S02E09: Adrien Nussenbaum, Mirakl

We speak to Mirakl Co-founder Adrien Nussenbaum in this episode of our Without Borders podcast episode – part of our series speaking to European unicorn leaders.

Following a recent $300 million funding round, the e-commerce marketplace platform is now using its advanced technology to revolutionise online B2B purchasing, helping companies to scale online. Having recently become a unicorn, we discuss with Adrien the unique company culture, communication challenges and the future of e-commerce.

Listen to this instalment to find out the factors behind the company’s recent success and what the phrase ‘platform pioneer’ means. Available now on your favourite podcast platform.

The interview, as ever, was co-hosted with Russell Goldsmith of the csuite podcast.


Russell Goldsmith: [00:00:00] Thanks for downloading show 117 of the csuite podcast, the ninth in our special series of episodes that we’re recording in partnership with the European PR Agency Tyto and its own ‘Without Borders’ podcast. We are interviewing leaders of unicorn companies to find out about the key issues, pain points and challenges that start-ups face and how they can address them with a strategic approach to marketing and communications.

My name is Russell Goldsmith and once again I’m hosting this unicorn interview with Tyto’s founder, Brendon Craigie. And joining us both online is Adrien Nussenbaum, co-founder and CEO of Mirakl, a global leader in online marketplaces that just recently announced its unicorn status.

Welcome to the show, Adrien. I thought it’d be good if you can maybe start by providing us with a quick overview of Mirakl and just explain what you’re doing differently to other e-commerce platforms and businesses.

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:00:50] First of all, thank you for having me on the show.

Russell Goldsmith: It’s a pleasure.

Adrien Nussenbaum: And looking forward to the conversation. Explaining what Mirakl does is always a challenge because what we do is new and it’s always hard to figure out. And I guess from your end as PR people, how do you explain something new, especially in a B2B context, in software? So, in a very simple way, Mirakl provides the expertise, the technology and the partner ecosystem that allows businesses, B2B or B2C businesses, retailers, manufacturers, distributors to launch and run an online marketplace. And that’s really what we do in a very simple way. When we get to your question about what is different, what we do differently, it’s fundamentally the business, the business model that we power that is different. If you think of commerce, for decades, commerce has been a very simple business model where a company manufactures or buys products and then sells them and they make money by the price. The difference between the price people buy and how much it costs to procure those goods or make those goods.

As digital has emerged over the last 20 years, we’ve seen the world has seen the emergence of a new business model which people call marketplaces platforms just to kind of put some names. Some of the pioneers were eBay. And today we all know about Amazon, Alibaba, Uber, Airbnb and Farfetch and many, many other platforms in all geographies. And so, what those businesses do fundamentally different is that they make money not by making or buying products, but by connecting sellers and buyers of goods who then sellers will ship the products. And those companies, Uber, Airbnb, Alibaba, they will take a commission on those sales. And that’s really how they’ve been growing. And those companies are now accounting for over 50 percent of online sales in the world. So Mirakl, if you want to see it in a very simple way, is providing the leading technology that allows any business around the world to create their own version of Alibaba, Uber, Amazon that fits their specific business line industry customer needs. So, in a way, we are pioneering or helping people pioneer really a profound transformation in their business model.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:03:21] I mentioned in the intro just there that you’ve only just become a unicorn. So that was following this announcement that you’ve raised a three hundred million dollar funding round. And so that’s valued you now or valued the business at 1.5 billion dollars. Has that changed the perception of the company in any way?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:03:39] Yeah, it’s good that you corrected, it has not valued me because if my mom was on the podcast, she would probably say that I’m worth much more than a billion. And probably, you know, I’ve no value. But anyways, being more serious. Obviously, it’s funny. I was just on the call with my co-founder, and he was telling us that since we announced the raise, our ability and velocity in recruiting talents, which is the core of what makes up the value of a company specifically in our labs department, which, as you all know, it’s a highly competitive market. He was saying that our capacity and velocity had increased by almost 10x in the last couple of months? I think definitely it has put Mirakl more on the radar. And, you know, as PR folks, it’s hard to put a B2B company on the radar when you don’t sell phones, or you don’t sell magic instruments or cars and stuff like electric cars. You know, when you sell software that enables a new business. So, it has put us more on the radar. And I guess it also is it the combination of what lies ahead? You know, IPO, global leadership role, potential acceleration of the increase of value? Is that it reduces the perception of risk? Which, from our end is kind of strange coming, thinking of where we were nine years ago when we started, like we felt de-risked the business quite a bit already. But, yeah, definitely it has created a lot of visibility and it has put Mirakl on the map, which is good, and which is something we’ve not always been the best at in the past.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:05:25] I might let Brendon come back on PRing, B2B companies and how difficult or maybe easy that could be. But just on this whole growth plan, what’s the plan to continue this? I guess you could call this hypergrowth.

