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An Interview with Anna Gullstrand

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Anna Gullstrand is the Chief People & Culture Officer at Mentimeter, a leading audience engagement SaaS platform based in Stockholm. She won the prestigious SaaS Leader of the Year Award at BreakIt’s 2022 SaaS Summit, with the prize being presented by Hampleton Partners’ Nordics Director Michel Annink.

We caught up with Anna to talk about her career, guiding principles and what makes the Swedish tech scene so special.


Anna, could you tell us more about Mentimeter and what drew you to the role of Chief People and Culture Officer?

Mentimeter is a platform used globally to make meetings and learning sessions more efficient and engaging through interactive elements like questions and polls. Around 95% of Fortune 500 companies use Mentimeter in their training sessions, workshops and team meetings to make sure they capture the full intelligence of the group. What’s cool is that we’ve built up this company organically since 2014 through product-led growth, and we’ve now had more than 20 million leaders who have presented using Mentimeter.

Team performance and group dynamics have been strong interests of mine since my student years. Mentimeter is a perfect fit since it allows me to help create a resilient, high-performing culture within a company whose product happens to do exactly the same thing for other organisations worldwide.


When awarding you the SaaS Leader of the Year Award, the summit jury noted that, during your time at Mentimeter, the workforce has more than tripled, with a high employee retention rate. Could you talk about your guiding principles on maintaining high employee engagement and well-being?

Research tells us we can motivate people using extrinsic motivators, such as bonuses, commissions, salary raises and other competitive elements. But these motivators aren’t very long lasting, leading to a high turnover of staff.

So, we believe in using extrinsic motivators along with intrinsic motivators. That is to say, a sense of meaningfulness and purpose in the work, ongoing learning, and relationship-building. We have a lot of social areas, a gym, free lunch every day, flexible working, and plenty of opportunities to collaborate. We also have the “Menti Listening Show”, which is a weekly gathering of the company at an arena in the office, which has its own production team and features speakers from across the company to talk about their projects.

Also, every year we move the whole company for one month to an entirely new city, such as Palermo, Barcelona and Vienna. We rent office space and apartments and literally move the whole company! This is a huge investment in our people, and helps to create “Menti memories”, forge strong bonds between colleagues, increase happiness, and enhance innovation power and performance.  


You were previously acting CEO of Mentimeter, and wrote a very honest and open LinkedIn post where you interrogated your own emotions about the “perceived loss of impact” of longer being acting CEO. Could you tell us more about that?

Being acting CEO was a very valuable experience, allowing me to really understand what challenges the different department heads have. And you know, if you scratch the surface, you’ll see that behind these business challenges are people challenges, collaboration challenges, communication challenges. As CEO, it became even more obvious to me that everything is about people.

When I started as VP People in 2020, I noticed that Mentimeter was leaning too much on a “one-to-one” culture, with many one-to-one meetings. It is absolutely important to have those kinds of meetings for coaching, alignment and so on. But now we emphasize the team’s importance even more, and we’re applying a structured approach to make groups more high-performing. I strongly believe in the importance of the CEO leading the management team as a team rather than as individuals. I maintained that holistic approach when I was CEO.

Regarding the LinkedIn post, it’s certainly true that when you promote someone to a more senior role and then they go back to their old role, it comes with a risk that you will lose that person. But for me that was never the case because I am so invested in Mentimeter! Plus, I knew that everything I learnt as CEO could be used in my current role to help make us more successful.


What would you say are the skills that make a great SaaS leader?

You can look at subscription models and complacently think “Oh it’s so good, they are paying us regularly, money is pouring in month by month!” But my view is that the SaaS model is about actively regaining the trust of our customers every single month.

Your focus, in SaaS, has to be on retention, on always delivering the value customers expect, or risk losing them. Here at Mentimeter, we need to ensure our users get real business value, so that they say “Yes, engagement’s gone up, we’re taking better decisions, our training sessions are much more efficient, this is really working.”


Mentimeter has been raising growth capital in recent years, and there are rumours of a possible IPO. How important is the role of a company’s leadership as a success factor in M&A, as opposed to a company’s products, services and financials?

Whenever we talk with investors, we’ve asked them “To what extent do you think the company culture impacts the performance of the company, on a 1-5 scale?” And everyone says 4 or 5. They all know company culture is super important.

When we have had meetings with investors, we always kick them off with the people and culture section. It is our people who create business results, and our culture makes us innovative and resilient. With that said, in SaaS, product-market-fit, your business model, and go-to-market is vital for success. You can have the best people, but it will be a tough journey if you haven’t got that right.


And finally, why do you think Sweden has grown to become such a leading SaaS territory?

Sweden, as a country, was a very early adopter when it came to the digital revolution. Decisions taken by forward-thinking politicians in the 80s and 90s, to invest in the nation’s digital infrastructure, laid the groundwork for the tech industry today.

Another important factor is that Swedish culture is very inclusive and collaborative, making for healthy working environments for innovation, whether in SaaS or other tech sectors. We also have a very strong social safety net. The state actively encourages entrepreneurs and provides social support so that if your startup fails, there’s less risk of ending up in a bad way.


Thank you very much Anna!