KITE Invest meet with entrepreneur and CEO of ITM Platform, Daniel Piret, to discuss the trials and tribulations of starting a company. Entering their second phase of seeking investment and having already branched out from Spain to the Latin American market, ITM Platform is well on its way to becoming a Spanish start-up success story.
KITE Invest: Having officially launched in 2013, ITM Platform – an online software-as-a-service for companies and individuals – has in a year’s time made the significant leap from the home-based test market of Spain to an expanded client base in Latin America during this year. Capitalizing on the 11% annual growth of the Project Portfolio Management (PPM) market, ITM Platform has in a short time been able to make a name for itself.
Before addressing ITM Platform, as the Partner-CEO, please share with us a bit about your professional career path and the reasons why you created ITM Platform? What in particular brought you to the PPM market?
ITM Platform: Before founding ITM Platform, I acted as CIO for a multinational publishing group, leading IT teams across Europe and Latin America and, formerly, as an IT Manager at a leading insurance company in Spain.
That experience was crucial in getting ITM Platform where it is to today. For instance, it helped me to realize and see that most of PPM solutions enterprises are complex, extremely resource demanding and, above all, expensive. Very expensive.
We also took advantage of the new-generation development technologies and cloud computing infrastructures to deliver a flexible solution, as I had always dreamed about during my previous work experience.
KITE: ITM Platform is your first start-up business, what was the catalyst for you to branch out on your own and enter the world of entrepreneurs?
ITM: Well, ITM Platform is not exactly my first company; I started with a different one from which ITM Platform is a “spin-off” from. Entrepreneurship is based on a set of ideas that evolve from an initial point and transform to a very different end. I think it is very Darwinian.
However, to be completely honest, I did not decide to leave my C-level job just because I had an idea that was worth it. It was more kind of a mid-life inquietude that kicked me out of my comfort zone. I decided it was time to start my own company based on my experience and entrepreneurship zest.
KITE: With the launch of the company with one million euros already invested and the near completion of the current round of investment of 750,000 euros, ITM Platform is gearing up for the second phase of investment in 2015-16. During the first round of investment, what were some of the surprises and/or challenges that you encountered when seeking investors?
ITM: I would say my main surprise was how poorly global the investor’s world is compared to what I expected. I was very naïve thinking from Spain I could easily reach US, UK or any other abroad investor and seduce them with my project.
I did my homework, reading and learning, from all sources I could, how to prepare a good pitch, how to give an irresistible presentation and how to build a business plan that was both attractive and feasible at the same time.
The reality was very different in the end. Investors defend their investments locally. It is true that you can move from Spain to UK to raise funds, but again, you need to stay in UK. The Venture Capital market is not global, at least not as much as I thought.
KITE: As a start-up, what would you say are some of the most important aspects to securing an investor?
ITM: I think there are two main aspects that investors love: the team and the business potential.
Therefore, if the founding team is actually your strength, I’d say that’s what you need to highlight as a guarantee for their investment.
On the other hand, if you happen to have an outstanding business idea of a super high-growth business that could bring them huge benefits, then focus on that. Invertors love the idea of being a part of the next Facebook.
The first aspect reduces their risk and the second raises the expectations. I think both are attractive, but perhaps not always very likely are found together.
KITE: What have been some of the lessons learned, and thus changes made by ITM Platform in order to become attractive to investors? In this regard what methods/strategies do you intend to use during your Phase 2 investment cycle?
ITM: Business-to-Business (B2B) models are not attractive to Spanish Venture Capital (which is changing, following the US trend), so we had to figure out how to make our model understandable and clear to Business-to-Consumer specialists.
Regarding the second phase, I think we need to leverage our strategy on our own success, emphasizing not just ITM Platform, but also the SaaS B2B model.
KITE: ITM Platform’s 3-year plan brings the company to the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia in 2015, and to the Asian market in 2016. How does ITM Platform intend to meet and incorporate the differing market needs? Does the company have any on-going partnerships or collaboration with similar companies or local associations?
ITM: All of our marketing, sales, delivery and support is actually a mix of pure online web-based model and local partnerships.
When we get to a different market, we need to adapt. This mean we need to localize the product and marketing materials, train sales and support people and update our internal tools. It is a huge effort, but the only way to be truly global.
We also need our partners, which are local companies that add value to the client in the field of project management, complementing ITM Platform’s features with their experience and bringing together a better solution set.
KITE: What sets ITM Platform apart from your competition? What are the 5, 10 and 15-year goals?
ITM: We took advantage of the huge gap between complex / expensive solutions and simple task management applications. We are providing amazingly powerful features at a very reasonable price, which makes us like a breath of fresh air for organizations needing a professional PPM solution.
Regarding the future, I see ITM Platform completely global, with presence on all continents, and as innovative and committed to our clients as we are today.