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:05:37] The market we we’re addressing is a very nascent market because we are powering, as I was explaining in my long winded introduction, we’re powering what we believe to be a profound and long term shift in business models. We fundamentally believe that all the traditional players in the industries that we know more or less retail, distribution, manufacturing, they are at a crossroad because of all of the increase in digitisation of their customer journeys. And we believe that part of the evolutions and changes they will have to make, involve adapting their business model to a new business model that allows more scale, more faster growth, better ability to bring your ecosystem together. And this business model is fundamentally what marketplace is power. We are just at the beginning of our journey. You know, if I can share some insider information from our fundraising, roughly, Mirakl has today 250 plus clients from very large enterprises, Carrefour, Siemens, Toyota, Airbus to upcoming digital native brands. So, we really support broad band of customers. In our plan, our ambition by 2025, so five years from now, is to increase that number of customers by five. We are in a market where we believe there is probably 30, 40 thousand companies that have the size, the brand, the ambitions, the ecosystem of partners that would allow them to create those marketplace and run them and be at the centre of them. So, clearly we are at the beginning of the journey and to achieve our ambitions, number one, it’s people since the beginning of the company, it’s always been the same. You need to hire great people and you need to retain great people and you need to grow great people. And whether it’s in our labs team, it’s our sales team, in our customer success team. So, it’s first and foremost people investing in our products and also as a company starting to look around us. If there is an opportunity for miracle to be a consolidator of other companies and technologies that play well in our in our ecosystem.

Brendon Craigie: [00:07:59] It’s really exciting, Adrien. And as Russell says, for my sins, I spent my whole career focused on the B2B communication side of things. So, it’s the area that I find most exciting. And the things that are not obvious and need a bit of clever thought present quite an interesting challenge. But what do you think has been one of the biggest factors in your success so far?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:08:21] It may sound a bit immodest, but I think the first thing has been a great vision and it’s easy for me to say that because it entirely falls under my business partner, Phillip. So, and by that, it’s not that, ‘Oh, he’s a genius. He had a vision’. It’s the way we’ve stayed true to our vision. And frankly, it was difficult because when you start a company and you spend your days telling people, ‘hey, this is the old world, but there is a new world coming and you need to adapt, you need to change’. And people are looking at you like ‘huh?’ or they’re seeing you as the devil who wants to disrupt the entire business. Staying true to this vision and knowing that this will come through at some point is really what has driven the culture of the company. If you ask people at Mirakl, they all believe that they are working at a company that is pioneering something new, that is disrupting industries and businesses that are helping companies evolve and grow and survive. And you have that spirit and it’s a real cement to the company culture. And, you know, speaking of culture, the second thing, great vision, great, great people. That also has been hard. It’s a very competitive market, our rate in recruiting of people we interview is three percent. So, it’s it makes it hard to scale at the pace you want. When I moved to the US to start a US business, we were nothing. Nobody cared about us in the US. Making sure that I was able to cement a team in Boston, where I was based, that was a prior ‘work from home everywhere’ type of world, it makes it even more difficult to hire great people. So there is really that this notion of, I think the vision, the people and the product and one thing which is really recognised by our clients, it’s Mirakl has built a product which encompasses a long experience of the founders in marketplaces and there’s a real knowhow, its purpose built. So, it’s that triangle that we try to stay true every day.

Brendon Craigie: [00:10:34] I think it’s interesting. I can totally imagine that you mentioned that you’re getting kind of a 10x uplift in people contacting you, potential candidates and things. But at the beginning, you haven’t got that kind of 300 million dollar raise. So, the vision is kind of essential, really, isn’t it, to get people to buy into what you’re trying to accomplish?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:10:54] Yeah, absolutely. And it’s been interesting to see how, you know, we’ve had people come and go like every other business over the years. And we see that our most successful people are also the ones who have weathered storms but stayed on and engaged because they saw like the vision was not just a founder exclusive vision. It’s something that’s really shared across the team.

