SMEs face an uphill battle from the moment they feel that Eureka moment, and most of the time they end up on the losing end.
Studies show that around 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years of their inception and out of those who make it, another 50% will fail in another few years.
Several startups participated this year in the Global Start-up Bootcamp, part of the arab luxury world (alw) conference that took place in Dubai on May 8 and 9, at INSEAD Business School campus in Abu Dhabi.
The boot camp, sponsored by TAG Heuer and Chalhoub Group, was attended by over 600-plus industry game-changers who evaluated startups from Paris, London and New York, presenting their company in a ‘pitch session’.
In 2017, start-ups received $560 million in funding, up by 65% from 2016, in this region.
Here, we showcase 5 in our attempt to cast a light on what challenges SMEs face and the kind of spirit they need to overcome them and go to the next level.
Related: Learn from startups’ failures, not just successes
So what remains the most important factor in business success? The answer: an ‘innovative’ idea.
One company that is putting this in motion is a Paris-based startup, Induo.
Solving the problem of sweat in clothing and taking it beyond just sportswear, Induo is manufacturing the first non-iron, stain-resistant and sweat-resistant cotton fabric in the world. Its fabric, made with a patented technology, is made of cotton and is characterized by two qualities: repellency and breathability.
co-founders of Induo, Pauline Guesne, and Sebastien Francois, saw the need of having workwear that was as efficient as sportswear to manage sweat.
“We thought if sportswear had evolved, why can’t day-to-day clothing evolve too. We tried existing solutions first. The fabric we found felt like plastic, looked wired and was a nightmare to maintain. With Sebastian’s idea to create a fabric that could manage sweat and stains, and my passion for fashion, the idea started,” says Guesne.
About the most challenging aspects of starting a business, Guesne says there are personal sacrifices. “No one understands how much you want this, how much you have to work for it, fight for it and invest all of your money in it,” she says. “You are constantly sacrificing time with family and friends, as well as personal comfort; and in doing so, you feel very alone.”
Actiff is a fashion lifestyle app that converts discounts into rewards for being physically active. Founded six months ago by Grega Trobec, Charlie Regis and Lucas Poelman, Actiff’s mantra is simple: to inspire a generation to become more physically active – while looking good at the same time.
“The more physically active you are, the more discounts you can unlock, meaning the more brand giveaways you can enter,” Regis said.
It’s fun, engaging and its use of cutting-edge technology means it’s proven a hit with university students, with Actiff currently looking to launch at campuses across the UK.
Talking about the challenges faced by Actiff, Regis says, “
“The way we overcame the challenge of our runway was by collaborating with a limited number of companies each year to create premium web and mobile apps for their business. We have worked with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups.”
Omnichannel distribution is fast becoming a dominant model in the retail industry. Couple that with a young population in the Middle East, where 50 percent is below 30 years of age, and deep internet penetration, it’s clear this strategy model is booming.
In comes Paris-based Stockly with an innovative approach.
Eliott Jabes, co-founder of Stockly, started the company with his partner Oscar Walter.
“I am personally a sneakers-passionate: I had a good knowledge of the sneakers market, so we tried to offer value to it by optimizing its online distribution. We developed algorithms to analyze what would happen if a sneakers e-shop mutualized their inventory and we made amazing discoveries. Six months later, Stockly was born: the technology that allows e-retailers to increase sales by reducing stock-outs.”
“The most challenging part was to accept not knowing everything and strive to learn a lot every day. This is painful in the beginning because learning uses a lot of energy, but it quickly becomes a way of life. Today, my main motivation is learning,” Jabes says.
Mercaux , a start-up based in London is a mobile retail platform that enables a cutting-edge, digital, in-store experience by providing customers with apps. By bringing the benefits of digital into physical stores, Mercaux is helping to improve retailers’ sales and effectiveness, ensuring that customers have a seamless shopping journey across both offline and online channels.
“Modern customers got used to the convenience that e-commerce brings, and when entering retail stores they come in search of a delightful physical experience that blends the convenience of purchasing online with the human element of shopping in-store,” says Mercaux’s co-founder and CEO, Olga Kotsur. “Those who come to buy in-store, come to explore, seek inspiration and guidance, and expect a superior customer experience.”
“During the first two years, we only focused on listening to market needs and building the scalable and flexible platform,” Kotsur says.
“In b2b, one of the most challenging aspects is to make the solution easy to integrate and to support, while keeping the functional and design flexibility. From day one, we made the decision to build one single platform, in “lego” blocks – with a rich set of configurations. We need to keep in mind that customizations, not configurations, kill the software businesses, making it costly for the client and not scalable for the company.”
Luxury brands around the world are working on knowing their customers better and enhancing their experiences in a bid to cement a lasting relationship.
One company that’s aiding this movement is London-based startup Riviter.
Riviter is helping retailers and brands to build relationships with their customers by interacting with them effectively through an intelligent use of visual search.
Riviter’s founder and CEO, Andi Hadisutjipto explains:
“There was always a bigger barrier to address first. Retailers and brands needed to know their consumers better. It isn’t just about knowing what people are looking for, but rather why it appeals to them.
“Since pictures have the power to reveal the emotion and person behind the search in a way words and clicks can’t, we now use our technology to generate insights from images, so brands and retailers could make informed decisions from the very beginning,” adds Hadisutjipto.
Riviter provides visual social listening to the world’s biggest consumer brands. It trains a computer to automatically detect and identify objects in images and attribute them to specific products, trends, and people.