In the Hot Seat – Kari Maripuu, CEO of Brightspark (Lexi Market)
How did the year 2022 turn out for your company?
The year started with some great expectations, but everything turned out quite differently after the 24th of February. Even though our business segment was not quite directly connected to the energy crisis or war-related segments, the inflation rate still had a major impact on our main customers (the retail industry). Suddenly we felt that this year would be a little different than we may have expected, and so it went.
What was the main challenge of the year?
The main challenge in 2022 was how to grow our customer base and explain the apparent value of our platform to the target market customers. Another important thing was to raise capital. The investment money flowed fluently in 2021, but the situation changed drastically within just a year. It took us several months to gather 100K on Funderbeam as it took just 4 days to gather 500K one-year earlier. As we could raise just 50% of the expected funds, we had to change our priorities and business strategy. We stopped looking towards the export markets as we needed more funds to succeed. Instead, we investigated options to become profitable in our home market.
Did the events in the world significantly impact your company, and how?
Yes, we felt the impact indeed. Indeed the cost of money has become more expensive, and investors have become more cautious when investing in startups. But more importantly, our target customers are facing difficult times that made them more cautious about new innovative ideas. The mentality has changed, and the fear of acting has taken over the management decisions. “Let’s wait and see” has become the new “Yes, let’s do it”. But we are not complaining. We just need to adapt to the situation.
Did your company manage to receive the expected results?
Not quite. We would like to make more MRR revenue by the end of 2022. We managed to achieve just around 60% of our target.
What is the outlook for your sector for this year?
The retail sector will continue to struggle. Price pressure will continue, and we must show the value of our platform to the target segment more clearly than before. Therefore, we are pivoting our business model further. We will make a shift in our value proposal, tilting from cost efficiency to an increase in revenue through our ordering module. From the IT perspective, we see a decrease in pressure on the salaries of software developers. That may give us some good opportunities to hire additional development resources to fulfil our product development goals.
What are the goals for 2023 so you would look back on December 31st and say, “it truly went as expected”?
The most important goal is the value of MRR. The goal is to reach 100%+ growth compared with our current position, and it also means that we have become a profitable company since we pivoted our business model at the beginning of 2020.
What is the main “New Years’ promise” for shareholders?
Brightspark (Lexi.Market) will focus on earning money. The time to do the unhealthy “growths at any cost” must remain in the past, and we must return to the base principle of the business economy – profitability. Profitability will pave the road to new growth and also to new investment rounds. But most importantly, the value of the company will be proven by its capability to earn money.
What companies or leaders have been your “personal heroes” this year?
I think that the leader of Ukraine has really impressed me this year. But on the business side, well, it has been a busy period in-house, and I am not used to having any lead examples, so it is difficult to point anyone out. I think that I really value the companies that have been able to remain profitable and adapt to the changes in the business climate.
What are the 3 most used applications on your cell phone, and which one you “couldn’t live without”?
Spotify, LinkedIn, My Volvo Car Management