Ankorstore Co-Founder & CEO Nicolas d’Audiffret On Going Global From The Get-Go
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Founded in 2019, Ankorstore has quickly grown into Europe’s leading B2B marketplace linking independent shop owners with brands selling unique products such as jewelry, candles, stationary, clothing, and artisanal foods. Over 100,000 shops in 23 European countries rely on Ankorstore to source inventory from over 10,000 brands, many of them small creators.
Almost everyone has had the experience of wandering into a local boutique and browsing a thoughtfully curated collection of gifts. The owners of these shops used to scour the internet, browse catalogs, and call suppliers to find an enticing mix of products. But with Ankorstore, they can search hundreds of thousands of unique products in one place. On the flipside, the makers of these products have long wanted to see their goods sold in shops outside their local markets, but previously had no way of reaching these buyers.
Ankorstore equips retailers with the tools and terms to grow and manage their business and enables brands to build their wholesale business across Europe. The Ankorstore platform is available in multiple languages and handles all invoicing, payments, shipping, logistics, inventory management, and cross-border taxes and tariffs.
We recently sat down with Co-Founder and Co-CEO Nicolas d’Audiffret to learn more about how Ankorstore launched as a global company from day one.
How did you identify such a promising category and then get the early go-to-market right?
Nicolas Cohen and I previously co-founded a company called ALittleMarket back in 2012 that grew into the top B2C marketplace for handcrafted goods in France, and it was acquired by Etsy in 2014. We both worked at Etsy for a few years after that, and this experience only strengthened our conviction that marketplaces are the absolute best tool to help small businesses be successful.
The idea to create Ankorstore came to us as we were talking about the challenges Etsy merchants faced selling their products to other businesses. Pretty much every small brand dreamed of expanding its B2C Etsy storefront into a larger B2B wholesale business. So our early go-to-market strategy was really informed by exactly what small retail business owners wanted.
In other words, we built a product that solved a huge pain point for our customers, and that early product-market fit just naturally led to our go-to-market strategy.
You decided early on a cross-border approach. What particular mindset and strategy did it take to go global from the get-go?
For the first company we built together, we stayed only in France and realized later that was a mistake. And then working at Etsy, we learned from the inside how it was entirely possible to build a global giant serving the little guys. So when we launched Ankorstore, we never considered any other choice than going international from day one.
Small retail brands want to grow their businesses and reach global markets, and we wanted to help them reach their goals. Our vision was to allow a small retail brand in Germany or Ireland to sell to shops in France, Spain, Italy, the UK, and beyond, all from our platform, and we would handle all of the payments and logistics, taking away the friction and complexity of selling across borders.
To deliver on that vision, we knew our own company had to be global from the get-go, so we launched local offices in five countries — France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK — all at once. Today, we are operational in 23 countries and are still expanding.
What were some of the actions you took as founders to build a global-first company?
First, we make it clear to employees, partners, investors, and customers that we are a “global” company and it is not just a buzzword, but an ethos that informs every decision we make. For example, even though the company is headquartered in Paris, English has been our only company language since day one. Our team serving the French market is considered simply as one equal team among the others.
Second, we tackled the operational challenges of being a global company, including building a platform that accepts multiple currencies and is localized into different languages.
It’s important to build global functionality into your product from the beginning, even if it takes longer to get to a commercial product.
Lastly, we empowered local teams. We have offices in five countries, and each of these offices has a full operational team. If we were running all the strategy, sales & marketing, and other critical aspects of Ankorstore only from Paris, we would be a French company and that’s not who we are.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced operating in multiple countries, especially during the pandemic?
On the one hand, the last two years might seem like the worst time to launch into multiple countries and we indeed faced many challenges, as did our customers, since independent shops were closed for months during the lockdowns.
But, as always, difficulties can also create opportunities and, with hindsight, I believe it was actually a great time to go global as everybody was used to working remotely, which made it easier to hire and onboard team members in different countries. We hired about 100 people in the first half of 2021, all located outside of France.
How do you successfully manage and inspire teams in multiple countries?
We are lucky to have a very clear shared vision: to empower small retail businesses. Everyone on the Ankorstore team is proud to serve our customers because we know small businesses are the lifeblood of society.
But having a great culture is not enough to make everyone on the team feel included and supported, so we’ve also worked hard to set up a common infrastructure of tools, processes, meetings, and structured mentoring to support our teams across different geographies.
We also give our employees lots of autonomy. For example, if someone wants to go visit a local supplier or a retail shop, they just go. We trust all our employees, wherever they are located, to make the right decisions that further our business goals.
Ankorstore was founded by French e-commerce entrepreneurs Pierre Louis Lacoste, Nicolas d’Audiffret, Nicolas Cohen, and Mathieu Alengrin. BCV first invested in Ankorstore in May 2021, co-leading the company’s $102M Series B round, because we believe in their vision to bring independent shop owners and brands together. Here’s our take.