The BizSpark Startup of the day is Lokad, based in France. Lokad delivers a forecasting technology as SaaS. Good luck to them and congrats for being the startup of the day!
Interview with Joannes Vermorel, Founder of Lokad
Who are you?
I am Joannes Vermorel, the founder of Lokad. I have been passionate about data mining for a decade now. For those who have way too much time to waste, they can read my rants at blog.vermorel.com
How do you feel being the most promising 'company of the day' per Microsoft?
Very honored. It’s always a pleasure tagging along with the Microsoft folks.
What did you do before creating your company?
I did a master of computer science at the “Ecole normale superieure of Paris”. Believe it or not, this school recruits only 6 people per year nationwide for computer science and you get a salary from the French Government during your university studies. This situation which gave me a lot of freedom to focus on what I was interested the most, creating a startup for example.
How did you get the idea? What’s the genesis?
Long story short, while I was working on my PhD (never finished it btw) at the “Ecole des Mines”, the INSEAD, the nearest business school was inviting researchers to present whatever technology they were working on at the “Entrepreneurship club”. The goal of the MBA students was to figure out ways to turn those academic works into real businesses. I did present a couple of projects at the time, Lokad was one of them.
What do you sell? What is your company's mission?
My company is delivering a forecasting technology as SaaS. Send us your data - such as sales, cash flows, call volumes, customer demand - and we will send you back your forecasts. Basically, the team of mathematicians of Lokad exists so that you don’t have to setup your own team in your company to actually get state of the art operational business forecasts.
What is your market?
Retail and manufacturing, for inventory optimization through sales forecasting, Services, for staff optimization through demand forecasting. Energy, for capacity optimization through load forecasting (OK, I think I have reached my Google keyword quota for the word “forecasting”).
Currently, we are having hard-time to keep up with customer demand, which isn’t a bad thing. Most of registrations on Lokad.com are coming from the US and UK at the time. Shame on us, the French translation of the website is just terribly behind schedule.
Any clients, references or partners you want to quote?
A very large food retailer, a very large electricity producer and a very large city are keeping us very busy at the moment. But it’s probably too early to give the detail.
Funding history? VCs? BA?
Just love money for now—family and close friends.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
Lokad is a team of 5 with 4 developers, see http://www.lokad.com/AboutUs.ashx
Are you hiring? If yes, what? Where?
We are hiring developers and/or mathematicians, see http://www.lokad.com/Careers.ashx
One member of the team is working a few thousand kilometers from the main office, so I think location is an overrated criterion (although working in Paris downtown is nice).
We are scoring 12/12 on the Joel test, and I personally prefer to hire the type of people who understand why it’s important to maintain a 12/12 on the Joel test.
Which platform are you building on? Why?
Lokad is coded in C# because all my data mining stuff have been coded in C# since 2002. At the time, it’s was kind of a long shot – all scientific libraries being available only in C++ or Java – but Microsoft managed, year after year, to make of .NET one of finest software pieces ever (just a personal opinion).
C# 3.0 and.NET 3.5 with an interest for Linq which can be surprisingly useful when it comes to scientific computations. We have also started to move toward Windows Azure. This is going to be the most challenging technical migration for us in 2009.
Do you have any Software IP? Is there something that you’re the only one to do on the market?
People were doing statistical forecasts one century ago. Loads of people are producing forecasts, ours are just easier to get and more accurate. Well, at least, this is the plan.
Who’s your role model?
Alan Greenspan, who probably would have built an equivalent of Lokad himself, if Internet had been available in the 50s when he started his own analytics business Townsend-Greenspan.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/internet areas?
Our world is full of problems that are just begging to be solved through software. I would not risk myself in financial areas or audience-based businesses for the next couple of years though.
Looking for funding? If yes, how much?
We are OK for now, and considering our current business trend, we might reach profitability in less than a year. Thus, there is nothing urgent in this area.
What about the BizSpark Program? What do you think?
We joined BizSpark the day it was created. The BizSpark launch party at “La Cantine” in Paris was very nice.
Any advice to young software entrepreneurs?
Stay away from the hype. Focus on painful problems, the type of problems that people are glad to give money for if you can relieve the pain. Collecting waste might be dramatically uncool but if you can do it 10% cheaper than anybody else on earth because of a superior software technology, you will be insanely successful without any doubt.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Lokad stands for “Local advertising”; the business plan somewhat changed along the road.