Ankorstore sets up its customer service centre in Lille
Ankorstore is a BtoB marketplace that connects retailers with designers. Founded in 2019 in Paris, the company is enjoying success and rapid growth.
Some key figures:
- €356 million raised in less than 2 years
- Presence in over 23 countries in Europe
- 450 employees
- 15,000 brands
- 200,000 retailers
In January 2022, it will join the closed circle of French unicorns, i.e. unlisted companies valued at more than 1 billion dollars.
Ankorstore has just announced its decision to set up a customer service centre in Lille within EuraTechnologies, France’s leading start-up incubator and accelerator.
Nord France Invest’s partner, Hello Lille supported the company in its investment project.
NFI had the chance to talk to Leslie Dickinson, Director of the Lille site, and gives you a behind-the-scenes look at this move to the Hauts-de-France region.
Can you tell us about your arrival at Ankorstore?
Leslie Dickinson: It was one of the founders who contacted me directly to present the project. After the successful development of the Booking.com site in Tourcoing, we logically moved from a “Build” phase to a “Run” phase. And I’m more of a builder, an installer, a changer of things. So when the co-founder of Ankorstore called me, telling me that it was a start-up where everything had to be created and presenting the assignment and company values, I immediately joined the project. So I decided to join the adventure.
What does the “Unicorn” status actually change?
Leslie Dickinson: [Laughs] That’s a really good question.
A degree of serenity, I think, because it gives the company a perspective. It shows that the model works. A series B fundraising is already good, but a series C is exceptional. These are extremely serious investors who have entered the capital. It shows that people believe in it. It is comforting and reassuring. It’s a lot of work, because once you’ve promised, you have to deliver. So, there are projects that will come out in the next few weeks. It does put a little bit of pressure on, I think. It’s true that many people think that this is the end of something, but in fact it’s the beginning of something. And it brings in a lot more advertising emails [Laughter].
Ankorstore is a company that originated in Paris. Why settle in Lille when you originated in Paris?
Leslie Dickinson: The headquarters is of course still in Paris. We needed a multilingual customer service for the development of the company. The problem with Paris is twofold: it is quite expensive and it is difficult to retain employees with the right skills. So, we have a small team in Paris, but quite quickly it became clear that if we wanted to meet our growth ambitions, it would not be in Paris. As a result, we defined a benchmark of potential locations and chose Lille.
During the evaluation phase of potential sites, Lille was in competition with other French cities. Why did you choose Lille?
Leslie Dickinson: Firstly, we are an international company. So the first issue was the availability of multilingual resources. Our recruitment profile is someone that speaks English first and then other languages, especially at the time of our choice, we were focused on Swedish, German, French, English and Dutch. So obviously, from my experience at Booking.com, I knew that these language skills are available in the region, that it is quite easy to find these candidates, hire them and keep them.
This was a big part of our choice.
Secondly, we needed a site less than an hour from Paris. We need, especially initially, to send our employees to the Paris site for training, upskilling, etc. So the geographical location near Paris was also essential. It is mainly for these two reasons.
We also wanted to set up in a city that understands the spirit of start-ups and has experience in hosting this type of structure. So we were looking for a technology-oriented city. When we visited EuraTechnologies we liked it right away because we felt at home.
For you, what is the main benefit of the EuraTechnologies site?
Leslie Dickinson: The customer service centre is our primary reason for being in Lille. But it is not the only one. We are in fact looking to create a branch of our French headquarters in Lille. So that means that in the long term, not immediately, it may take six months to a year, but in the long term we want to have other skills on this site than customer service or technical support, as we have called it. This means that we may start looking for developers. We may start to look for skills in sales, for example, in marketing, in web, etc. And in this prism, we would rather be in a start-up environment than in a classic office environment. This is where Euratechnologies is totally appropriate. The tech ecosystem there is very interesting.
What support did you receive for your set-up and how satisfied were you with it?
Leslie Dickinson: The subject is vast because there have been many things. My contacts were mainly the Hello Lille teams.
In the first phase, we had a lot of questions about recruitment capacity, about the job pool. We needed statistics and data that were necessary to make an assessment of the different potential set-up locations. The Hello Lille teams were very attentive to our needs and provided us with the most accurate and relevant information possible.
They helped us to find temporary premises in the first instance to house us and at the same time, permanent premises.
They also put us in touch with the local business network, such as recruiters, HR support companies, co-working companies, etc.
Finally, they assisted us with the financing aspects of the project.
What advice would you give to a company director who is hesitating to set up his site – his future subsidiary – in the north of France?
Leslie Dickinson: I will say two things. First, make a score card (a grid to evaluate the locations). And secondly, to trust your gut. Because if he does that, he’ll end up in the north of France [laughs].
In fact, it is necessary to make the site decision objective and subjective at the same time. The evaluation grid will inevitably erase the emotional and sometimes political aspect of the decision. Once you have the score, there is bound to be a winner. And if you’re happy with that, you have to follow your gut. If you’re not happy, it’s the same, you have to follow your instinct. It’s a three-part construct. There is relationships, transparency and data. For example, if I were to get on very well with the location teams in a city, but in the end the data on recruitment capacity was poor, or if we couldn’t find premises, etc., it would be suicidal to choose that city based solely on the relationship part. On the other hand, the experience of visiting potential sites is crucial and must be taken care of by the teams in charge. This is absolutely the case with Lille.
What are the development forecasts for the Lille site?
Leslie Dickinson: For the customer service centre, this year, 2022, we will end the year with a hundred or so people recruited at the Lille site. It is possible that this will rise to 200 by 2023. Don’t forget that we are a start-up, so all these figures are forecasts that can change from one minute to the next. But that’s the objective of the project, to increase to 200, 250, perhaps in Lille before opening another site in another country. We are destined to have several sites and to always be increasing our workforce as the years go by.
The set-up of the Ankorstore customer service centre is a very strong recognition of the attractiveness of the location on two levels. Firstly, it confirms the good positioning of Hauts-de-France in the customer relations sector, with a capacity to recruit multilingual profiles which is comfortable for companies in the field. Finally, it testifies to the power of the metropolis on technology issues thanks to its major asset: EuraTechnologies.
We would like to thank Leslie Dickinson for her availability and the unfiltered dialogue we were able to have, as well as the Ankorstore communication department