SaaS Founder Interview with Rosalie van der Maas, Co-Founder & CEO @ Ellipsis Drive
From streamlining processes to expanding your network, yet another inspiring SaaS founder gives her take on start-up must do’s.
Spatial data is data that is centered around a geographic area and it is an important component of many industries ranging from geography to government, but sharing spatial data has posed problems. Ellipsis Drive was created to democratize the sharing and viewing of spatial data by enabling businesses to easily manage, share, and distribute spatial data in a simple way. It makes spatial data management much more efficient and accessible.
SaaS Founder and CEO of Ellipsis Drive Rosalie van der Maas created Ellipsis Drive alongside her fellow founders to address a pain point they noticed in the industry. The transfer of spatial data was a friction-filled process, and Ellipsis Drive was created to help chart a new course.
Van der Maas and Insivia’s VP of Growth Tony Zayas sat down for a long chat that broke down the origins, collaborative processes, and growth strategies of Ellipsis Drive. This interview ran for 56 engaging minutes, and we’ll summarize the five crucial takeaways from their conversation below.
#1. Uncovering Ways to Streamline Processes Can Lead to a Strong Business
For people in industries reliant on spatial data, a specific pain point that van der Maas and her fellow founders noticed was a consistent issue. The exchange of spatial data and blending of multiple tech stacks and software were hindering important processes. Ellipsis Drive was a way to combat this.
“Every professional has a different toolset that they like to use when using spatial data,” observes van der Maas. “Some people like to use ArcGIS, or QGIS, which are GIS professional tools of choice, when you’re a data scientist, you usually use Python, or R… So that translation takes up a lot of everybody’s time.”
Ellipsis Drive reduces this friction. “If you put Ellipsis Drive in the middle, you don’t have that issue anymore,” remarks van der Maas. “Because as soon as a bit of content sits in Ellipsis Drive, it’s able to transition from any company to another company, from any professional to another professional, seamlessly.”
#2. Finding the Right Division of Labor Goes a Long Way
Ellipsis Drive was founded by van der Maas, her brother Daniel, and her brother’s longtime friend, Mungai Jiang. Many businesses with multiple founders, SaaS-industry focused or not, struggle with finding the right division of labor for the team to strike the right balance.
With the Ellipsis Drive team, this didn’t become a problem. Each of the three SaaS founders serves a different purpose. “I myself run most of the business side so in the end, I’m commercially responsible as a CEO, building out the team, taking care of finances and doing some Chief Revenue Officer stuff also,” says van der Maas.
“Daniel’s basically been the key architect to the solution itself. And then Mingai really is the backbone of the cloud infrastructure that we’ve erected.”
Having each SaaS founder serve a different vital function is one of the key ways that the Ellipsis Drive team has managed to share responsibilities.
#3. Accelerators Provide Pivotal Access to Mentorship and a SaaS Start-Up Network
When Ellipsis Drive began, its business model and product were entirely different. They realized they had to pivot and decided an accelerator was the best path forward, so they joined the Techstars accelerator.
The value van der Maas found in Techstars was significant. “It was very, very helpful talking to so many mentors, so many industry leaders that have been in the market for so long as I just can’t stress enough how important it is to really understand the market,” states van der Maas.
The value the Ellipsis Drive team found in Techstars helped them shift their business. “So it was a sweet spot for us because we knew we needed to pivot and it was the perfect sort of soundboard to come up with good ideas and it has an awesome network also,” remarked van der Maas. “So as you have these better ideas and you start to polish and sharpen, then you can go to someone who will know something more about where you just ended up.”
#4. A Broad Network is an Asset for Securing Funding
Like most start-ups, it was time for Ellipsis Drive to start considering how they would secure funding. Zayas asked van der Maas about the process of securing funding, the time investment needed, and the main takeaways she had. The process for the Ellipsis Drive team was less difficult than expected.
“For me, the experience was actually relatively easy. And that’s it’s dangerous to say, but we raised our rounds coming out of an accelerator both the first time as well as the second time,” said van der Maas.
The team’s network is one thing van der Maas credits for the ease with which Ellipsis Drive found funding. “Having an accelerator network to lean on and to ask advice from is very helpful. Because if you’re doing this all by yourself all the time, you’re just going to miss out on like, simple knowledge that I now take for granted,” notes van der Maas. “We came out of TechStars very much being prepped for the next funding round.”
#5. Consider the Dynamics Underpinning Your Growth Models
Planning for the next phases of a start-up journey is essential. Zayas asked van der Maas, “What does the next one to three years look like for you guys? What’s in the plans?” What van der Maas stated is that their models project significant growth, but she believes it is essential companies look at the assumptions their growth models are based on.
“This is actually something else that any SaaS founder should think about good and hard,” states van der Maas. And that is, what sort of dynamic is underpinning my growth? Like, it’s very easy to build a financial model that will say, and then we’ll be very rich. But the question, of course, is like, what assumptions is that built on?”
These are questions investors will be asking, and van der Maas emphasized that businesses should consider these factors to ensure they can turn their growth plans into reality.
The lessons from van der Maas and her company Ellipsis Drive are useful to SaaS founders in any business stage. While these were the five primary takeaways, the conversation between Zayas and van der Maas stretched into numerous other engaging and informative subjects.
Watch the full interview here to find out more great information from Ellipsis Drive’s CEO Rosalie van der Mass in her interview with Insivia’s VP of Growth, Tony Zayas.