Brendon Craigie: [00:11:20] Yeah, I like that. I like seeing people that have done a bit of distance with a company because I’ve been prepared to work through some of the challenges and things. Just thinking about the disruption that you’re driving you’re opening up new possibilities with your with your platform. But would you say that at the same time you’re seeing the emergence of a new type of customer who maybe doesn’t want to be just selling via Amazon or eBay? Is that kind of like a drive from customers that you’re seeing?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:11:50] Yes, I think if you split our customers in a very simplistic way, you have incumbents, businesses who have been around for decades, centuries sometimes, and you have new digital native businesses. And if you think of how those people go about thinking about their strategy, the incumbents, as we know, they’ve not led the emergence of digital because it was new. And as many incumbents, first you observe, you evaluate, you question. And sometimes, you know, when you wake up, it’s sometimes too late. And Amazon exists because people let it exist. In the beginning, they looked at it and said, this is just a bookstore, hahaha. And we know what happened. Those businesses, those incumbent businesses, they have a choice. They are at a turning point where they’re either going to be consolidated into digital giants, which is, ‘oh, I’m going to use Amazon as a seller, I’m going to sell it on Amazon’. When you see department stores, for example, who are announcing that they’re opening a store on Amazon, the world is upside down. The Amazon of the physical world now depends on Amazon’s business to exist. So in a digital world which accelerates this kind of consolidation because it’s all about anything, any time, anywhere for the customers, you have businesses who are going to refuse to change and they are going to be consolidated or die. And you have businesses who are going to react. And that’s what our clients do. And they are going to say, ‘you know what? I also can be the consolidator of my industry, my vertical, my ecosystem’. And this is what we refer to as ‘platform pioneers’. The businesses which are non-incumbent but are digital natives, for them, it’s a completely different paradigm. They start a business today in commerce and distribution, and they have to ask themselves a simple question. ‘Do I embrace the business model of the past or do I embrace the business model of today in the future, Amazon, Alibaba, Airbnb, Uber in some way, shape or form’. And most businesses today digital, they choose obviously the latter because they believe that’s where there’s more growth. And the idea is not just to copy existing businesses, but to find and bring. So that’s why, for example, we work with companies, digital natives, who are establishing marketplaces in highly curated, ethically sourced fashion. It’s not just a one stop shop where you find every clothes around. So, they are creating they are using the marketplace model, but they are bringing a differentiation. And that’s really what’s interesting into what we’re doing and have the opportunity to serve today.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:14:49] Just picking up on something you just said about when Amazon started and people saying, ‘oh, they’re only a book store’. I mean, I don’t know whether or not you can comment on this, but do you think there was always a vision to go beyond that or it just grew organically. I was just thinking how other start-ups grow and suddenly you find actually what we do has far more opportunities than actually we set out.

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:15:11] Yeah. So, I’m not in a position to say whether Jeff Bezos, the day he started Amazon, had this idea already that Amazon would add a marketplace very quickly and become what it is. I can tell from his communications that it came very quickly. And what drove it was, as Amazon was trying to grow online, they were investing massively in building a brand, in bidding traffic on their website and investing in their e-commerce infrastructure. And so, they were building a database of customers. And they realised very quickly that those customers were interested in buying more products and that there was two way they could get those products into the hands of the customer. There was the capital-intensive way, try to buy it and source and stock the products. And there was the capital, not intensive way, which was to launch a marketplace. And that’s you know, that’s why very quickly in their journey, they launched the first version of the marketplace and they stumbled upon a few iterations. But there was always this idea, which is something we try to preach to our clients today as a traditional business. You think of making money by monetising the assets that you create or you buy and which means, you know, you buy furniture and you resell the furniture, you’re monetising assets. What Amazon did early is say, not only are we going to monetise the assets, but there are other assets that we are creating, like having people who come to your website. It’s an asset. And how could we mutualise that asset in order to create new areas of monetisation? And this is exactly the concept of becoming a platform business. It’s thinking that there is value to generate by giving access to the assets that you’ve created and giving and monetising this access. So, if you’re a manufacturer of industrial machinery and you have a lot of customers who come to you to buy their machinery, but then there’s an ecosystem of millions of parts and tens of thousands of parts providers. If you’re able to bring those parts providers on your website and connect them with your customers, better, faster, you’re mutualising your assets, and you’re creating value for the customers, for your distributors and for yourself and that triangular value creation framework is fundamental of the shift in business models that we’re seeing with those marketplaces and platforms.

