CatalystOne + Populum: An interview with Johannes Midtbö

by | Feb 9, 2024

You were recently acquired by CatalystOne Solutions, the leading Nordic HCM system. What happened?

[Johannes] – CatalystOne has been our closest partner for the past two years. We have many common and satisfied customers, and our employees work closely together. It feels very natural.



What is the logic?

[Johannes] – Populum’s innovative technology enables clients to gain amazing insights and analytics. This is done by intelligently combining the customer’s existing HR data with new engagement data that Populum collects from the customer’s employees. CatalystOne is the player in the Nordic region where we see that customers have the best data quality, which also means that, as a supplier, we can deliver the best customer value. In short, 1+1=3.

CatalystOne is an organization 10 times larger than Populum; how will this work?

[Johannes] – We have received a fantastic welcome from our colleagues at CatalystOne. In recent months, the collaboration has become increasingly close. CatalystOne is in many ways reminiscent of Populum but is 10 times bigger, with 10 times more employees, and 10 times more offices, but it also has 10 times more muscle to expand across Europe. In CatalystOne, we have seen a reflection of our culture and also our way of organizing ourselves and responding to customers.

What is the strategy going forward?

[Johannes] – Populum will continue as a standalone subsidiary and will continue to be offered as a standalone to all clients regardless of their choice of HCM system. Populum also delivers to customers without sophisticated HR systems, which will continue. And, of course, it will be easier than ever for all CatalystOne customers to seamlessly add Populum to their existing CatalystOne set-up and instantly leverage and bring their great HR data to life.

What does this mean for Populum’s existing customers?

[Johannes] – First and foremost, this is proof that our existing customers made the right assessment when they placed their trust in Populum. Now, the Nordic region’s leading HCM platform has also made the assessment that Populum has a fantastic technology that creates great customer value.

In practice, this means no change for our existing customers, as everything continues as usual. I continue as CEO, Populum continues, and our employees continue.


Picture: Johannes Midtbö, CEO at Populum

What does the acquisition mean for all CatalystOne customers?

[Johannes] – CatalystOne customers will gain tremendous value from replacing their existing employee survey solution and connecting Populum to CatalystOne. This comes in the form of bringing HR data to life, insights, recommendations, and, for example, AI-based comment analysis. Everything will be super smooth with our plug-and-play standard integration. Unnecessary administration and annoying Excel lists disappear – everything happens on autopilot.

What does it mean in the long term?

[Johannes] – The merger means that we will now prioritize bringing to life even more data that customers have in various CatalystOne modules, for example, in performance management and absence. There is a huge potential and great opportunities ahead.

Are there any benefits for existing customers not using CatalystOne?

[Johannes] – There are major upsides for all our existing customers. For all existing customers, this brings a new level of sustainability and increased innovation capacity. It also opens the possibility of serving our international customers from more countries than our current office in Stockholm. All innovation is conducted with scalability and generalization as key principles, allowing Populum to become Europe’s leading Employee Engagement & Pulse software partner. Populum’s customers currently use various HR systems such as SAP SuccessFactors, Workday, Sympa, and HiBob – and this will continue. It is important to me that all our customers get fantastic value from Populum regardless of how they have chosen to think about other systems. We will continue to be flexible.

How was the news received internally in Populum?

[Johannes] – We scored an all-time high in our own internal Populum survey when the news was announced internally. Our Pulse Index was at 87, and eNPS was at 94. There has been an overwhelmingly positive reaction from all functions, which is a result of CatalystOne handling this very nicely and professionally from their side. It has been clear that CatalystOne values what Populum has built. We are not going to change a winning concept – we are just going to do more of the good things we already do.

How is the cultural match?

[Johannes] – All of Populum was invited to CatalystOne’s Nordic kickoff in Oslo, which we attended just before the news was announced externally. If there was the slightest trace of hesitation before this – that hesitation was as good as gone afterward. We received a wonderfully warm and genuine welcome. I cannot imagine a better cultural match between the two companies.

How does it feel to make an exit?

[Johannes] – We do not see this as an exit. We see it as the next chapter in Populum’s success story. Populum’s shareholders have chosen to reinvest most of the purchase price in CatalystOne because we believe in – and want to be part of – the joint journey ahead. There are so many exciting things in the plan for the future that we did not want to miss: establishing in more countries, making more strategic acquisitions, going public, and winning in Europe.

This sounds like an exciting journey and good timing to join. Are you hiring?

[Johannes] – Absolutely! We have an ambitious growth plan and are currently looking for more awesome colleagues for all our functions: sales, digital marketing, tech, and customer success/data. We would like to have more female colleagues and more multilingual skills. If you are interested after reading this interview, you can write to me directly, and I will connect you with the hiring manager.


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