Whilst visiting Seville, Spain, Jan, the soon-to-be founder of Sheetly, was helping his brother solve a problem. Said brother had started a direct-to-consumer party costume online store that was scaling rapidly. With demand growth, he was also scaling his product portfolio and sales channels. One of his biggest pains was managing all of that accumulating product data and doing that across multiple channels. Like many others, he was using Microsoft Excel, in rigorous combination with tiresome manual work to tame that overflow and cross-referencing of information.
It wasn’t just the sibling connection that caused Jan’s brother to ask for Jan’s help. He had been integrating and building enterprise software to handle business processes for the better part of the decade. He had created and exited the first customer relationship management software in Denmark. Moreover, he founded and ran a CMR-integration company backed up by partnerships with Microsoft and Siebel.
Jan knew that just like with CRM software, there are enterprise-grade solutions to help online merchants manage product information. Companies like Hybris, Salsify, and Akeneo offer product information management solutions that serve quite complex needs through complicated and feature-rich software that is fit for large organisations with thousands of products. However, for a small merchant with a few hundred products, that type of software can be too expensive. Moreover, even for companies that might be willing to pay the subscription price, the on-boarding and data entry can be quite challenging.
It turns out, in the realm of product information management, there aren’t established and widely used mid-market solutions for small merchants. “I was looking for the Pipedrive of PIM, instead of Salesforce, or for the Basecamp, instead of Hubspot”, Jan tells me, “and, such a solution was nowhere to be found”. The small merchants on platforms like Shopify and Woo Commerce comprise more than 20 million micro and macro retailers globally, representing a large chunk of the 5 trillion-dollar global e-commerce market.
Working with his brother’s company, Jan was forming a concept for a mid-market PIM solution. He was figuring out a way to replace the usage of Microsoft Excel which most merchants were using for their product information management purposes. The challenge was to provide the integrations and functionality needed for clean and cross-channel product data. An equally big challenge, however, was to build a user interface that is familiar, frictionless, and intuitive even for e-commerce merchants and entrepreneurs that are not software power-users and have not dealt with enterprise software before.
“And then it hit me”, Jan tells me. Why try to reinvent the wheel?! Why try to replace the spreadsheet user interface that has been adopted, used, perfected, and easily navigated by most, if not all businesses worldwide. Instead of trying to create a new user interface and then, difficultly, get people to use and like it, why not use something that already works. Indeed, even with all of the enterprise-grade software that is utilized by companies, data transfer and individual data manipulation, outside of apps, is still largely dominated by Excel. Any ground that is given up from Excel by businesses to, say, Google Sheets, is still spreadsheet-based and uses the same interface. Furthermore, small and medium enterprises generally lack the enterprise-grade stack of business software, due to access, knowledge, cost, or implementation difficulty. Then how do SMEs deal with their processes and management without the support of such solutions? You guessed it, Excel fills that gap as well, through its multi-purpose use from simple data collection to complex applications.
Instead of changing the way people interact with and process product data, Sheetly’s vision is to keep it as is, but with an added layer of all of the functionalities and integrations that are needed for managing your product data across channels. Instead of manual cross-checking between sales channels and manual input in Excel, Sheetly would integrate them, and keep one source of data truth seamlessly. Change one product photo and it will be changed in all of your sales channels simultaneously. Instead of looking for validation errors and cleaning up your data manually, Sheetly would indicate any faults with the cleanness and validity of your data. All of that in the cloud, of course. All of that, through the spreadsheet user interface merchants, are used to, removing the friction of the change of tools. Further reducing the friction, Sheetly seamlessly integrates with existing spreadsheet software to seamlessly migrate your existing data without the need for manual input.
After securing an early pre-seed round in London, Jan was on the lookout for a people whisperer. Through an odd enough introduction through a friend, the Danish Jan, based in London was on a flight to Bulgaria en route to set up shop in Sofia with the help of his soon-to-be co-founder Ivelina. Those online calls must have been convincing. Jan knew he needed someone exactly like Ivelina, as she had set up internal communications, opened up offices in multiple cities and countries, and was doing business development for Musala Soft - one of the leading software companies in Bulgaria and the region. She would structure the organisation, manage the R&D team and aid the customer discovery process. Just the swiss-(Bulgarian) army knife the company needed.
Although Jan had the technical know-how, they needed a CTO that’s capable of building the seamless and effortless custom spreadsheet interface we’re all used to, in combination with the complicated back-end logic required for the added value of their PIM solution. Through her years in Musala, Ivelina worked with many talented software engineers. Bobi’s name immediately popped up in the discussions between Jane and Ivelina. After intense arguments between Jan and Bobi in the very first meeting, the chemistry was evident, and the team was complete.
By 2023, e-commerce will account for more than 6.1 trillion dollars globally and will represent more than 20 % of retail sales. By some estimates, e-commerce will represent 95 percent of all purchases. It is evident, that e-commerce plays a large role in people’s daily lives and will continue to do so to an increasing degree. There is a long tail of mid-market online sellers that will require tools and help to manage that increasing demand. With hundreds of early sign-ups as validation, Sheetly is well-positioned for a strong launch in a market that is ready for its solution. We at Vitosha are happy to share their journey of filling that gap and becoming the mid-market go-to solution for product information management.