. Our amazing customer roster includes Nintendo, Crunchyroll and Games Workshop and more deliver that magic to their fans.
LRM makes sure that all of the moving parts of creating a licensing program run smoothly, ensuring you reach customers faster and keep your partnership happy.
Q: Kalle, it’s a pretty unique period of time to be scaling a company, what has Covid meant to the business both in terms of operations and building a customer base?
We’ve been pretty lucky but also the success of the result of our team’s hard work, grit and passion. Our team is made up of digital natives, and flexible work has always been a part of who we are. Still, the past year challenged us to collaborate through the challenges.
Our team members are located in home offices all around the world. It’s been our focus to new colleagues to make sure we’re channeling our unique culture and the warmth when they walk into our “digital offices”. We’ve done video game challenges, holiday giveaways, delivering equipment to people and so much more to make sure morale is high and there are no communication gaps.
During this period, we’ve also seen record customer growth. The shift to remote work made a lot of people in the licensing community (even those who prefer analog) rethink the way they approach their licensing operations. We’ve been able to support them with our cloud-based tool that makes clear communication possible from anywhere. And, helped them make the most out of their “extra” time by prioritizing information and automating repeatable tasks.
Q: How does Flowhaven facilitate a latency free flow of information between all of stakeholders typically involved in bringing a licensed product to market? And who are those stakeholders typically?
Anytime your favorite character ends up on a shirt, there are two or three key players who helped it get there. Licensors who own the brand–think film and gaming, sport leagues and teams, celebrities and influencers. Licensees are usually manufacturers and the final step in the production process. And sometimes licensing agents are involved with local extensions of the licensors team, making sure relationships run smoothly and that the partnerships are a perfect fit.
With so many stops, information can quickly get siloed, and delays in transferring updates are unavoidable. If mistakes aren’t caught in time, it can turn the entire production process upside down and undermine the core brand’s value. With our licensing suite, everything happens on a single platform and ecosystem, making collaboration natural and instant.
Q: Whether you’re managing 2 brands or 2,000 Flowhaven works for you… how is that?
Every licensing organisation is different and therefore our product is flexible. Really, really flexible to match unique needs of the customer. This is how we can address the licensing hurdles of a small to Fortune 100 company.
If there’s one thing I learned working with Angry Birds, a licensing program can go from a local success to a global phenomenon practically overnight. Licensing tools must be able to scale and be customisable if not then they become the bottleneck of the growth.
Successfully scaling your brand comes down to task and time management, and prioritization. To be effective, you need a clear view of your business data and a blueprint to connect the dots in your workflow.
Q: How has hiring and onboarding been for you and the team during this period, and how can you use it to your advantage?
We nearly tripled our staff during 2020, and we’re adding new team members all of the time to surpass over 100 in 2021. That’s a big milestone target for the year! Our team has put a lot of thought into our onboarding to prepare each new team member to swim in the deep end with confidence and skill.
We’ve traded in the long information seminars for coffee chats, zoom parties, and Q&A sessions to ensure everyone is showered in positivity and understands how everyone has their own role and responsibility in our success.
Q: Finally the self-serving one; why are you excited to work with Sapphire Sport?
I don’t think we have enough space in this article to list all of the reasons why we’re excited to partner with Sapphire Sport! So, I’ll focus on just a few. In Sapphire, we found a partner who shared our vision of a world where brands could satisfy their fans without costly hiccups.
We’re growing fast globally in the intellectual property rights management segment of b2b SaaS services and moving upmarket. Sapphire Sport has a sparkling reputation for helping b2b SaaS growth companies move forward with the resources and network they need to reach the next level.
We are new to the company portfolio and the group has already connected us with other founders, press and branding experts, and other people with a genuine interest in helping us level-up our business.
Finally, Sapphire is supported by a group that has directly experienced the pain points we’re working to solve with network to the world’s biggest brands.
Finally, the Sapphire team has had prior success working with Salesforce partners and their network. They understand the technology that powers our platform and how we fit into a bigger ecosystem of SaaS companies working to bring joy back to business.
Working with Sapphire is a dream partnership.