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#ConnectHers : Entrepreneur testimonial by Alix de Sagazan
To support entrepreneurial projects led by women, BNP Paribas launched a program called #Connect’Hers in 2017. We met with three of the many women entrepreneurs receiving support to talk about their backgrounds and careers. Among them, Alix de Sagazan, co-founder of AB Tasty, a leading solution in personalized marketing, delivered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
In 2011, you decided to launch your own project. What made you decide to take the plunge?
I first started eight years ago. After I finished business school, I went to work at a web agency doing traffic acquisition (Google Adwords). And pretty soon I found my associate, Rémi Aubert, who was also working at a traffic acquisition agency. I’ve known him since I was a kid—we were camp counselors together! He recruited me at the agency where he was working, we started working together and we came up with so many ideas. We thought traffic acquisition was all well and good, but we wanted to explore the dynamics behind questions like: “How do sites convert?” Today we focus on acquisition, but conversion is a key step in the user experience, too. It was just the two of us at first, and then we recruited a developer, and that’s how we started our own agency for enhancing user experience, so we could advise sites on how to improve and optimize the experience they offer. Shortly after that, we thought it would be even better to develop a tool in addition to consulting. We wanted to help every website do what Amazon does—offer a hyper-personalized and optimized site. That’s how we came up with AB Tasty.
AB Tasty is now a European leader in its field. How did you become a champion in online marketing?
First of all, it’s about being in the right place at the right time. We created our tool at a time when the market was just coming around to the notion of conversion. We offered a tool that is super easy to use and puts marketing teams back in the driver’s seat, even though what we were doing fell more in the ballpark of technical teams, who then had the upper hand when it came to websites.
Marketing teams had trouble taking the lead on their websites. So, all we did was respond to a need and that’s what made us a success. We thought it made sense for marketing teams to be able to change whatever they wanted on the site (images, messages, etc.). That gave us a lot of momentum. We responded to a need and we were lucky enough to be one of the pioneers in that area, which helped us raise a lot of capital in no time. We carried out three fundraising operations for a total of 22 million euros, which enabled us to develop very rapidly. At the same time, we put together a sales team, a consulting team, a technical team, and so on. And we faced a lot of competition, mostly in the American market, so we had to move fast to survive.
That gave us a lot of momentum. We responded to a need and we were lucky enough to be one of the pioneers in that area, which helped us raise a lot of capital in no time.
What stage are you at today?
Now we have 150 people working in Paris, Nantes, London, Madrid, Cologne and New York. We started in Paris, where we carried out our first fundraising operation to develop and structure the French market, and also ran small pilots on the international market. Next, our €5 million fundraising effort allowed us to open offices in Madrid, London and Cologne to give us a presence across Europe. The last operation raised €16 million and helped us finance the American office we opened just a few months ago.
We had to do a lot of prospecting at first, mostly on social media, in order to develop our business. We also attended a lot of fairs visited by our targets (marketing directors). Customer satisfaction is our company’s top priority, so one of the first things we did was assemble a team of consultants to support our customers, especially since it was a brand-new business. So, we created a special division called the CSM (Customer Success Manager) hub. In addition to providing a tool, we support our customers and help them improve their expertise in using the tool and its methodologies by working with our team of consultants. That kicked off a lot of word-of-mouth that brought in many customer referrals.
In concrete terms, what does your tool offer?
It’s a solution for enhancing the user experience. Our customers are websites and we help them personalize the experience and run tests on a continuous basis. We call that CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization), which is all about optimizing the user experience, in the same way that, for example, a salesperson inside a store will alter their approach depending on the type of shopper they are talking to.
As long as there is a target, we can help optimize it. The goal is to let marketing teams work on the messaging and dramatically improve the site’s performance with just a few simple tweaks.
We can run our tool on any site, including retail, banks, travel, e-commerce, insurance or even luxury sites. As long as there is a target, we can help optimize it.
I can mention one specific example of a banking site. A button at the bottom of one page invited customers to “Request a quote”. We decided to change the wording so it said “Enroll online”. That little change increased the number of quotes by 80%. All because the wording implied less commitment. The tool provides a real-time report showing what wording works best. The goal is to let marketing teams work on the messaging and dramatically improve the site’s performance with just a few simple tweaks. We have consultants who are there to help our customers with every aspect of the content improvement methodology.
Since you were working in a new business, was it difficult to recruit your employees?
We try to optimize our recruiting process as much as possible. We recruit based on both skills and values. Our fundamental values are extremely important, especially since our company is growing so fast. We try to recruit people who have the same mentality, open-mindedness and flexibility as we do.
In terms of the backgrounds we look for, it all depends on the team. For example, technical teams will have a lot of engineers, while many of our consultants and sales reps come from business schools. But we also have people from completely different backgrounds, which is very enriching for us.
Do female entrepreneurs face any particular difficulties in IT, and do they have any special advantages to offer start-ups?
My customers are all marketers, so there are just as many women as men. My associate manages the technical side, and it’s true that my team is mostly made up of men. I haven’t noticed any particular hurdles—instead, I see it as an advantage because there aren’t many women working in web marketing today, so we are even more sought after.
I’ve never felt any difference or gap in my experience. I wrapped up our first two fundraising operations while I was eight months pregnant and I didn’t have any problems.
Did the programs offered by BNP Paribas live up to your expectations at that moment in your career?
BNP Paribas supported us from day one. We have a dedicated group where we can talk about the issues we are facing. That leaves us feeling totally supported, and BNP Paribas’ offer meets all our needs. We reach out to our consultant pretty frequently.
They call me to let me know about events. For example, they recently invited me to go to Stanford next summer to take part in the Women Entrepreneur Program. BNP Paribas also allowed me to take part in TOP, a meeting of top executives, which helped me secure a lot of meetings with future customers. It was a huge leg up. I feel very supported and it seems like they know their customers very well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always line up with what I’m doing, but I really feel supported in every aspect, professional and personal.
BNP PARIBAS’ OFFER MEETS ALL OUR NEEDS. I really feel supported in every aspect, professional and personal
What is your biggest challenge today?
My biggest challenge is keeping up with my company’s growth and building our market share as much as possible. As far as the new tool goes, our biggest challenge is innovation. We have more and more customers, so we just have to stay on top in terms of innovation. We plan to stay focused on our core business, because there are still a lot of things we can develop in our specialty.
“ Self-confidence. That’s the starkest contrast between women and men. The best advice I can give them would be to work with the best people, because that’s what helps me the most, every day, and I think it’s essential. ”
co-founder of AB Tasty
Three female heads of companies supported by BNP Paribas present their entrepreneurial experiences. What are the barriers to overcome, the obstacles to avoid and the best tips for success? Discover the other testimonials from Béatrice de Korsakissok, founder of Syntony, and Juliette Soria, head of Silamir.
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