It currently takes more than four months for a famous luxury company based in Paris to put new collection items on its website. It’s a nightmare for multiple people who have to fight with Excel to add all the relevant data. And before you know it, the next collection is already there.
This is where Akeneo comes along. Akeneo is a CRM for product information. Instead of adding people and information, you add products so that it’s easy to push your catalog to your websites, apps, stores and third-party vendors. The French startup just raised $2.3 million (€1.8 million) from Alven Capital.
“There is a lot of work to collect all the information about your products. Right now, everything is manual, mostly with Excel files,” co-founder and CEO Frédéric de Gombert told me in a phone interview. “This can become quite expensive, and we make it a lot more efficient for these companies.”
At heart, Akeneo is an open source product information management software with integrations with Excel and CSV files, traditional ERP software and more. Contributors can build new integrations and make the product more useful.
But if you want advanced features and a solid support plan, you need to pay for the enterprise edition, which starts at $32,000 a year (€25,000). It remains a lot less expensive than custom-made solutions by IBM and Oracle.
“I used to develop the e-commerce solutions for Smile. Every time we launched a new project, our customers didn’t know how to gather all the relevant information about their products,” de Gombert said. “That’s how Akeneo started.”
The company already has some well-known French clients, such as Auchan, Cora, Feu Vert and Lagardère Active. Akeneo focuses on mid-market companies that aren’t big enough to implement custom-made solutions but definitely need this kind of products.
The key element behind Akeneo is that it makes product management much more efficient. Clients can centralize and push a product to a new channel much more quickly — on average, it takes 60 to 80 percent less time.
The team now has 15 employees and plans on expanding internationally. As the open source product is available to download, Akeneo already saw some interesting trends — Germany and the U.S. seem to be promising markets, and the startup will make sure that it has people on the ground in these countries.
The positive effects of switching to Akeneo compared to Excel documents aren’t immediate. But Akeneo shines when you need to share your product information with a new channel. It takes a lot less time if everything is already in your Akeneo’s database.
This startup is representative of what French startups can do well. At heart, it is a company with a strong engineering culture. It takes advantage of the open source culture to integrate contributions from the community. It focuses on a niche product that doesn’t sound sexy but answers a real world problem. Now, it needs to build an efficient sales model to bring more clients on board.