What do you do after you’ve found success and sold your startup?
Mehdi Khemiri’s answer was to pick a high potential technology and explore it until he could find a game-changing use for it.
Six years after selling his internet service provider Topnet, which he had created in 2001, to telecom operator Tunisie Télécom, the founder got itchy feet. Despite using his new found wealth (Topnet was valued at 33 million Tunisian dinars, around US$15 million) to create investment fund Innovest, the entrepreneurial itch soon took over.
Finding a specialization
“The idea was to put together a team in a tech that was new, in its infancy and had high potential,” Khemiri told Wamda. Passionate about mathematics and statistics, he was eyeing big data and machine learning.
In 2012, he hired five people so that they could become big data experts and offer a data analysis and modelization service, a “classic” in the big data market according to the entrepreneur, and went with the vertical of ecommerce.
In May 2016, after two years of development, Khemiri launched Favizone, a platform that “allows e-merchants to fully exploit those new technologies and the the potential of big data.”
Big data at the service of ecommerce
Khemiri’s motto is simplicity.
“We match complex big data tools with a simple interface to help e-merchants improve their offers,” he said.
Clients can install the service in two clicks, Khemiri said. The service gathers the activity data of each of the customers of Favizone’s e-merchant clients. The clients can then choose different actions to push their customers to buy, including customized recommendations, on the site or via email, cart abandonment, re-engagement emails.
Favizone gets a cut on the sales they bring to their customers.
Ecommerce platform Vongo.tn was the first company to test Favizone. They said the impact was positive. “They enabled us at first to generate 10 percent of additional sales,” said managing director Mohamed Boujelbane. Today they have around 25 percent of additional sales thanks to optimization they did together.
Between Tunisia and Europe
From small websites, to big chains Favizone today has two clients in Tunisia and five in France, in fashion, B2B, and electronics.
Opening a subsidiary in Europe was, Khemiri said, essential for multiple reasons. It was a way to reassure clients that they were respectful of European laws, “especially when it came to confidentiality,” he said; it enabled them to provide a physical presence for clients; it allowed for the company to implement payment tools that are not available in Tunisia; and it made business development easier.
Khemiri went for France, the country where he studied after high school. “It was much easier. There was a language and cultural ease,” said the founder. He also found it to be easier when it came to mobility and visas compared to the UAE or the US, two countries that are more interesting fiscally.
“What matters to me is not fiscality, it’s the least of my problems,” he told Wamda. “The goal is not to optimize what we pay in taxes once we earn money but to start earning money.”
Looking for help
On friends’ recommendation, the entrepreneur went to Business France, a governmental organization, born from the fusion of the AFII and Ubifrance, that helps companies looking to move into France.
The organization helped Favizone choose where to settle and then how to create the company’s legal structure. They also helped them understand how to manage a company in France but also to gain visibility by connecting them with the rights structures and inviting them to events.
Currently working with several Arab startup across the region, Business France has an office in Paris where they work with companies from Maghreb, and one in Dubai where they work with the rest of the MENA region.
Khemiri said he is going to make the most of his Paris office and in the near future will be looking for funding in France to accelerate Favizone’s growth.