The co-founder of Comarket talks about the opportunities and the challenges of the HoReCa Industry.
Florin Maxim is one of the three founders of Comarket, having over 20 years of communication and marketing experience, going through all stages, from production assistant to event manager and marketing manager, and also 13 years of entrepreneurship. The expertise and knowledge gained, recommended him for the largest multinationals in Romania in domains like FMCG, HoReCa, Retail, Pharma, and Automotive.
Having a clear vision and being a technology enthusiast, Florin Maxim is determined to bring a unique experience to the business environment and the HoReCa industry.
SB: What is Comarket? Why the idea of digitalizing the HoReCa sector?
Florin: After 20 years of working in this sector, you begin to learn how things work. We want to change a 30-year-old model, a task nobody dares to approach because it is not an easy one.
Comarket, sits the suppliers and players in the industry at the same digitalized table, aiming to make commercial relations more efficient.
SB: What is the project's current state, and what plans do you have for the future?
Florin: We have been on the job for a month, and we are in the phase where we arrange the goods on the "shelf". We have aligned over 50 suppliers, which means over 5.000 products. We have already managed to upload more than 500 of them. We want to get more than 10.000 products available for businesses in HoReCa within the next three months.
SB: Have any leading industry players contacted you? How is the feedback received from the market?
Florin: We have registrations on the platform from industry players but, for now, we will not allow access until we add at least 70% of the possible products.
The feedback is a positive one. Everyone understands that the era of traditional orders must disappear.
SB: Why come now with a digitalized solution for an industry significantly affected by the COVID-19 crisis?
Florin: The hospitality industry cannot fall lower than this, and it is also an ideal time for those wishing to invest in this sector. A perfect storm is the best time for innovation and fundamental change because now all relevant players are most responsive to improvements and are willing to implement new solutions – it is like you do not change the computer system when the room is full of customers.
Our business model targets having 3.500 players registered on the platform during the first two years of operation, and even in this full lockdown period, the number of active players, suppliers + hotels, exceeds 15.000.
Now, the players are in trial, and only the strong ones will remain, those for whom investment in this industry is not one for the ego, but one for life – they are our target.
SB: What challenges have you encountered during the development of the platform? Do you think there are high risks of failure or, on the contrary, good chances of success?
Florin: Because we focus on a real and conscious market need, and because digitalization is the only chance for HoReCa businesses to survive in an increasingly competitive economy, we are sure that we will be successful. The biggest challenge was to build a platform that could cover a market as complex as the hospitality one. It is a real challenge to generate one-to-one relationships and integrate with systems already used by the big players.
SB: What is your main challenge now?
Florin: The main challenges are to attract financing, to reach the break-even point, and to think about how to scale the business vertically.
At the same time, we need to offer customer assistance to speed up the process of populating the platform with products.
SB: How do you see your product development from a strategical point of view?
Florin: Strategically, we rely on the relationship that we have with the Hospitality Culture Institute. We want to develop a community around this partnership, for the entrepreneurs that want to make their businesses more efficient and wish to tackle the e-commerce challenge in 2020. This community will be the basis for healthy growth in HoReCa.
SB: How do you think you can convince potential international customers about the benefits of Comarket?
Florin: The need that we identified exists throughout the world. For example, in the USA, they managed to move faster and practically, right now, there are no suppliers that bring your order received via SMS. We know that there, will be no need for much persuasion but we will need market awareness and a strong presence, with high added value for those using the platform. At the same time, we see in Comarket the biggest promoter of Romanian producers abroad, for those wanting to expand to other markets.
SB: What differentiates Comarket from other platforms currently used by HoReCa?
Florin: I believe that the main differentiator is the aggregation of several offers and suppliers into one platform. We are a one-stop-shop for anyone who wants to open a business in hospitality.
Simultaneously, the possibility of targeting players in the HoReCa industry and form customer relationships with each of them is an asset that would be very difficult to overcome by anyone else.
SB: What trends do you feel the software market can bring for HoReCa in the next few years?
Florin: There is a window of opportunity in this regard. I see no other chance besides digitalizing and making internal processes more efficient. And there are more and more people who develop software for this industry.
SB: Thank you, Florin, for your time. To conclude, we invite you to send a message to the investors.
Florin: We started with a small valuation, probably the smallest on SeedBlink so far, because we were not yet operational and because we were addressing a market in crisis. The crisis will lead to a doubling of the sector in 2021.
This is why precisely now is the time to invest in Comarket. In one year, we aim for a valuation of €2.5m, which would mean a return of over 300% for investors.
See the opportunity to invest in Comarket here.
By Bianca Iulia Simion
PublishedMarch 09, 2021
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