Recently, we sat down with Adrien Nussenbaum of Mirakl to gain insight into their entrepreneurial journey, their victory at SmartCamp Nantes, and what they expect to accomplish at the SmartCamp Europe regional final in Vienna. The following is from our interview with Adrien:
Q: In one sentence, tell us what your company solution/mission is. What problem are you trying to solve?
A: Mirakl is a software company that provides a SaaS marketplace platform solution enabling online marketplaces for retailers, pure-players, media and telco looking to drive rapidly new and profitable online revenues.
Q: Tell us how your company came to be. What is the background and history?
A: Mirakl was created in late 2011 by two experienced entrepreneurs, Philippe Corrot and myself. We had previously co-founded in 2005 an online marketplace which was successfully sold in 2008 to French retail giant, FNAC.
At FNAC, they created and managed the fnac.com marketplace, turning it into the fastest growing and most profitable business unit within 3 years with €4.2bn in sales.
With consumers easily shopping around for deals one click away, expecting to find all the products they want, and expecting greater customer experience, retailers are now under tremendous pressure to meet these expectations while finding new ways to generate profitable revenues.
At Mirakl, we have successfully demonstrated how the launch of an online marketplace, onboarding 3rd party merchants, is the solution. This model drives incremental revenues, widens the product selection and increases margins by reducing variable costs and stock dependency, improving the overall customer experience through extended offer and seamless purchase experience.
According to Forrester research, 62% of North American online buyers have purchased from a marketplace and 67% of them trust a purchase through a marketplace offered via a familiar retailer’s website.
Poorly executed marketplaces will not generate any of the expected benefits. Mirakl was conceived to guarantee a successful and timely implementation using the experience of more than 6 years of creating and managing successful marketplaces.
Q: Was there a moment when you realized you had a “big idea”?
A: For us, ideas become big the moment they meet a massive market that they transform.
Some time ago, we were meeting the chairman of one of the world’s largest department stores. He realized that an online marketplace was the natural extension of his physical business but was unsure how to do it. Back then, we were a young company with little references, and his internal IT department was not in our favor, instead preferring an “established Tier-1” company. So they looked around for all potential alternatives, and went as far as planning to build it themselves. In the end, nothing could match the range of our solution and its timely implementation: Mirakl was the best approach, and we are now their marketplace provider.
That day, the vision we shaped almost 2 years earlier transformed one of the largest department stores in the world: It became bigger. We know we are the right solution to solve an international growing need, with no internal or immediate external competitor to date.
Q: What brought you here to IBM SmartCamp, and what is the main thing your company hopes to accomplish by working with IBM and being a part of the competition?
A: We have been actively working with IBM since early 2013 as Mirakl naturally extends Smarter Commerce. Our main entry point is the Commerce portfolio. Websphere Commerce is the front-end to deliver a rich and seamless customer experience. Mirakl provides the platform needed to create and operate on online marketplace. Mirakl aslo connects with IBM PIM and Sterling Commerce on the back-end through its APIs and web services.
Our ISV Alliance Manager has been actively promoting Mirakl within IBM, and the French team has seen great value in working with us as we have rapidly signed major customers together. They recommended we participate in the Global Entrepreneur Program. Naturally, we chose to apply to SmartCamp.
SmartCamp is a great and fun competition that provides not only internal and external visibility, but also real guidance from experienced and diverse mentors. There is a lot to learn from a giant like IBM.
We believe Mirakl has an international potential. IBM’s global reach and recognition can help our name to get out there fast. Being the global SmartCamp winner will definitely help.
Q: How have the mentoring sessions been for you? Are there any major takeaways you’d like to share, or are there any changes you are planning to make in your presentation?
A: Mentoring sessions were very rich and full of teachings for us. We got very interesting marketing strategy insights from IBM’s software group senior executive. Also, we learned a lot on how to scale sales operations from a mentor specializing in developing software companies on new markets.
As for our presentation, we feel we need to insist even more on our many accomplishments in a short time frame, as the jury felt it was the best proof of concept possible.
Q: What are the biggest challenges your company faces?
A: In less than 18 months in business, we have grown from 2 to over 30 employees, opened an office in the UK, and landed close to 20 major customers. In 2013, we will reach sales of over €2m and be cash positive. Our first customers have gone live demonstrating the efficiency and performance of the solution.
So, our challenges lie ahead of us. For example, how can we scale our execution and maintain our quality of service while turning a growing European software company into a world giant? These are our biggest challenges now: dealing with growth; hiring the right people; and deploying the right sales and marketing strategies.
My partner and I have created respectively 3 and 4 companies, successfully selling most of them; but, building a global company is a new step for us.
Q: What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made personally to be an entrepreneur?
A: There are many, but the most painful one is not spending enough time with my family.
Q: How do you feel as the winner of your local SmartCamp?
We are obviously very proud to have been chosen by an experienced and diverse jury; but, we are now very motivated to win the next stage.
Q: What does this SmartCamp win mean to your company?
A: Building a start-up company, like Mirakl, is a very challenging and emotional process where teams are asked to overachieve and depend upon decision processes from massive customers. Being singled out during an IBM sponsored event is a wonderful recognition and a great occasion to share a success with the talented team that makes everything possible.
On a more personal basis, it gives you strength to keep on working hard; it is an indication that you are going in the right direction.
Q: What do you expect of the SmartCamp regionals in Vienna?
A: The SmartCamp regionals in Vienna will obviously be a very exciting time where we will get to share our project with international mentors and meet other international entrepreneurs. Discussing international expansion in the software business is clearly an expectation.
Representing IBM France is also a great honor, and I know that the French team would be thrilled to have a national winner.
When I was invited to give a breakout session at this year’s Smarter Commerce Summit in Monaco, I remember how some top US IBM executives felt that Mirakl was still “French and young.” I would be more than happy to prove to them that the caterpillar is turning into a butterfly, or the frog is turning into a prince charming!
Q: Why do you think you should win this SmartCamp final?
A: Mirakl is a very “mature” project that combines all the key success factors:
- A very experienced and united founders team with a proven track record
- A project that leverages upon a previous successful adventure
- A clear vision of a market evolution and need, confirmed by massively growing market demand and customer growth
- An innovative, problem solving and value generating solution
- An international addressable market
- A business model securing growing recurrent and profitable revenues
- Amazing results in a very short time frame
It is clear to see why Mirakl won the SmartCamp Nantes. Adrien and the Mirakl team have already accomplished so much in such a short period of time. Perhaps next for them will be winning the top SmartCamp prize for European startups. Register now to see how Mirakl and the other 6 finalists perform as they compete for the SmartCamp Europe regional final!