At Tech City News, we’re always keen to shine a light on those who make up the UK’s thriving technology community.
This week, we spoke with Rachel Delacour, the founder of BIME Analytics, which was bought by NYSE-listed Zendesk, in October 2015.
She shares her views on what it’s like to found a company with a spouse as well tips on how to take a business global.
Q: Where did the idea for BIME come from?
I’ve been using business intelligence systems for years. Time and time again I’d become frustrated with how complicated, expensive and unintuitive they were.
At one point in my career, when I was a finance controller, I came to the realization that business intelligence was just too hard: too hard to use, too hard to manage, too hard to buy and too hard to get right.
Both myself and Nicolas (my co-founder and husband) were frustrated with the options in our respective industries and wanted to make changes. We wanted to disrupt the industry, so we created BIME: Business Intelligence Made Easy.
Q: What’s your background? What were you doing before?
I started my career at FM Logistics in Moscow where I audited logistics hubs. After returning to France, I worked as a controller for Carrefour, one of the world’s largest retailers. I then set up the controlling department in BataFrance, a Czech shoe manufacturer with a global presence, establishing business processes for the buying department and implementing business intelligence solutions from scratch.
Throughout my career, I’ve always been intrigued by analysing data and creating beautifully simple visualizations that drive business insight.
Before any of this, I completed a Master’s degree in Finance from the Euromed Business School in Marseille.
Q: You co-founded the company – how come you didn’t just go it alone? What are the best and worst things about having a co-founder?
When your co-founder is your husband, things can get interesting.
For me, being married to my co-founder worked out well since we both believed in the same opportunity: to create a tool to make business intelligence easy. Together, we were a great pair. Between us we had a combination of two critical skills for our line of work: user experience and an engineering background.
Keeping your work life and home life separate becomes impossible when you spend so much time together. When your business partner is also your life partner, you forgo your weekends and time off. Your life becomes your business and the two intertwine.
As for why I didn’t go at it alone, it sounds obvious, but starting a business is really hard. Having someone there every step of the way is an incredible advantage. Your business partner is always there to help you bounce ideas off of, discuss decisions with and get things done. If you ask me, three founders is the magic number when starting a company.
Q: What has been the most challenging part about setting up your company?
At previous jobs, the more traditional IT guys were laughing at the concept of cloud business intelligence. But the more they did, the more I knew I was on the right track.
In terms of setting up BIME, the whole process was tough. Working hard in a small room to create the first prototype, you feel quite isolated with little to no real social life. We created a prototype as soon as we could to test it live and get feedback – there’s no substitute for a great product. You have to work hard to deliver and execute. It’s important to put the product first and stay focused along the way.
Q: Have you had any mentors along the way, if so, what have they helped with?
Building your network of advisers is key. The best thing to do is create a team of advisors with different skills (finance, SaaS business development, etc). What helped us more than anything else is the experience our board members had in building a business across borders and their strong sales experience. They challenged the hell out of us to think about our market fit and about our sales organization. It forced us to focus on our unique value proposition in the market.
Q: What does it take to make your business go global?
Your customers. Since starting out, we have seen natural emerging markets. SaaS business and cloud technologies give you a global opportunity to showcase your product. In a product-first world, you can make a difference right away on a global scale, which is very exciting.
We adapted our sales & support teams: from day one 50% of our team has been international, based in Montpellier. There’s also the challenge of time zones, meaning you need to expand physically to bring a better service to your customers. The US was our priority; we had significant traction over there so we decided to set a remote team. It’s about finding the right people and having good communication.
As the business grows, you learn that management is a skill that develops over time. Being a good manager is not just about leading your team, it also requires you to listen and empathize. Listening is about making sure people’s thoughts and ideas are heard, creating an open and collaborative environment where sharing ideas is encouraged.
In some ways, the customer relationship is just like any employee relationship. You have to consistently put in time and effort to create and maintain those healthy relationships with your team to build trust and loyalty. The moment you take anything for granted and stop investing in the relationship is the moment you start messing things up.