Brendon Craigie: [00:17:47] Really exciting. Could you maybe just elaborate a little bit more on what you mean by being a ‘platform pioneer’? You use it quite a lot in your communications. Is it about describing what you’re doing or is it about describing the customers that are working with you? Are they the platform pioneers?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:18:04] The duality of the answer is a little bit in your question. But the initial goal was to find a way to recognise the courage of our customers and to emphasise on how proud they should be of the initiatives they’re taking, the risks they’re taking. And so, we like that kind of pioneer spirit. For example, Salesforce uses the trailblazers as a reference to their customers. And, yes, there is a marketing element always in the culture that just don’t call a customer a customer.  In retail you call them my valued guests. But we wanted to really create a kind of a club that would really recognise the merit of people that we work with. Because what you don’t know is that very often, they need to create internal alignment within their organisations. They need to be agents of a vision. They need to fight sometimes internally. They need to put their job sometimes on the line. And when you think of it, if the project doesn’t work, they’ll get into trouble. If the project works, it’s not like they will be promoted to CEO overnight. But so really, there is courage in recognising people who believe that their life, where you spend 75 percent of it working can be a better life if you’re actually doing stuff which is innovative, which is transformative, which is new. So, calling them pioneers and pioneers of the platform economy was kind of the way we decided to anchor our communication the way we recognise them, the summits we organise and stuff like that.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:19:47] Let’s go into a bit more detail then about Mirakl Connect. So that’s your platform. It’s described as bringing together sellers, partners and marketplace operators. Do you want to just tell us a little bit more about. How it works and where you see it heading next

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:20:01] Mirakl Connect is really in a way reflective of this, you know, this expression which says you put your money where your mouth is, something like that. As a business, we explain every day that you have an opportunity with digital to consolidate your ecosystem and to be at the centre of an ecosystem because the assets that you provide to that ecosystem are central. They are the biggest common denominator. So, if you think of Mirakl at this point of our journey, it’s 250 plus live marketplaces around the world. It’s 40,000 sellers connected and selling on to one or many of those marketplaces. It’s also dozens of technology partners who are providing technologies and services that support the sellers or the operators of those marketplaces. So, with Mirakl Connect, we realise that the biggest common denominator amongst all those people is Mirakl. It’s that technology we have built, which is that if you think the anchor onto which connects all those parties and we could bring value to all of them by creating really an online platform where they also can connect together easier. So, if you’re a seller today and you want to sell on 10 Mirakl marketplaces, you basically need to connect individually with those 10 marketplaces. With Miracle Connect, you are now able to create one connection and automatically connect with all of them. And it’s a circular type of economy and platform. So that’s really the goal behind Mirakl Connect.

Brendon Craigie: [00:21:40] So you touched on earlier Adrien about the fact that you’re kind of working with companies of different sizes, and we know that you’re working with Best Buy Canada and Kroger, but then at the same time, you’re doing a lot of work with digital natives like Coravin and Motherly. It sounds like there’s equal possibilities for those different sized organisations. Do you see that you’re having a bit of a democratising effect on the e-commerce space in that respect?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:22:06] Yeah, I think that once again, to what I was saying earlier, the common denominator between those four businesses is that they have created assets and they believe that they can aggregate a broader ecosystem around those assets. So, if you think of Best Buy Canada, what is their asset? Great brand, great stores, years of serving customers in the electronics space. It’s a product universe where Best Buy may have a hundred thousand products, but they could be selling five million products. Kroger great grocer, same thing. They were selling fresh grocery. But people also want a lot of other products motherly. They’ve created a great content destination for pregnant women and post pregnancy women. There’s an ecosystem so Coravin, unique technology to pour wine without opening, removing the cork. Same thing every time you have the ingredients of assets, focus, ability to aggregate an ecosystem around you to provide more to the customers. And it goes back to that same point. You know, do you want to be consolidated, which is Coravin selling on Amazon, or do you want to be also a consolidator, which is Coravin saying, ‘you know what, I can aggregate to a community of other products for wine aficionados who don’t want to go and buy their stuff on Amazon necessarily’.

