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How we built a billion dollar startup from scratch

How we built a billion dollar startup from scratch | Alina Vandenberghe - Chili Piper

In this inspiring episode of the Tekpon SaaS Podcast, Alina Vandenberghe, the visionary co-CEO of Chili Piper, joins host Cristian Dina to share the remarkable journey of creating and scaling Chili Piper into a tremendously successful enterprise which is on track to be the next unicorn.

Founded in 2016 to fix the fractured B2B purchasing process, Chili Piper focuses on enhancing the inbound lead flow, which is crucial for 70% of the company’s pipeline and revenue. Their solution increases the inbound pipeline and offers exceptional features such as instant meetings for prospects, priority scheduling, automatic email detection, and VIP booking for recognizable contacts. This tool is designed not only for inbound lead management but also for efficiently routing and scheduling leads derived from various channels, including software marketplaces, in-app features, gifting campaigns, and more.

Despite not offering a free version, Chili Piper is strategizing to introduce a self-service trial to attract a wider customer base. The platform boasts integration with numerous revenue tools such as Salesloft, Salesforce, and HubSpot, among others. Alina shares an impactful tale where a leading competitor, initially skeptical, ended up adopting Chili Piper’s product and achieving significant growth. Even without imminent competition at its inception, Chili Piper now observes new entrants emulating their business model.

How Alina started Chili Piper

Alina and her team initially bootstrapped Chili Piper, subsequently securing funds through seed rounds and series A and B. She reflects on the value of bootstrapping, recommending it for its discipline-imposing benefits and acknowledging the merits of fundraising.

Alina delves into her background, detailing her transition from shyness to a prominent business figure and social media proponent. Alongside her husband and co-founder, who was her longtime partner before they ventured into business, Alina has recruited a talented ensemble of 150 employees, fostering a work environment replete with transparency, support, and community engagement. She cites activities like office cook-offs and company retreats to destinations like Iceland and Morocco as part of their unique and cohesive culture.

In terms of workplace dynamics, Chili Piper champions remote work and values in-person meetings. Their recruitment strategy is distinctive, prioritizing transparency in skill assessment and leaning toward hiring senior-level talent, given the remote work model’s inherent challenges for less experienced individuals.

How to build an unicorn

Acquiring their first customers involved connecting with influencers and thought leaders at events, who then organically became champions for the product. Nowadays, their go-to-market strategy is customer advocacy-centric, leveraging satisfied users to propel growth.

The company’s marketing approach is multifaceted, focusing on customer satisfaction and utilizing platforms such as social media, gifting campaigns, ads, podcasts, webinars, and blog posts. Alina’s presence in charitable causes and her strategic use of social media play a significant role in her company’s public relations strategy.

Looking toward the future, Chili Piper harbors ambitions to go public and further their reach into markets like China. Alina Vandenberghe’s story is a testament to the possibilities that emerge when innovation meets ample support, clear vision, and unwavering perseverance. This episode of Tekpon SaaS Podcast is not only a narrative of success but also a playbook for entrepreneurs looking to emulate Chili Piper’s remarkable trajectory.

Podcast Host & Guest(s)

Cristian Dina


Cristian Dina

Managing Partner & SaaS Podcast Host @ Tekpon
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Managing Partner & SaaS Podcast Host @ Tekpon

As one of the founding members of Tekpon, Cristian has worn many hats within the company, but perhaps none shines brighter than his role as the charismatic host of the Tekpon SaaS Podcast. Cristian is a community builder at heart, being the Bucharest city leader for SaaStock Local and the author of the best-selling book King of Networking.

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