Part 1 -Who you are as a founder, best ways to prepare for your first meeting and what happens before & getting to the signing of a contract
It’s been a little over 3 months since the METRO Target Retail Accelerator program came to an end.
As mentioned, in our Demo Day announcement; a few pilots are in the works #staytuned. More recently a pilot contract was signed between METRO Russia and our alumna UntieNots (Congrats!).
So, what does it take to get as far as to the stage of signing for a pilot you might ask?
We sat down with our alumna Cedric Chereau, co-founder of UntieNots, to find out exactly that – so you don’t have to 😉 .
Let’s start with who you are as a founder, and a bit about UntieNots?
My name is Cedric Chereau, I have around 18 years of experience in Retail Analytics. I spent most of my career so far in Europe and in the US, and have worked with international groups like Carrefour, Walgreens, LVMH, American Express and most of the biggest CPG companies in the world.
In 2015, my co-founder and I felt that the company we were working for didn’t make the right decisions when it came to technology. We tried to change that internally, we even tried to buy the company. It didn’t work, so we quit our consulting jobs and launched UntieNots, completely from scratch.
Our ambition was and still is, to combine our deep retail expertise with the most advanced AI and implement it at scale.
The cumulated 30 years of experience of the founding team is useful when it comes to working with big companies like METRO, because of our experience, we know how large corporates work: we understand the pain points, the processes, the tools and the culture, and can thereby adapt accordingly.
More specifically, that was exactly the reason why we developed a solution designed to work at a very large scale.
In addition, because we already work with four major retailers in Europe; millions of shoppers are already accessing their “loyalty challenges” with ease and zero limitations. Our app has proven capacity to manage a third of Twitter’s traffic. This “readiness” of your solution is essential when looking to partner with a company as big as METRO.
To sum up: understand the ins and outs of the company you are looking to work with; from culture, to processes and most of all what their main pain points are – can your solution solve those? If not, are there ways in which your solution can iterate to adapt to the needs at hand? Be open! The second takeaway being: make sure your product is scalable, if it has limited capacity, or cannot be integrated to core systems, there is no point in even considering a partnership – remember you want to make it as easy as possible for the corporate to partner with you.
How exactly did you pitch to METRO, and what would you tell other founders to do during their first meetings with METRO?
The two things that really matter for decision makers in large companies are “Who am I talking to?” and “What benefit could I bring them?”
It is key to talk about your experience and past successes (in your professional life but also in your personal life). Explaining who you are is the best way to capture attention.
Then a clear presentation of the benefit of your tool ex. “We can generate millions of incremental sales by incentivizing your customers to choose METRO more often than your competitors.” is what will persuade decision makers to talk to you a little longer. No need to waste time on the technicalities: the “how”, the “when” and even the “how much”will all be covered later.
The takeaway here is not to get bogged down on details of your solution but rather communicate clearly what it is able to do, what pain point it solves, and why YOU are the one to do it.
Once you have built up traction, how do you get the entire solution through the door to a piloting contract and what’s the process like?
During the program, we met with Senior Executives in Berlin, then with our key mentor Katja Schumacher, after which, we pitched our solution to different METRO countries to see where a pilot would make the most sense.
Countries are already working on plenty of initiatives and finding the right country for our pilot was a combination of multiple factors: strategic priority, team availabilities, market maturity… Russia was the perfect fit for many of those reasons.
I was surprised to see such a strong communication between METRO countries. The teams are really in contact with each other.
I often heard “yes, we talked about it internally” or “Germany (or Turkey or Romania) told me about it”. – That has been a great advantage in working with METRO and it is not that common in large companies!
In conclusion; be open, don’t set your heart on one use case, or country – you will be introduced to many different decision makers in order to find the right strategic fit, it is important to treat all of those as equal opportunities. Another point to take into consideration is to maintain close and good contact with your sponsor/key mentor, as they are the ones who’s support & internal network will help you get those meetings. In addition, they will also be able to give you honest company-relevant feedback.
UntieNots is set to begin their pilot with METRO Russia in Q1 2020, stay tuned as we follow their developments. Part 2 will be on the actual piloting process.