By Vol Pigrukh
Co-founder and CEO of Profitero,
IBM SmartCamp UK and Ireland winner
Editor’s note: Vol Pirrukh leads one of the contestants in the IBM SmartCamp competition world finals this week (Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and 2) in San Francisco. Nine startups from around the world will compete for fame and expert advice. To follow the event virtually, return to A Smarter Planet for liveblogging, view livestreaming video and follow the Twitter hashtags #IBM SmartCamp and #startups.
Yes, it’s true; our company name did come from those delicious little cakes – profiteroles. When we were brainstorming the name of our start-up we all liked “profiteroles” because it has “profit” and “the cherry on top” – i.e. sweetness – in it. But it was a bit too long and the domain Profiteroles.com was taken. So we sent a survey to over 100 friends to pick their favorite name from a few alternatives and “Profitero” got the most votes.
Profitero offers an online service to retailers to help them monitor competitors’ prices, stock availability and shipping charges. We help our clients increase sales and maximize profits by leveraging high-quality online competitive data. Profitero simplifies and significantly speeds up the process of collecting and assessing this data and the service can be used by both online and offline retailers.
Our service grew out of the own pain that Kanstantsin Chernysh (one of the Profitero co-founders) as an online store owner had to go through to monitor his online competition; Dmitry Vysotski and myself saw the huge potential for this service while working at IBM and Google and decided to bring it to the market.
Now our clients tell us there was a big gap in the market for this service. “I was looking for something like Profitero for two years and couldn’t find anything even close to it! What used to take me two to three hours each day, I do now with Profitero in minutes!” one client says. Another said, “We were price comparing 1000 products once a week which took one person a full day. Now we price compare over 2000 products, checked daily and all we have to do is analyze the information given to us by Profitero.”
Despite Profitero providing a price monitoring service for retailers and manufacturers, the backbone of our technology is the ability to collect and analyze large quantities of online data. Profitero collects data on 30 million products from 2,800 retailers with plans to grow this to 100 million products by mid-2012. Over the past fifteen months, Profitero has secured contracts with a number of key retailers in the European market. Tesco, Auchan, Worten are just a selection of the high-profile retailers using our software to help them grow their sales and profit margins. We are also partnering with some significant service groups operating in the retail industry e.g. Nielsen.
Why did we apply to participate in IBM SmartCamp? There were two main reasons:
For starters, our business has good synergies with IBM Smarter Commerce. At Profitero we have this vision: Modern day consumers are very smart in their purchasing decision-making: you can go to the store to try the gadget, check the prices online on your smartphone and then buy it where you get the best offer. Price comparison is the industry that has existed for years. Consumers are savvy! The IBM study Capitalizing on the Smarter Consumer found that 49 per cent of consumers use two or more shopping channels during a single purchase. But retailers are lagging behind. We want to help retailers to be smarter: helping them to make data-informed timely decisions on pricing to grow their sales and avoid losing customers. Hence we found that our vision really relates to the IBM Smarter Commerce strategy.
Another reason we participated is we wanted to work with Big Blue. It is very hard for a start-up to begin working with a large company; they have many layers of hierarchies and thousands of constantly changing priorities. Despite some successful cases where we managed to build some really great business relationships, this is a tough area to break into. Thus we find it fantastic that a company of such size and influence as IBM supports start-ups and gives them an opportunity to connect with the right people, offering support to get things moving. Thanks to all IBM’ers who have made it possible to start working with the organisation. We really appreciate your help and support!
Along the way we discovered more benefits than we originally counted on: 1) Excellent mentors during the IBM SmartCamp sessions. The experience and range of mentors was incredible. Entrepreneurs, VCs and IBM’ers were asking tough questions, that we often don’t want to ask ourselves. Thanks to all the mentors we met and will meet during the finals. 2) Networking opportunities. We got some really important contacts during SmartCamp London, but even more came along when we continued working with IBM after the event. 3) Great PR exposure (even writing this blog post!) Every start-up likes to see their name in publications but being mentioned alongside Big Blue goes a long way with clients and leads.
We believe that IBM SmartCamp is really useful for any start-up. Even the story of SmartCamp itself is similar to the stories of successful tech start-ups: with great idea, no money but lots of work and support you can achieve incredible results! We look forward to this week’s IBM SmartCamp Global Finals, which is promising to be even more exciting then what we saw at the SmartCamp London.