The Luxembourg-based tech startup Serpico offers an innovative digital solution for companies looking to improve the way performance is tracked, evaluated and communicated internally. We had the pleasure of talking to its founder and CEO, Guillaume Chatelain, to learn more about his startup and entrepreneurial journey since Serpico’s launch in early 2018.
by: Joséphine Anselin
photo: Kaori Anne Jolliffe
featured: Guillaume Chatelain
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What is Serpico and what solutions does it offer?
Serpico is an innovative performance evaluation solution that centralises all of the company’s performance data into a single tool. It makes it easier for decision makers to track performance across multiple projects by giving them a clear overview, helps managers evaluate the performance of team members in a more objective way and also provides the HR team with better insights into each employee’s performance. The aim is to help our clients turn performance evaluation into a more fluid, efficient and collaborative process.
Which types of businesses would benefit most from your solutions?
Serpico is applicable to businesses of any kind. In terms of size, we currently target enterprises with over 50 employees. That’s not to say that the tool isn’t applicable to small businesses, but we believe that it will bring the most benefit to medium or large sized structures where team members and managers don’t necessarily interact directly on a daily basis.
“I saw an opportunity for a more fluid, project-based evaluation model that would encourage collaboration and also give employees more ownership of their performance appraisal.”
Can you briefly describe your business model?
We use a licensing business model. Clients pay a monthly fee based on the total number of users. We also give our clients the option of adding external users for free. This means that they could involve suppliers or other external partners to the evaluation process at no additional cost.
How did the idea for Serpico come about?
Before starting Serpico I worked in a number of different companies and departments. Throughout this journey, I kept noticing that the feedback given to employees often lacked objectivity and that the overall approach to performance evaluation tended to be very inefficient. It was a one-way process with all the ownership and workload on the managers’ side.
I saw an opportunity for a more fluid, project-based evaluation model that would encourage collaboration and also give employees more ownership of their performance appraisal. This led me to designing the Serpico app to do exactly that.
How did you go about the development of the app? Did you build the product in-house or did you outsource?
The app was built entirely in-house. When I decided to launch Serpico I investigated a few outsourcing options, but just didn’t have the budget required for it. So I learnt to code and developed the application myself. I have only recently started delegating the coding aspects of the business to be able to focus more on business development.
“We are currently in the process of securing a relatively large client so hopefully this will get the ball rolling in terms of sales. Another big objective is to grow the Serpico team.”
What has been your biggest challenge since launch?
I would say cash flow. The first eighteen months were mainly about defining the concept and product which meant there was very little time for client prospecting. Keeping a start-up alive without revenue is challenging – especially in Luxembourg – so I’ve really had to focus on minimizing running costs and keeping personal expenses low. Client prospecting has also been a challenge and it has definitely taught me a great deal about resiliency.
What are your goals for 2020?
Our main goal for next year is to grow a diverse client base and establish our presence in Luxembourg. We are currently in the process of securing another relatively large client so hopefully this will get the ball rolling in terms of sales. Another big objective is to grow the Serpico team.
If you had to give one piece of advice to an aspiring tech entrepreneur, what would it be?
I would say be curious, do your research and get feedback from your target market before you decide to launch. It is equally important to be able to evolve and adjust your product to what your clients request but you also need to avoid getting too distracted.
Find allies. I started Serpico in my apartment, and I realized very quickly that being alone wouldn’t work. I had the chance to join the Luxembourg-City Incubator as soon as it opened thanks to Martin Guérin who supported the project during the selection committee and continues to do so on a daily basis.
I would also recommend doing as much as possible in-house to keep the costs down during the initial launch period. You need to expect to be generating zero revenue for at least the first eighteen months, so minimizing costs is crucial at the beginning.