What do you currently do?
I am the co-founder and head of sales at Mirakl, a retail marketplace technology firm. We provide a secure and highly profitable solution that allows a brand to host transactions between buyers and sellers of products on its e-commerce website.
Amazon’s curated 3rd party sellers marketplace now accounts for more than 40 per cent of its overall sales and we allow retailers to offer a similar service. It is a great way of broadening a product range, improving customer service and of course, increasing profits.
We work with some of Europe’s largest retailers, including high end department store Galeries Lafayette and UK pet accessory retailer MedicAnimal.com. After launching in 2011 it has been a whirlwind few years – raising €2.5m in funding in 2012, launching our UK office in 2013 and plans to expand to the US later in 2014.
What is your inspiration in the business?
For me it is all about the freedom that being your own boss affords you. You get the opportunity to build things from scratch, to create, shape and develop a business in the way of your choosing.
With Mirakl specifically, we are not dealing in sci-fi innovation that might be important in the future. We have a product that has hit the market at exactly the right time and allows retailers to change the way they operate. Being part of that is inspiring.
Who do you admire?
I admire anyone in business and life that is smart and isn’t constrained by others’ preconceptions and boundaries. Of course Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos is a revolutionary and as a Frenchman I love that. But on a more personal note, I love what the Boyle family has done with the outdoor clothing company, Columbia, particularly the current CEO Tim Boyle. Anyone who can reconcile personal conviction with a great company is doing something very right. Columbia looks like a genuinely fantastic place to work, with real spirit. It is also very successful, one of the ultimate family businesses.
Looking back are there things you would have done differently?
One of the reasons that Mirakl has been so successful is because of the different experiences me and my partner have had throughout our careers. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, how to handle certain situations and when to take risks, so there isn’t anything I would change.
A VC once said to me that ‘luck or chance comes to those who dare’ and I believe all my experiences have given me the confidence to trust my instinct and to go for it when the opportunity arises.
What defines your way of doing business?
I work very well with my partner because we both contribute in markedly different ways. My approach to business is based on energy and motivation whereas my partner has the more strategic vision and approach. I trust that implicitly and then make it happen!
I never take no for an answer and believe there is room for a little craziness in business. I once delivered a pitch to a major Spanish retailer despite only knowing about 20 words of Spanish and won the deal. Belief and confidence can go a long way!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
There are two things: firstly, pick your partner well. Me and my partner are highly complementary and make a great team.
Secondly, be ready to live an abnormal life. Since I started Mirakl, there is no real framework to life. Beyond working crazy hours it’s more that things are liable to change direction suddenly and you have to be alert to that and not let it phase you.
There is the potential to do great things as a start-up, to really make a contribution. I don’t know any entrepreneurs that are purely in it for the money, it is more about a personal drive of some sort. Whatever your ambition is, enjoy it! It is a difficult but hugely rewarding journey.