Brendon Craigie: [00:23:25] Presumably on that, in respect to that last point you just made, people can be both, right?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:23:30] Absolutely. I mean, to the extent that Amazon, as we’ve seen in the past, has, I would say, a business model that results sometimes in negative experiences for its partners, which can be in two forms. One of them is I call it, being Amazon ‘basicsified’, which basically means you sell great products, Amazon sees, they’re great. And they have them made under their own label and they list them first. And you’re a bit behind. And the other thing is, as a seller on Amazon, you’re exposed to the ability that Amazon may have to cut you off, de-rank you, so our customers are establishing their marketplace in a stronger spirit of partnership with their partners.

Brendon Craigie: [00:24:29] That’s great. And how important do you see the focus on B2B e-commerce is being for Mirakl’s long term future?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:24:38] It is today 40 percent of our business and will be by 2025, 75 percent of our business. It’s a much broader and deeper market because B2B is a very generic word that spans from wholesale distribution of pipes and toilet equipment to health care products all the way to manufacturers of planes and reactives, or it’s an endless world B2B.

Brendon Craigie: [00:25:08] Exciting. And could you talk a little bit about the culture that you’ve built? I understand that you’ve kind of the typical Silicon Valley culture You’re obviously got a lot of roots in in France. How’s has that ended up in terms of how you would define your culture?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:25:26] I think our culture is anchored around a set of values. If I oversimplify them would be this idea that we’re a disruptor. We’re like we created our market and many tech companies, they always say we create our category. But fundamentally, when you ask them what is their benefit, they’ll say, we’re helping do something faster or better compared to what exists. Mirakl we didn’t come and say, hey, you’re using this software and you can do it in 10 minutes with us. You’ll do it in five minutes. Or there’s not this notion of, so it’s really a centre piece of our culture, which is you have a notion, how do you make it happen? You need to be experts because you need to be trusted by the people you are going to sell to. You need to be very team oriented. And once again, everyone says, yeah, we’re a big team, we’re a family. We’re this, but in our case, if you try to run solo, you will very hardly succeed in convincing people to embrace the vision that you’re selling them. So there is this notion of expertise there is this notion of team and there is this notion of hard work. And I think work harder is a bit taboo in some tech cultures. And I guess, you know, we don’t have nap rooms we don’t have open snack bars everywhere. We don’t have onsite laundry. But at the same time, we don’t expect you to live in the office because we feed you, we wash you and we entertain you. We also expect you to have a life. And I think that in France, we often say that we work to live and we don’t live to work. And I think that seeing how it’s the number one destination for tourists and every year there has to be some truth in that. And it’s not just wine and cheese. And so I think one of the interesting challenge, having built a company that was born in France and now has 50 percent of his business on the other side of the of the ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, is trying to blend the best of both worlds. And it’s difficult communication, values. For example, during Covid we have if you ask people in France, 95 percent of them, they say they want to go to the office. If you ask people in the US, twenty two percent of them said they want to be in the office doesn’t mean that people want to work or not work, you know, and one would argue, oh, yeah, they want to be in the office to smoke cigarettes and have coffee with their friends. Others would say, oh, they want to work from home to be in their PJs and walk the dog. I’m joking, but overcoming those cultural biases is also a very important challenge when you’re trying to grow a company into a global company and when you’re trying to establish a software leader in a world where traditionally, if you want to be a software leader, you need to be a US company, in some ways, it’s also an exciting journey.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:28:35] What was it like for you personally moving from France to Boston?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:28:39] It was not completely new because I first of all, I had started my first business in New York in 2000. So, I there was not a cultural shock. My wife has dual citizenship. My kids have dual citizenship. But it was a very big challenge because first of all, there was the you can’t fuck up pressure, which it was big because you are kind of that pioneer yourself who, you know, it’s like, yeah, I’m going to go and seek gold. And you want to end up drunk in a in a bar like some of the cowboys in the Wild West. So there was that pressure. There was the how long is it going to take? Is it going to  work? You land, you need to hire people. I’ve made tons of hiring mistakes. I’ve had tons of people join and resign three months later, like the time it took to cement a core team, which is still there today, four years in, probably twelve months. The time it took to get to a level of business traction where you’re like, ‘I don’t know if I’ll be Microsoft, but I’m going to make it some way somewhere’. It probably took 18 to almost 24 months. And so that was kind of the hard part, which was everyone’s