Digital tech entrepreneurship #1: “At NEOMA, I learned to be a real entrepreneur.”
Published on 06/28/2022
Published on 06/28/2022
In 2021, you became the 11th French unicorn. How do you feel about this success and your journey over the past 11 years?
First, I’m very proud. Unicorn status was a real emotional milestone, like validation of the journey taken up to this point. However, I rarely look back. It was an incredibly long week of press announcements. I’m already in a different mindset, set to working on our coming challenges.
Looking back at your career, how did you think up the idea for Vestiaire Collective and what were the first steps?
Vestiaire Collective came about from noticing that the fashion industry was thrown into upheaval by fast fashion, becoming the second most polluting industry in the world. From the consumer’s point of view, it was all a rush towards the newest products, resulting in bursting closets and an incredible mess. My co-founders and I wanted to find a sustainable solution to transform our industry.
What were the times when you were bold and had solid intuitions and the times when you made some mistakes? How did you react?
Being bold and having solid intuition have always been a big part of Vestiaire. Our vision has been the same for 12 years, and today we have proven that it was innovative and the right thing to do for that time. This didn’t keep us from making errors along the way. For example, not anticipating well enough the overall character of our business when we launched it with a French name and platform. However, we quickly rectified this error and have accelerated our international expansion in just a few months. Today we do more than 80% of our business outside of France. Mistakes are also catalysts that sometimes lead to even faster progress.
What advice would you give to those who want to start a digital-based company?
Be passionate and surround yourself with people possessing different skills that complement yours. This seems obvious and easy, but if you establish these two elements at the beginning, a big part of the job is already taken care of.
What are your development projects? I think that you want to accelerate your technological innovation, use artificial intelligence and recruit technicians and developers.
Yes, we are a fashion tech company and we have a lot of work to do to constantly improve the customer experience by using in particular A.I. so we can scale up more quickly: for example, uploading as quickly as possible the thousands of products proposed by our sellers onto the platform each day or personalising recommendations for buyers. We also have a lot of work to do on subjects that are community and sustainability based. We take a more innovative approach to them, such as how can we offer brand new features that stimulate a lot of interest among our community.
What is the outlook on the fashion industry and its recent changes and what might that hint at? And your desire to push fashion towards the circular economy, will that be simple?
Fashion is going through major changes, like a lot of other sectors, and also with respect to the ecological crisis we’re experiencing. We have no other choice but to change our means of production, distribution, consumption and recycling. We urgently need to be able to offer sustainable solutions.
After 12 years of lobbying and applying our influence, I am happy to see that brands are keen about the idea of collaborating with us and offering their customers the chance to enter into the circular economy by selling the items that they no longer wear.
Our vision is to transform the industry. We work harder each day to do so and I am hopeful that the next 10 years will set the groundwork for an overall shift that will have the circular economy as its intrinsic model.
What are your projects for the Asian and American markets?
Asia is a rapidly expanding market for us. After Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, we will enter Korean market at the end of the year. Traditionally, Asia is a bit behind Europe or the US when it comes to second-hand products, but things are moving so fast here that this will not be the case in a few years.
The United States is also a large, rapidly growing market. We are establishing our teams there and looking at potential M&A opportunities.
What have you retained from your years at NEOMA? What are the tools, keys, skills learned at the school that you used in developing Vestiaire Collective?
At NEOMA, I learned to be a real entrepreneur. To choose, to show passion, to make decisions, build teams and lead, I learned so many things through my programme, but also from the student community life. I was appointed to the Midnight Excess student office with an incredible team. The campaign year was worth more than all the programmes in the world in terms of entrepreneurship. I suggest everyone does it.