Founder Interview: Focusmatic cofounder Amirhossein Malekzadeh discusses customer trust and the value of flexibility

Aug 29, 2013
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Throughout the month of August, the Rude Baguette will be running a series of interviews with some of France’s top and rising entrepreneurs, where they’ll share their reflections on their year thus far, their plans through the end of the year and how they manage their businesses through the August down period. In the final installment, we talk with Amirhossein Malekzadeh, CEO and cofounder of Focusmatic.

Focusmatic, a fairly new entrant into France’s big data space, builds innovative analytics solutions for digital marketing capable of delivering in-depth insights in real-time on big data. Founded by tech veterans  Amirhossein Malekzadeh, Renaud Boutet, and Emmanuel Gueidan, they’ve quickly expanded their customer base beyond France, helping companies draw increased value from their marketing data via their innovative solution. In our final summer Founder Interview installment, Malekzadeh shares his

amirWhat have been the big accomplishments for Focusmatic since the beginning of the year?

The main accomplishment for us has been to have acquired the trust of several customers despite our youth!  We created the company about a year ago with a business idea driven by technology. We were working in the very recent field of real-time business intelligence on big data, which allows for example to monitor risk on a continuous basis in capital markets (vs. existing systems whose latency give you answers once the risk is outdated). Our intent was to bring this innovation to digital marketing data, to help decision-makers make better decisions and in a timely manner.

We built a whole toolbox to empower our customers to really understand what is happening out there, and go beyond the often deceptive dashboard that tells them: “Look, it sounds like there are 250,000 messages related to you, but I can’t really say whether they talk about your brand or that other one that has the same name, or if these are fake blog posts for SEO purposes”.

Starting from scratch, we managed to develop a product with initial customers. We were lucky enough to quickly gain the trust of customers who gave us feedback and helped us prioritise features, while trashing useless stuff. We improved our product with them. Without them we might be in our cave, working on something nice that nobody would ever care about. They were instrumental with helping us both prioritise features and trash the useless stuff.

What are your goals for the end of the year?

We are coming out with a new offer for September and our goal is roll it out. After having our first version ready, we are further adapting it to customer needs. So we are preparing three standard solutions based on the needs: understand myself, understand my market or take full control of my digital communication.

We have been testing the idea and are preparing to go live on these. We have some product developments and need to organise a better product launch.  We would love to see several customers embrace our new offer. Quick market response and customer feedback would be ideal results for us to improve our service. We also are trying to improve on our marketing efforts – both in France but also abroad as we have customers in US and Canada.

What have you learned this year that you think every entrepreneur should know?

Too much to be able to handle it. But one thing seems to stand out : the value of flexibility.

There is so much we have learned in terms of how people are central to an entrepreneurial adventure. Beyond the skills, the mix works if we are able to work together, to complete each other and to stand up against each other. Finding the appropriate talent is a very difficult task – we have had several recruitments and each was a careful process. But there is also the talent of our partners and customers that enable us to grow. Our first customer, a Canadian communication agency, has really been great as they continuously gave us valuable feedback.

There is so much to say about people and their role in a venture’s success. One thing though, stands out, in our point of view: the value of being flexible. It is both a mindset and a way of working. The one little thing the customers wants and you don’t have yet, usually makes you make a good step forward. And inside our team, when somebody has a different point of view, taking a few minutes to understand it can help make everything go forward. We try to be flexible, so we even accept to alter product development roadmaps on a weekly basis based on business priorities.

How does your company handle vacation & the August down period?

August has not really been a down period for us, although we have all been in and out. First, we operate 24/7 for our customers so we continuously have to ensure availability and performance. We also thought it might be less busy so we did plan some additional technical tasks : a few months ago we started adding a third option when discussing tasks: yes / no / in august. At the end of the day, that gave us some work! Our new solutions portfolio is also keeping us busy during the vacation period.