looking at you, you’ve raised money to do that and understanding the local codes, most of the French entrepreneurs. It’s funny, when they come, they give me a call sometimes and they say, yeah, can you share your experience? I say, OK, so there’s a few things you’re going to go through. First, you’re going to be told you need to invest more in communications and PR and you’re going to say, well, this is complete bullshit. I’m French. I know what I need to do. They know you’ve got to play and respect the rules. I’m going to say, oh, you’re going to complain about salaries. You’re going to say, “I don’t understand this person. She’s making much more money than the same person in France. And she leaves the office at five p.m. in France. The people are still in the office”. Like my French accent, I hope! But so all those questions they always come, you know and so, you know, you get to a point where you say, how can I play the game but bring my little something to the game? And that’s really what we try to do.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:31:03] Just coming back to the culture thing, but also you talking about the whole covid situation at the moment. It’ll just be interesting to know how you’ve managed to, obviously working with teams remotely and now globally as well, how you’ve managed to keep that same culture. Because, just for example, just speaking to a couple of the guys in your team while we were prepping for this interview, they said they’d been working from home since March. They haven’t been into the office. So how are you managed to keep that culture as how you’ve wanted to grow it over time?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:31:32] So, first of all, my answer will be a transitory answer because we’re still in it and we’re still evaluating the potential positive or negative impact of this work from somewhere else phenomenon. To give you an idea, recently I asked our H.R. director, what was the percentage of non Boston based people we hired before Covid and post Covid? And before Covid it was 10 percent. Post Covid it’s 52 percent. Obviously, hiring people in Boston was a core driver of our hiring strategy, and it was something that was a constraint on our hiring. I don’t know yet what the impact will be of having so many people not in the office, so many people new, so many people who have never met each other in real life. So many people who have not walk the cafeteria, having random, spontaneous conversations with fellow co-workers. I don’t know what the impact will be. I miss seeing people personally. I miss the open debate. And my instinct is we would have been better without that. I think that obviously people have been great. They fully embrace the situation. Two days ago, I was speaking to one of our team members and I was telling her, if you don’t go out now for half an hour walk, I will fire you. Obviously I was not going to fire her because I really like her and she’s great. But I was like, youv’e got to breathe. You’ve got to go out. You got to pace your time. You got to so, you know, we’ve tried we mean we’re doing we started, we had stand ups every day after 40, 60 days we said, OK, now let’s go three times a week. Then we move to two times a week. They became very kind of casual. Now we’re trying to make them more, I would say, development oriented. We have town halls and that’s really personal, I really look forward to a world where people are back in the office. Maybe, with probably a different approach to flexibility, which is clearly not the forte of French people when it comes to office presence. But I think it will be better ultimately.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:34:15] What about from a business perspective, though, in terms of Covid? I know it’s a difficult one to assess. But if there’s more drive towards online purchasing because we can’t at the moment physically shop, certainly here in the UK at the moment, it’s essentials only from physical shops. Has that helped in your success this year? Obviously it’s been such a difficult and unpredictable year, but has that made an impact or is that an irrelevant issue?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:34:44] I think there’s different ways to look at it. First of all, our customers have been able to better adjust to covid thanks to their marketplace. We had customers who literally had stores shut down. Even their economic operations were not functioning, and the only thing they could sell were products on their marketplace. So literally they stayed afloat thanks to the marketplace. We had a lot of clients who shifted their merchandizing and assortment strategy overnight by leveraging their marketplace. So that was good for our clients and obviously their employees and their customers. The trend towards Marketplace did not wait for Covid. If you look at the last five years, marketplaces have gone from twenty five to over 50 percent of online transactions. So, there is a trend. Clearly, this trend has accelerated in the last few months. And from a miracle standpoint, we have seen more and more businesses move up market place in the priority chain. When I started, this company, marketplace was never in their priority chain. Then it became top 10. But ultimately, only the top three get really done. And now we’ve seen that we are really progressing up to be top one top two, which is good for our clients. So, I’m going to quote my favourite British person, which I have his memoirs here, Sir Winston [Chruchill]. He has this something like in every great crisis lies a great opportunity, which he kind of shares with Einstein, which is kind of good. Yeah. Covid is a, is definitely a great crisis that that will push businesses to accelerate their needed transformations.

