Prague-based Pricefx provides a modular SaaS solution for price optimisation management (PO&M) and configure-price-quote (CPQ) for enterprises of any size. Pricing optimisation software helps companies accurately define the price of goods across a vast and constantly changing spectrum of data and variables. This can include things like customer survey data and segments, competitor data, operating costs, inventories and historic prices and sales. CPQ software aggregates these variables, thus enabling companies to configure products or services in the most optimal way, such as bundling and up-sells, etc., and price them according to costs, competition and local economic factors.
Pricefx was founded in 2011 by Marcin Cichon, Christian Tratz and Martin Wricke, born from the founders’ frustration for a lack of affordable and viable pricing solutions. Fast forward to 2020 and Pricefx has offices in three continents and counts Salesforce, Bain & Co and SAP as its partners. The company recently completed its $65m Series C round to accelerate its operations in the US. Talis first invested in Pricefx in 2015.
We sat down with Marcin to take a look back at the journey so far, discussing the change in his role as CEO as the company has scaled, his key three pieces of life advice – and even reminiscing about when Pricefx was almost sued and taken out of the US market altogether.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR VISION FOR PRICEFX.
Pricefx’s mission is to create and maintain a powerful platform offering digital pricing capabilities, enabling a true ecosystem while making it adaptable, user friendly, value-adding, and commercially fair. Software for pricing should not be elitist and its power should not only be available to the limited number of businesses who can afford it. Businesses of all types and sizes should be able to afford and utilise the power of sophisticated pricing to gain competitive advantage and commercial excellence.
WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA FOR THE ORIGINAL PRICEFX PROPOSITION – AND HOW HAS THAT CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
The main reason for founding Pricefx was out of pure frustration. The founders spent years in the industry observing how expensive, difficult and frustrating it was for customers to acquire and implement pricing solutions from the established “generation 1” providers, and how many times did those projects fail without delivering any tangible results? Pricefx was meant to be the answer to that frustration and failure by offering flexible, easy to implement and adjust, powerful pricing solutions that are affordable. And guess what: nothing has changed over the years and we still are fulfilling our mission, because the world still is in dire need of what we offer.
HOW HAS YOUR LIFE AND YOUR PREVIOUS CAREER EQUIPPED YOU TO BECOME A FOUNDER?
After a solid education in computer science, followed by studying business and administration, I had the privilege in the early stages of my career to work for the amazing leaders at Ariba. It was here that I took time to learn the basics to become ready to start my own venture. In my opinion, many founders start too early, without enough business (and especially sales) experience, and hope that a great product will make it a success. Unfortunately, no engine – not even the most powerful one – can get anything moved without getting the grip on the tarmac. No solution can be successful, no matter how innovative and powerful, without a defined market and the ability to successfully sell to that market.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT, WHEN YOU REALIZED PRICEFX HAD REAL MARKET POTENTIAL GLOBALLY?
There were two such moments. The first was an early stage (second year in the market in 2013) successful customer acquisition of two large, marquee brands in Europe: Robert Bosch and MediaMarktSaturn, both in Germany. They carried us through the early stages of our solution and showed us what we potentially could become if we listened carefully and learned from their requirements. They have been very patient with us, for which I’m endlessly grateful. The second was our rapid success in North America in late 2015. Pricefx was able to acquire five large multinational US brands as customers within only six months of market entry. This was a positive shock, not only for us, but also for the established US-based competitors of Pricefx: which, by the way, resulted in one of them trying to sue us with the intention to get us out of the US market. Fortunately, they haven’t succeeded.
PRICEFX RECENTLY RAISED A $65M ROUND, LED BY APAX DIGITAL. HOW HAS THE FUNDRAISING PROCESS CHANGED FOR YOU AS YOU’VE SCALED?
This was our third financing round, and with each round, the efforts related to the due diligence and a successful closure have increased. The good news for us was that from the moment we closed our Series A with Credo and Talis in 2016, we have enjoyed a lot of organic inbound interest from the VC community.
PRICEFX NOW HAS OFFICES ACROSS EUROPE, THE USA AND AUSTRALIA. HOW DID YOU NAVIGATE BREAKING INTO NEW MARKETS?
With a healthy portion of optimism, passion for what we do, addiction to excellence – and, critically, also a bit of naivety, which enabled us to focus on the opportunities rather than the obstacles. Our DNA is “nothing is impossible as long as whatever you do, you do it fullheartedly or don’t do it at all” which has been very helpful as we’ve grown. We knew we had a great and robust product, we had all the right ingredients in the form of passionate people, knowhow and experience, plus highly professional and fully committed investors believing in and supporting us no matter what. Setups like this makes you feel like you’re invincible and that anything is possible – which is a very powerful feeling!
AS CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, HOW HAS YOUR ROLE CHANGED AS YOU’VE SCALED?
I finally managed to crawl out from the weeds and focus more on the strategy, scalability, relationship building and orchestrating or directing – rather than playing five instruments at the same time! In the early stage of the startup life you are wearing many hats and there is nobody to get the job done for you – no matter what the job is. In retrospect, that was very satisfying but also very tiring and you realize how many mistakes you made just because there wasn’t enough time to think. But, it’s an experience of the lifetime and I’m very happy and grateful that I had the opportunity and privilege to start a successful company, no matter how hard it was.
WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF LIFE ADVICE THAT YOU THINK EVERYONE SHOULD LIVE BY?
I’ll give you three (if you don’t mind?!). Firstly and most importantly – no matter what you do, do it right and with passion or don’t do it at all. Secondly, always try to be as good at what you do as possible. No matter what it is that you do – addiction to excellence is one of the key cornerstones of success. And lastly, be punctual! Your punctuality is a sign of respect to the people you are working or living with and can get you far.