Graduates from SOAS’s International Management programmes are employed by some or the largest and most reputable firms in the world – KPMG, Deloitte and UBS to name a few.
Students are taught all about international business strategy; the differences in business etiquette across countries, regions and major markets; and how to manage a transnational corporation operating in the modern world.
For Jesper Jannesson however, it wasn’t the desire to work his way up to the top of an existing company that fuelled him. The entrepreneurial flame burned too brightly. Instead, he partnered up with his lifelong friend and started the Swedish-based company Foodflow. They’ve only been operating for a few years, but have already made a monumental splash in the food industry. And not just in Sweden – across Europe.
SOAS Blogs met up with Jesper to find out more:
Tell us about your company Foodflow…
The food industry is massive – in Sweden alone the six largest chains have combined sales totalling more than two times the global music industry, and yet it remains very outdated, even in one of the most digitised countries in the world. Time spent on order processing and handling is a huge problem and inefficiency in the industry, not only in Sweden, but throughout the world.
Foodflow builds technology for the food industry. We have built an advanced ordering and payment platform called Stockfiller.com for suppliers and buyers in the food industry. Simply put, the system makes purchasing and handling orders more efficient and transparent for both parties by enabling buyers to purchase from all their suppliers in one unified system, and at the same time integrating with suppliers systems to eliminate all manual work related to handling orders. Some of our suppliers are reporting time savings as high as 93%, or thousands of hours per year, as well as significant sales increases.
We currently only work on a b2b basis and the business model is transaction based meaning that we charge a small percentage of all transactions that flow through the platform. As of now we have more than 800 supermarkets and restaurants/cafes/hotels throughout Europe using the system. We have enjoyed incredible growth over the last year, 30-40% per month, and are now able to count some of the biggest suppliers and grocery stores in the Nordics as our customers.
The company was founded by myself and an old friend from high school and we currently employ 12 people, six of whom work in tech developing the platform and six of whom work in sales.
How did you come up with the concept?
We started out doing something completely different, as one often does. Our business was to build an online marketplace for consumers to be able to buy directly from local producers. That business actually did quite well, but after a while we realised it wasn’t as scalable as we wanted it to be. By chance, we had ended up within the circle of trust of some of the biggest food distributors in the country and had been able to take a closer look at their business practices and how they handled their b2b orders – outdated to say the least!
So the concept grew from there as we realised that we were able to solve a much bigger problem than we were currently addressing. We were able to apply the technology we had previously built with very little tweaking, so we simply pivoted the business model and focused solely on handling ordering and payments between suppliers and supermarkets/restaurants.
Where are you based? Is it just in Sweden you operate, or internationally as well?
The company is based in Sweden but we have customers in Norway, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Italy and France. Expanding our presence even further during 2018.
You’ve been recognised as “The future entrepreneur of Sweden” – how was that experience?
Incredible and humbling to say the least! In the early stages of a business it’s super important to have as many external “seals of approval” as possible. It makes signing customers much easier. At the end of the day, the most important thing is customer acquisition and the media attention that ensued led to more requests than we have ever seen!
The jury was comprised of some of the most well known investors and business leaders of Sweden, many of which have built successful ventures before, so it was also a great networking opportunity.
You’re a co-founder and CEO – what do you do day-to-day?
Frankly, as a CEO of an early stage company there should only be three focus areas: Sales, recruitment and cash flow. It’s important to realise as early as possible that it’s impossible to be a master at everything, so the faster you can find people who can cover your weaknesses the better. When it comes to sales I step in as an aid where it is currently needed the most – sometimes that is in the initial sales process, reaching out to potential clients and taking meetings, and sometimes that is in actual onboarding process of the signed client.
As we are constantly developing the product and increasing the number of potential revenue streams, a large part of the day is also spent on classic business development – understanding the clients’ problems and how our technology can solve these. This means that I am also heavily involved in the product development, both on a “visionary level” but also very much on a detailed level, relaying feedback and comments from clients to the tech team and jointly determining what we focus the development resources on.
We also have a number of high profile external investors, both angel investors and Seed/VC funds, so some time is also spent simply managing that relationship, ensuring that we are able to leverage their network in the best possible way.
What did you study at SOAS?
International Management (China) class of 2014.
What advice would you give to any SOASians thinking about a future in entrepreneurship or seeking to start their own business?
Just do it! Quite honestly, one of the most common comments/questions I get from friends interested in quitting their jobs and starting a business is that they’re waiting for a perfect idea to come along that will lead to skyrocket growth. The real world doesn’t work like that, that’s what media likes to portray but in most cases its just a matter of trying, learning, changing and then trying again.
- Start in an industry that you are familiar with. Identify challenges faced on a daily basis by the people active in the industry and see if there is a way to make their workflow more efficient – this is usually the “lowest hanging fruit”. If possible, bring a business partner onboard at this stage, preferably one that complements you (you’re probably already thinking about someone). This will allow you to better leverage your time and skills and reach your goals quicker.
- Always sell before having a finished product – there is no use in developing a product or service that no one wants to buy.
- After customers are onboard and have started using your product, start asking them questions and make sure you listen to their feedback.
Finally, use Pi (as in 3) as your go to number to sanity check your guesstimates for costs, time, and revenues, in other words multiply expected costs by three, multiply expected time taken by three and divide expected revenues by three. Pi has proven to be very accurate for us…
If anyone wants to talk about opportunities or needs someone to brainstorm ideas with, please feel free to reach out! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and I answer all emails.