From High-Fashion to High-Tech, BCGDV’s Martin Barthel Has a Pulse on eCommerce Strategy and Digital Innovation in Europe and Beyond
We caught up with BCG Alum and ‘boomerang,’ Martin Barthel, during his first weeks at BCG Digital Ventures
At BCG Digital Ventures (BCGDV), it’s always exciting when employees “boomerang” back to the fold. That’s exactly the case with Martin Barthel, who has rejoined BCGDV as Managing Director and Partner. We caught up with Martin to learn a little bit about his journey to BCG Digital Ventures.
BCGDV: Chanel, Gucci, Facebook, and eBay — your CV is a who’s who of some of the most high-profile companies in the world. Tell us a bit about your journey to BCGDV.
Martin: I have indeed had the privilege of working for great companies but, even more importantly, to work with amazing people: from collaborating with Karl Lagerfeld on the launch of the first Chanel site in 1999, to partnering with some of the most talented software engineers at Facebook.
The common thread in my career has been my focus on consumer-centric, digital business models.
During my 10 years at eBay in Germany and the UK, I managed both the B2C and C2C marketplaces businesses; I led product development on a European level, and I helped build and scale the eBay classifieds business eBay Kleinanzeigen.
At Facebook, in Silicon Valley, I started leading strategy development for the retail and ecommerce advertising business. I then moved into the commerce organization, building and scaling Facebook and Instagram marketplaces businesses, from Instagram shopping, to automotive and property classifieds models.
Moving back to Europe, I had the opportunity to manage Gucci’s global digital business, ecommerce and digital omnichannel experiences, bringing together business, technology and creativity.
BCGDV: What was it about BCGDV that attracted you, and what will be the main focus in your new role? Welcome back, by the way!
Martin: I always had great memories of my BCG experience (Martin worked at BCG in Berlin from 2001–2005). People make the difference! Talent, passion and expertise come together at DV in a very special way. During the interview process, it felt a little bit like coming home.
I love to create and build new digital business models; building not only for one company, but for a portfolio of many companies, this was something I was looking for as my next career step.
Consumer goods, luxury and direct to consumer models are the areas that define my professional DNA. Especially in France, with some of the leading consumer goods companies in the world, I believe there’s still huge, untapped potential for DV.
BCGDV: What new perspectives and approaches are you bringing back to BCGDV?
Martin: At eBay and Facebook, I learned what it takes to drive digital innovation at scale. At Chanel and Gucci, I worked in world-class marketing and commercial organizations, but also experienced the many challenges non-tech companies need to overcome to become more agile and digital-centric.
It’s about bold decision-making, culture, team-centric organizations and a data-driven business approach.
Having successfully managed businesses in those two worlds, but also having learned from many failures, I hope to bring a unique perspective to DV’s venture building approach.
BCGDV: What are the unique opportunities for business building and corporate venturing in France and how does that differ to other parts of the world?
Martin: Some of the leading consumer goods companies in the world are based in France, across luxury, FMCG and grocery retail. This makes France unique from a venturing perspective, and I see Paris having an even more important role as a digital innovation hub for those industries.
BCGDV: There has been a lot of speculation about when the first French decacorn will appear — what’s your view?
Martin: There are lots of amazing companies emerging in France, in particular in the commerce, fintech and health domains — Back Market, Vestiaire, Mirakl, Doctolib — to name a few. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first French decacorn at some point this year — despite the current geopolitical environment — if valuations remain strong.
Having said that, Europe in general is still far behind the United States and China when it comes to new venture building. There are many reasons for this, and BCGDV will play an important role in closing the gap.
BCGDV: And finally, you’re relocating from Milan back to Paris after 20 years — what are you looking forward to most?
Martin: Discovering what has changed since I left, but also simple things like jogging along the Quai d’Orsay, next to the Seine, cycling on the Rue de Rivoli, and exploring the city’s many museums. And of course, I look forward to reconnecting with friends and being closer to the French arm of my family, including my mother, who moved to France when I was four years old, and two half-brothers, who live in the Gascogne.