Brendon Craigie: [00:36:44] Changing tack slightly. Obviously, a big focus of these this podcast series is talking about communications. And one of inspirations behind the series is to pass on lessons to other CEOs and leaders around issues around communications. And we wondering whether you might be able to share what your biggest communications challenge has been along your journey and career?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:37:09] The one biggest. No, I think when I when I came to the US, I hired this guy and was not a great hire. But he always said, you know, Adrien, fake it till you can make it. And when it comes to communication, I think that my biggest challenge and opportunity has been to understand what that expression meant for me and how should I resonate with it from a from an investment, from a messaging and from a culture standpoint, which are all the things that are reflected in communications. So how much do you amplify your message? ‘We are the biggest transformative, greatest innovation of all time since fire in the Stone Age’ or the French version, ‘We are a SAS technology built in Java that allows us to create online marketplaces for third parties sellers’ like where do you where do you go on that kind of spectrum? And so really, it’s ongoing. And I’m lucky to have also great people in our team, but it’s always trying to understand where should we position ourself in that? How can we at the same time be a no bullshit company, but don’t be a boring company? Yeah, and I think especially in B2B, as we were saying, you know, like even when you raise three hundred million and you become a unicorn, a lot of the press, they say, yeah, but we don’t like to talk about funding. We talk about products that impact people. So, you say, yeah, but, you know, indirectly as a company, we’re really impacting people as consumers and people who keep their jobs. And that’s already three levels down. So there is this ongoing questioning of like how do you build a brand in B2B in communication There is this theme around category creation which has given rise to, I would say, a whole religion of practitioners. And it’s still for us, it’s still a work in progress, to be very frank. But I always refer to that kind of, you know, am I faking it in an honest way or am I on the verge of being dishonest in the way I am? That’s what we personally we don’t want to grow. And sometimes we see companies and competitors go across the border and we’re like, this is so unfair. This is full of shit. This is sorry for the cursing on your podcast, but and it’s you know, it really brings up questions like. How can people go out and say big lies and still, you know, get away with it.

Brendon Craigie: [00:40:06] And it’s a very fine line. Yeah, like where you cross that line from being just telling a good story to telling something which is complete fiction.

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:40:16] Yeah,

Russell Goldsmith: [00:40:17] I heard a great question actually. I wish I could credit it to someone where I got it from, but I can’t. But I’m going to use it anyway. Just picking up on again what you’re saying. It was in an interview someone was saying if your company didn’t exist tomorrow, would you be missed? I’m just intrigued to hear what you were saying there. What what’s your answer to that one? It’s a tough one isn’t it

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:40:39] I think  the big picture answer should honestly be no. That’s the French answer! But I think if you ask our clients and you go back to being more closer to the ground, they will tell you, if it weren’t for Mirakl, we wouldn’t have life so fast. We wouldn’t have such a reliable, scalable platform. We wouldn’t benefit from so much expertise we wouldn’t have run our business by 20, 30, 40 percent highly profitably. And they would have looked for other ways. But I think in a way, the market we serve exists. So once a market exists it needs people to be at the forefront of serving that market. And that is what Mirakl is. During Covid, the French government reached out to us in the early weeks of March because like in many other countries, there was a complete shortage of PPE products of masks shields, gowns everything for like a central business and health care workers. And we’re a well identified company in France. The minister actually called my business partner and said, ‘Hey, Philip, can you do something about this situation?’ And Phillip said, ‘yes, we can stand up a marketplace and that will connect suppliers of PPE products with demand for PPE products’. And so in 48 hours, we launched a platform called Stop covid-19 where we were able to onboard initially dozens, then hundreds of suppliers from all over the world, from China to France to South America of masks, gells and it’s millions today. It’s over one hundred and fifty million products that have been sold on this platform, which we’ve operated for free. And so, you know, going back to your question, what would the world be without your platform? I can say that without the stop covid-19 platform, a lot of people would have probably been in very dire conditions. So it’s our modest contribution to our society and communities.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:42:57] That is a very good answer to a curveball question that I threw at you I’m very impressed with that one. But that’s a brilliant story as well. Very, very good. Very impressed.

