Friday, June 18, 2021

Follow your heart and find your very own way

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Sabine Elsässer
Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

akirolabs is an AI driven, enterprise-wide collaboration platform for strategic procurement

Why don’t you briefly introduce yourself and the startup akirolabs to our readers?

Akirolabs is an early stage start-up in the procurement technology space, founded by four first-time founders, all coming from corporate lives. We bring significant procurement expertise to akirolabs. Detlef for example, is one of the most recognized procurement executives globally in the last twenty years. He was recognized with the highly prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by Procurement Leaders. I have been working with Detlef over the last 15 years in various capacities. Most recently, I was a Senior Partner at KPMG and Roland Berger and supporting Detlef in his role as the Chairman of the board of directors of the Vodafone Procurement Company (VPC). Tim and Christoph have been working with me in consulting roles for the last eight respectively four years.  

Why did you decide to start a company?

akiolabs goes back to award-winning digital innovation that the four of us developed together in a consulting project during our respective corporate lives. We immediately realized that there is a massive potential for this solution in the global procurement market. Bogged down in our corporate routines, we aspired and tried to scale the solution from within our corporate roles and failed twice – Not because it was a bad idea, but because of the nature of corporate governance. Whilst corporates clearly have the financial power to develop new products, the decision making process is not always easy and fast enough. Convinced of our idea and business plan, we decided to take the risk and to go all in – without the financial power of a corporate but with the required agility of a startup.  

What is the vision behind akirolabs?

It is our vision to revolutionize how industrial procurement is done – making it a much more strategic function than it is today. We are digitalizing a part of the procurement process, which has never been digitalized before. While operational and tactical procurement, i.e. the order management and tendering & negotiating have been digitalized to a large degree, the strategic decision making process has not been. This is where akirolabs comes in. 

From idea to launch, what have been the biggest challenges so far and how did you finance yourself?

The new setting is a massive challenge it itself. While relieved from corporate governance and bringing in a lot of ingredients for success, we are by no means experienced tech startup entrepreneurs. There is so much for us to learn every day. Therefore, we are very grateful to have a strong network of advisors and partners. In the end, we are very early stage and far too early to claim success. 

In terms of funding, we are bootstrapping. However, we are very fortunate that we have been able to form a Customer Advisory Board (CAB) with eight large corporates from various industries, which help us developing a market relevant solution and help us pre-financing the software development.  

Who is the target group of akirolabs?

The CAB is representative for our target group: companies across all industry sectors and around the globe. As soon as there is a certain degree of complexity in the procurement process, be it multiple sites, business partners spread across the globe or a large supplier base, akirolabs can alleviate a lot of your headaches. 

How does akirolabs work? What are the advantages? What differentiates you from other providers?

akirolabs is an AI driven, enterprise-wide collaboration platform for strategic procurement. We are embedding an industry-proven, world-class toolkit into an intuitive workflow, involving all relevant stakeholders, and enriching the process with all relevant internal and external information. This way we are digitalizing the strategic decision making process and thus fill a white space in the procurement technology landscape. 

akirolabs, where are you headed? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Just as in our previous lives, we are all very ambitious. At the same time, based on our new situation, we all have a lot of respect for the job at hand. If you ask me, I would be delighted, if one of us could engage with StartupValley again in 5 years’ time for another interview about akirolabs. This would imply that we are still around and have a success story to tell. 

In conclusion: What 3 tips would you give to aspiring founders?

  • Follow your heart & find your very own way 
  • Know that there are many unknowns – be respectful and humble 
  • Don’t be shy to ask for help and listen – but choose wisely who you ask 

Thank you Michael Pleuger for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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