Timo's Entrepreneurial Fellowship: Germany's first social commerce platform
Hi! My name is Timo. I am a Senior Consultant at Roland Berger in the Munich office and I have worked at Roland Berger for two years, focusing on consumer goods & retail before starting my Entrepreneurial Fellowship.
Prior to Roland Berger, I worked for a premium German consumer goods brand for 4 years – in Sales in China and the US. Both experiences led me to apply for the Entrepreneurial Fellowship to pursue my own business idea of developing Germany's first social commerce platform.
#1: Let's start at the beginning: What is social commerce?
Think of social commerce as a combination of TikTok and your favorite web shops and add a component called "group sales" to make it a real "social" commerce experience. The idea of "group sales" is to allow groups of shoppers to enable attractive discounts by jointly creating bulk buys. All of this is happening in China already – as demonstrated by wildly successful apps such as WeChat or Pinduoduo.
#2: What is the idea about?
tribez, our social commerce platform, aims at strengthening the position of traditional and specialized multi-brand retailers in the e-commerce space. By providing an exclusive platform (no brands allowed) and an integrated step-by-step video creation guide, we want to help retailers leverage their expertise via authentic, informative and entertaining short video content (which the new generation of consumers love so much). Furthermore, the group sales feature allows them to sell high volumes by activating their consumers to become their extended sales force: Imagine you see a video of a product that you absolutely want to have and one additional buyer would unlock a 15% discount – wouldn't you also share it with your friends who you know would also want this item?! I have always been passionate about multi-brand retailers and decided to do something against the global D2C trend that results in brands bypassing traditional and specialized retailers – that's how tribez started (to find out more, check: www.tribezapp.com ).
#3: What happened during the Entrepreneurial Fellowship?
First, we analyzed existing platforms from China and tailored the adapted concept to the German market in constant exchange with retailers and customers by validating key assumptions. Despite the constant exchange not preventing endless pivoting of the idea, these were necessary steps to define the concept and the wireframes of our app. We then tested the concept by manually simulating the step-by-step video creation guide to create short videos. These videos were then posted on Instagram, including manually integrated group sales offers. After dozens of videos had been created, we gathered predefined KPIs to validate our hypotheses. Additionally, regular meetings with Roland Berger colleagues and partners took place, to spur the idea on even further and set the stage for investor pitches.
#4: What is the current status of tribez?
Despite achieving a lot during the Entrepreneurial Fellowship, there unfortunately wasn't enough time to secure funding as further validation is needed. As our case is strong, however, we will continue to pursue this idea (on weekends), despite me returning to Roland Berger.
#5: What are the main learnings from the Entrepreneurial Fellowship?
There are so many learnings, but the three main ones would probably be the following:
1. The team is everything!
Starting up takes unbreakable team spirit and high motivation from each and everyone – if that doesn't exist, don't even start.
2. Test the idea as quickly as possible!
Developing an idea without testing it with the users means it will most likely fail – and when it does, it'll fail hard (and be costly).
3. Utilize existing tools!
Before developing your own idea (at considerable cost), leverage what already exists – this will help you know what your product is without any upfront investment.
Beyond these learnings, there is so much more that I have learned – not only for my professional growth but my personal growth too. I am very happy to have had this experience and extremely thankful to Roland Berger for having made it possible!