Brendon Craigie: [00:43:05] It’s a great story. And just sticking with going back to the theme of communication. So you outlined your Achilles heel of the thing that you’re grappling with all the time in terms of the fake it till you make it point that you made, as you’ve been grappling with that. What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you on communications?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:43:24] I don’t know if it’s one person who gave me a piece of advice or if it’s my interpretation. But I think that the key to successful communication beyond being creative, obviously, if you do bad communication, you do bad communication. But I think the key is to consider it as a program and not just as a project, as a one time project. And I think if you if you approach it like that, it helps a lot solve all the short-term dilemmas that you will have around ROI. Well, if I spend X on PR compared to X on Google Adwords, how do I compare the return on investment? And then, you know what I’m saying about considering it as a program, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to say, oh, yes, it’s a program. So, it’s in three years, four years because but it’s really as something that needs to be deeply integrated in everything you do. So, for example, we used to have a very siloed approach to what we did in marketing in general. We would do a customer event. We would write a piece of content. We would attend a partner event. We would record a video with the customer and those things we would realised that, ‘Oh, what if we had actually treated them as a as a holistic thing? How much could we have amplified the message and how could that kind of be phased in our in our communication plan?’ And so this is really what we are working towards more and more is to really approach things as like now, for example, we say no more communication without a client and a partner involved. That’s it. Like if I see one thing where we go solo, I’m like, why? You got to explain why we went solo once again as a B2B company. It’s like, OK, once we’ve raised money and announced a round and done the PR around the round, we’ve got to come up with other things. And so what are the other things in B2B? It’s customer launch, customer success. If you involve more the customer, more the partner, the customers of your customers in those stories, suddenly your communication can be much more structured, have a broader reach and be more long lasting. So that’s kind of my learning.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:45:48] Adrien, we’ve probably kept you about 10 or 15 minutes longer than we promised we would. We’ve got one final question for you. It’s actually something we’ve asked all our guests during this Unicorn series. If you were to go back in time and speak to your old self, what guidance would you give to yourself about communications and what steps would you encourage yourself to take in order for you and, of course, your business to excel in communications?

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:46:12] That’s a difficult question. But I think there’s and that’s where, you know, not prepping for the question becomes a burden! But no, but more seriously, I think and it’s going to be specific to us. But there’s two things. And one, I’ve kind of talked, which is what I just said, which I could sum up as like. Always prefer surround to one directional on a sound when it comes to communications. Always think about how can it be surround sound. And the second thing is when you localise and, I would say, OK, localisation does not equal translation if you want a formula.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:46:58] I would agree on that one. Adrien Nussenbaum, thank you so much for joining us online today.

Brendon Craigie: [00:47:02] Thanks, Adrien. Best of luck with everything.

Adrien Nussenbaum: [00:47:04] No thanks to you and it was a pleasure. Russ and Brendon, thank you. Enjoyed the chat.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:47:12] So, Brendan, what did you think to that conversation with Adrien?

Brendon Craigie: [00:47:15] I really loved that. I think it’s always very interesting talking to people that have lived and operated in different countries and cultures. And you probably could say that there’s not many places that are more different than, say, France and the US. I thought the point he made about the importance of a vision and how valuable and critical that was at the start of their journey in terms of getting people on board was a point that really resonated with me. I thought the point he made towards the end about communicating in surround sound rather than in single channels, I think is this is another really key point, which means that you get much more value out of everything that you do from a communication standpoint. And then I thought is very insightful point he made about where do you find the balance on that line when you know the fake it till you make it. Not everyone feels comfortable going out there and stepping beyond that line where it’s something that they’re making things up so again a really point well made. And so I think people are going to really enjoy this episode.

Russell Goldsmith: [00:48:20] That’s great. Well, that actually wraps up this episode. So, of course, if you want to find out more about Mirakl, their website is simply Mirakl.com. But with the spelling M I R A K L.com We’d love to hear your comments on today’s chat. You can share them on our Facebook page on our LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter feeds. They’re all linked from the top of the website at csuitepodcast.com where you’ll also find all our previous shows and supporting show notes plus links to where you can subscribe for automatic downloads of each episode via the likes of Spotify and Apple. If you like what you heard, then please do give us a positive rating and review. You can also subscribe to the Without Borders podcast from our partners at Tyto, And all the details for that are on their website. Just head to Tytopr.com and click on the podcast link in the top Navbar. If you are a unicorn leader yourself and you’d want to be part of this series, then please do get in touch via the contact form on the website at csuitepodcast.com, plus, of course, anyone can get in touch with us too, with any feedback you may have. And finally, if you want to reach out to me, you can do that via Twitter using @russgoldsmith or you can find me on LinkedIn. But for now, thanks for listening and goodbye.

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