PriceComparator is a specialist in market surveillance for the e-commerce sector. The Montpellier startup was founded by Sébastien Bernis in 2013.
PriceComparator has developed a high-performance SaaS solution that has been available as a subscription service for the past two years. Its goal is to provide a global overview of the marketing strategy of competitors and distributors using dynamic dashboards which leverage in-depth surveillance of prices, products, promotions, and distribution on an international level. With its seven employees, the company has acquired clients in several sectors, including online sales of sports articles, cosmetics, electronic cigarettes, professional equipment, and more, both in France and abroad. Winner of the 2019 Digital Economy Trophies (Trophées de l’Economie Numérique) in the Energy Transition and Green Technology category, PriceComparator has also made it a priority to focus on the well-being of its employees. Now, for the first time, the company is leveraging the momentum of its success to launch a round of fund-raising in 2020.
Why did you choose Montpellier?
I came to Montpellier to study the science and techniques of physical and sports activities, an educational track referred to as “Staps”. I wanted to specialize in underwater diving. As a diving instructor, that was already my job. When I started to work on my thesis on consumer behavior in leisure sports, I went to work at a diving equipment store in Palavas, just south of Montpellier. I stayed there for nine years as marketing manager. Among other things, I created an online web store that boosted our sales revenue. As competition began to emerge, I started to spend time watching the market, typically targeting major distributors of sports articles offering low prices and promotions. The results were exceptional for my clients. It helped them react by implementing different tactics, such as choosing the same products, adapting prices, etc.
There is a large pool of qualified candidates in Montpellier’s digital sector, notably thanks to the presence of top-quality schools in digital fields. Despite strong demand, particularly for developers, I was able to find good employees quickly, and I have been able to retain them thanks to our corporate culture and excellent working conditions. This is true notably thanks to our incubation at Montpellier BIC. For the past four years, we have enjoyed offices that are particularly favorable for innovation, along with assistance that has helped our growth and current success considerably.
How did Montpellier BIC and its teams contribute to your success?
I had already founded PriceComparator when I contacted Montpellier BIC. The BIC team explained everything to me, starting with the fact that I should have contacted them and asked for help before creating the company and starting to do business. Once that whole process is started, you no longer have access to everything. The BIC team opened my eyes to the Montpellier startup ecosystem, Digital 113 cluster, Le Village by CA, and La Mêlée, which unites digital companies in the region.
Montpellier BIC also steered me towards sources of funding. That enabled me to obtain an honorary loan from Initiative Montpellier Pic Saint-Loup and to contact Bpifrance. I benefited from assistance provided by a top-quality advisor from the outset. My company is hosted at the Cap Alpha incubator, where the environment is calm, surrounded by nature, and far from traffic jams. We are very happy there.
How did you implement your commitments regarding social and environmental aspects at your company?
First of all, I started with a strong personal commitment. Since my child was born, I decided to only eat organic food. I was also president of the Languedoc Marine Fishkeeping Club, which helps protect marine animals. Montpellier BIC informed me when the GreenConcept operation was launched by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Occitanie Region, and Green.IT in 2018. I responded to the call for candidacy. Experts audited the carbon footprint of our digital solution, which automatically collects, sorts, and processes data from the web. The results showed that we were causing tons of CO2 to be emitted into the atmosphere, even though we are just a small digital player.
A single Google query generates 7 grams of CO2! By following the experts’ recommendations, we reduced our carbon footprint by a factor of 400. How? By educating our robots to make queries as economically as possible; by reducing data circulation and storage; by choosing eco-responsible servers in France, and more. It all shows that even small companies can reduce their carbon footprint and their overall environmental impact.
I am also truly interested in my employees’ well-being. When I was a store employee, I realized that my colleagues were suffering and that even I was often frustrated or annoyed. As soon as I created my company, my priority was to do everything I could to make sure that employees felt good at work. This includes flexible hours, comfortable chairs, regular meetings with me, etc. The company’s social responsibility also has an environmental dimension. In addition to sorting our trash and recycling paper, we organize cooking workshops at lunchtime. This flexibility, comfort, and friendliness helps make people want to give their very best, with the pleasure of knowing that they are contributing to our collective success.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who want to start a company?
I recommend that they investigate company creation assistance mechanisms before they launch their activity. Many of those mechanisms are no longer available to companies once they reach three years. Therefore, it is essential! Perhaps a more original idea is that I would recommend for entrepreneurs to first work in a startup environment to get experience before creating their own business.
Two of our employees at PriceComparator founded their own companies. We had agreed on that from the very beginning. The interest is that they are very motivated, and get to fill themselves with knowledge and start building their network. Tutorship is very enriching. It is a win-win situation.
How do you envision the innovative company of tomorrow in Montpellier?
It must be ethical, eco-responsible, and eco-designed to bring meaning to its activity and appeal to young people who are looking for that commitment.