Anders Innovations forges online business success stories
Anders Innovations, a Finnish e-commerce company, has been chosen among the ten fastest growing companies in Finland and the top 100 most promising companies in Europe. Now it is deepening its international presence with a spin-off company in the US.
The story of Anders Innovations goes back eight years. Founder Tomi Alapaattikoski worked for a web store while finishing his studies and realised the growing need for online business expertise across all industries. He found four similar minded students and together they started Anders in early 2008. It has been a rapid rise ever since.
“We are a consulting and technology company that develops online business solutions,” explains Alapaattikoski. “If a company has a business problem, one of our experts can show them how to solve the issue and we can build the whole solution for them.”
Today Anders has 55 employees, offices in the US and Hong Kong and counts many of Finland’s biggest companies among its customers. The key to its success? People.
“It is all about the team,” Alapaattikoski says. “Success is not built by the management alone. We have a great team that strongly believes in working together towards common goals. Our management has not been raised onto a pedestal.”
It is also from working together that Anders’ latest venture stems from. Two years ago the company saw a need for scalable online store platforms and a year later its open source e-commerce product ‘Shoop’ was born.
Shoop makes it easy to build online stores of all sizes and offers integrations with most major e-commerce players, such as Amazon and Ebay. Crucially, the platform is free to use as its revenue comes from a partner network offering additional services, including marketing and resource management.
“This is an unique model, a free platform for online stores,” Alapaattikoski explains. “This would not have been possible a few years ago, because e-commerce platforms tried to do everything themselves. We offer the core functionalities in the best possible way and all additional features come from our partners through integrations.”
To separate the product from the consulting business, Shoop was first launched as a spin-off company in the US. In year one Shoop attracted over 2000 customers and localised for Finnish, North and South American markets. Next year the company plans to expand to Asia, where Anders already has operations. And this is just the start.
“The goal for Shoop is to become the world’s most used online store platform by 2020,” Alapaattikoski says. “For Anders the aim is to gain more customers internationally and become a stock listed company within the next three years.”
Alapaattikoski stresses entering the US market is not easy and he has a few tips to share. First is to have a local presence. Alapaattikoski himself moved to California last year to set up Shoop, which now employs 11 people locally.
“People here like to buy from American companies or at least you need to have local references,” he explains. “When you get the first major reference, you have been accepted. You need to be able to show you are here to stay, not just visiting. You cannot do that properly if you are flying back and forth between countries.”
Secondly Alapaattikoski highlights the importance of personal relationships. You need to be ready to speak with everybody and follow up on all leads.
“[The US] has 350 million people interested in new things, but it is also one the world’s most demanding markets. You need to be prepared to work hard to stand out,” Alapaattikoski concludes.