Carl (Part 1)

Carl is an M&A platform for SMEs, connecting owners, advisors, and acquirers around opportunities from €1mn to €50mn in transaction value. Carl's private deal network, a dedicated SaaS solution that guides the process and partnerships with numerous associations, banks, and more than 220 M&A advisors, connects more than 2,500 accredited buyers to interesting companies. Carl's mission is to offer the “Mittelstand” the same access to professional and efficient M&A services that large cooperations have had access to since long ago.

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User/stakeholder interviews
Wireframes and designs
User testing
Design library


Alexander Thomas


Carl is building their M&A platform where buyers can find their next investments (and where sellers can reach the right investors). They have a small but efficient product team with a product manager, front-end developers, and two back-end developers. They needed someone to support them with UX design.


It was one of the most productive ventures I've worked with. We had our entire 8 hours planned, where we met in the mornings, synced up in the afternoons and presented results by the end of the day. The year-long saga for getting good design & building a great product was over before I knew it. It was nearing a stage where they needed a full-time UX designer compared to my twice-a-week visits.


User Interviews with Analysts were most interesting and effective. Since Analysts are internal Carl employees, we had unprecedented access to them even after our sessions. We could quickly eliminate our doubts and get answers to silly questions. From rolling out surveys to mining data out of past deals, the research process was more of a continuous process as we needed more and more insights for building the Investor and Advisor side of the application.

Problem Discovery and Definition

The Seller, The Investor, the Analyst and the Advisor. As much as the ecosystem has all these users, our focus was building the part for the Analysts for Phase 1. We did work on parts of the Investor and Advisor intermittently for Phase 2.

This is how Analysts currently do it and why it just might be the problem.

All Analysts use individual Excel sheets to compile their list of potential investors. They search online as well as their internal lists for investors. They then add it to a long list and filter the best for the shortlist. As soon as the shortlist is complete, they move to a CRM tool to get in touch.

What are some of the frustrations they experienced?
  • Redundant work: Multiple Analysts end up researching on the same investor as they all work on their individual sheets. Google Sheets did not solve this problem as data was too valuable to give edit access to multiple users.
  • Updated information: Analysts would not know if their shortlist of investors have ones that are already in other deal pipelines or shortlisted by other Analysts.Loss of information: Analysts make notes on investors to help them understand better in future conversations. These notes remain private unless shared among the Analysts which do not happen simply because each Analyst would end up having a bottomless pit of excels with information that becomes less relevant as time passes.

Solution Discovery and Concept Validation
What is the current scenario and progress? How does it play into the long term vision?

The Portal exists for Advisors and Investors but it's not the one with the best UX. The idea is now validated with this concept application. That's why we were focusing on the Analyst part where the data can be regulated, managed and useful. The ideal story is where the platform connects sellers and investors based on their search criteria and make suggestions based on data.

Data is gold. Investors with updated profiles are most useful to Analysts. The timestamp of each update would be the measure of the trustworthiness of the data. This in turn would result in the decision making of the Analyst - from shortlisting an investor to getting in touch with them. When both the designer and product manager are obsessed with whiteboards, not a single meeting can't go without one. The new Carl office even has one in the gaming room, though it's only used to keep high scores.

Design & Build

Why did we start off with the Web Application with Analysts?

Building Analyst Web Application was crucial in the beginning. The manual process of processing deals works as isolated silos. We were losing relevant information every day the Analysts are not in an integrated system and cannot leverage all the data we have, to find the best investors for the deals. So it was the Analyst App for Phase 1 and then moving to Investor and Advisor side for Phase 2. With a couple of mini-projects that came in between.

Translating all of the research information into user goals, tasks and flows. We had to prioritize when we started building the product. What it really means is that we had to compromise. As much as it's a dream of every designer to have a custom component library and solid design system in place, we were at a stage for an MVP ready for quick validations and iterations than pixel-perfect design.

From Ant & Adobe to Chakra & Figma

The Carl team was already building a product with Ant Design. Ant had simple components but no room for customizations in terms of development. So almost a year later, when we could easily identify the features that needed customized components, we could move to Chakra UI. With the Chakra UI component library available in Figma, it was a no brainer to switch from Adobe XD to Figma, along with all the hundred reasons why designers are now moving to Figma.

How did the new branding affect the product?

Carl had a rebrand and we need it to flow into the product. To concentrate more on building the important, we decided to change the colours and type to resonate with the brand, rather than design new elements or build a new component library. In the phase we were in, we had to choose which part of the product got the green light.

Continue to Carl (Part 2)

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Natalia Bulashenko

Head of Design
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