startups And Financing
Three Dutch entrepreneurs, Camiel van Dooren, Vincent Hulshoff, and Dimitar Maslarov, founded Productpine in 2019 as an online marketplace that allows companies to expand their direct-to-consumer channels by opening their own stores.
What differentiates Productpine in the eCommerce industry is its advertising technology: it's the first DTC marketplace focused on cutting businesses' client acquisition costs, enabling collaborative advertising expenses, and non-competitive cross-selling. In other words, their clients increase customer reach while lowering expenses.
Today, we discuss Productpine's origins, how it is revolutionizing eCommerce, and its future plans with Camiel van Dooren.
Hello Camiel You're currently the CEO and founder of Productpine. I'm interested in your background. What circumstances inspired you to start a tech startup and why did you choose a DTC marketplace?
After completing a double major in law and Financial Economics, I didn't want to be a lawyer or a banker and instead decided to join Picnic - a fast-growing online supermarket in its early days. There, I learned a lot about marketing and finding product-market fit there and became passionate about e-commerce. After a year, I moved to Ahrend - a market-leading furniture brand - and helped build their direct-to-consumer channel. There, I saw firsthand how many brands were moving from retail to direct-to-consumer, but struggling with rising advertising costs. With Productpine, we set out to solve this problem in the most efficient way possible, through a direct-to-consumer marketplace.
What problem does Productpine solve and how would you describe the problems it takes away from your customers?
High advertising costs are a serious bottleneck for brands and hinder the growth of their direct-to-consumer channels. For many brands, direct-to-consumer is far too costly, preventing consumers from discovering their products. With the help of experts in the e-commerce industry, we have developed an online shopping platform powered by the latest technology. With our marketplace, we help brands collaborate in a simple and scalable way. They can share advertising costs, so they can maintain control of their brand and offer consumers a seamless shopping experience.
While brands collaborate and save money, they invest their savings in sustainability projects through our platform. In this way, we fully offset the CO2 emissions of every single product we sell on the marketplace. Since consumers don't have to pay extra for this, it helps them cross the threshold to sustainable shopping without having to sacrifice attractive prices. Our long-term goal is to transform shopping, one of the most polluting industries in the world, into one that does good for the world.
What's happening in the industry? What trends are particularly important?
We see two big trends developing. First, brands are increasingly shifting their sales from retail to direct-to-consumer and looking to cut out the middleman. The majority of consumers today also prefer to buy directly from the brand. However, consumer brands rely on advertising to drive traffic to their online stores, which drives up advertising prices on popular platforms like Facebook and Google. Currently, advertising prices (CPM) are increasing by 90% per year. This creates a problem for brands as they aren't able to grow their DTC channel in a cost-efficient way.
Second, brands and consumers are placing more and more emphasis on sustainability. Consumers are changing their consumption behavior and prefer to buy from sustainable brands. As they scrutinize brands, these brands need to act and take responsibility for emissions in their supply chain. In part because new laws require them to publicly report on these emissions.
What geographies are you operating in and how many brands are now using Productpine?
Although the platform has been bilingual from the start (Dutch and English), we currently sell in the Netherlands and Flanders, the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium. We'll probably expand to Germany in 2024 and the UK in 2025.
What's the most important lesson you've learned in starting Productpine? Is it everything you thought it would be?
It's easy to fall into the trap of perfecting your solution too early because you're comparing yourself to the market leaders. Building a shopping platform that has the same shopping features as market leaders like Amazon doesn't necessarily add value to your specific solution. Instead, we concluded that we need to identify the core of our value proposition and focus on those elements. For us, that means offering consumers a way to shop more sustainably without paying extra, and offering brands a way to sell DTC in a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly way. To determine our key unique selling proposition, we got a lot out of working with hypotheses and rapid user testing.
What is the most difficult part of scaling?
Scaling brings new challenges compared to the stage where we found product-market fit. The biggest challenge right now is predicting what problems will arise in 3-9 months and solving them in advance. If some of our problems are to be solved by hiring a new team member, it's important to know that it usually takes at least 2 months to hire a person. The better you can predict the future schedule of our activities, the better you can take action in advance to speed up the process of scaling.
Where do you envision Productpine in three to five years?
In 2027, Productpine is the fastest growing challenger brand in the shopping industry. We'd have established a new norm in the shopping industry that inspires retailers, brands and consumers around the world: Whenever you shop or sell, you should contribute to the greening of the shopping industry. At this point, we'd have successfully established a foothold in Germany, the UK, and the US, and introduced new sustainability-focused platform features to further drive our revenue growth.
What is so unique about Productpine? Why should investors choose you guys?
As a late-stage seed startup, we have proven that our product fits the market and are now scaling to reach the Series A milestone within 12 months. We're backed by renowned VCs from the US, Germany and the Netherlands who have already invested in many unicorns. They'll support us on this journey both strategically and financially. We're also very mission-driven and the change we're being asked to bring about is extremely necessary given the current global climate crisis.
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