E-founders blog : Meet Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan, Founder of Clustree

E-founders blog : Meet Bénédicte de Raphélis Soissan, Founder of Clustree

Before founding Clustree, Benedicte was a consultant. After 4 years in consulting, she decided to change jobs but didn’t know what to do. So, looking for guidance, she single-handedly analyzed 500 professional profiles similar to her own. And, this was how the idea of Clustree — the 1st SaaS solution that provides evidence-based HR decisions using big data — was born.

Not long ago, we met Benedicte and talked about SaaS, customers and top tips for entrepreneurs. How did you end up building a SaaS company?

Clustree helps HR departments in big companies to find the right person for the right position enabling them to better manage careers and recruitment. Concretely, our software leverages internal and external data to compare employee CVs with the reality of 150 million career paths and see what they could do next.
To build our product, we needed evolutive databases, automatically updating algorithms and a platform to manage everything. The only way to do this was to build a SaaS.
SaaS is an amazing model in terms of scalability and revenues with huge potential for recurrence, upselling and cross-selling.

What surprises did the SaaS model throw at you?

In France, not everybody is familiar with SaaS. Sometimes, people think it’s only a solution with a web-based interface and don’t understand the real principles and advantages such as progressive maintenance, agility, billing, subscription.
That’s why I’m currently working on creating a “SaaS Charter”. If any other companies are interested, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Tell us about how you converted your first customer?

I converted my first customer when I didn’t yet have a product! I just imagined a solution and worked on mock-ups. I assembled them in a video and showed it to a major French corporation saying: “Let’s do a pilot? It’ll be ready in 6 months”.
After this, I began developing the product with freelancers, raised funds (€600K in July 2014) to recruit an all-star Tech team and finalized the solution.

SaaS is often qualified as unsexy. What do you reply to that?

SaaS, and HR, are often considered to lack ‘sex appeal’. So what? You don’t become an entrepreneur because you want to do sexy things but because you strongly believe in your vision and want to change the world with things that matter. SaaS is an effective vehicle to bring this vision to my clients.
SaaS, HR and data are often seen as arduous subjects but, as Benjamin, my CTO, says: “everywhere you find pain, there’s value”.
For you, what makes a successful SaaS entrepreneur?
A successful SaaS entrepreneur is someone who:
isn’t scared to disrupt an old industry with software and technology
is able to build an amazing sales machine
is able to address a large market by exploring adjacent markets or extending the product’s market coverage
thinks “scalability” at every step of the product development
meets other SaaS entrepreneurs to learn from them even if their business is different.

What would be your #1 advice for entrepreneurs launching a SaaS company?

  1. Take care of your customers as if they hadn’t yet signed on the dotted line. Retention is key, so build an amazing onboarding experience, show them how to best leverage your solution to create value (instead of best practices), offer them side content (e.g. webinars, data and guides), ask for their input, engage them in your innovation process.
  2. Think of your solution as a platform: connections with other tools, open code for developers to add features etc.
  3. Measure, monitor and analyze what your users are doing. Then, use what you’ve learnt to improve your solution.

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