Openbravo at 15: a chat with Bob Mann, our Chairman
To celebrate the first 15 years of Openbravo, I recently met with Bob Mann, Openbravo’s Chairman, in Barcelona and we sat down and chatted at length about the company. We talked about the important milestones in the company’s history and also reminisced about the most memorable moments for us personally.
Below, I am pleased to be able to share the highlights of what was a very pleasurable and interesting chat. It has been divided into four themes, so you can watch a short excerpt covering a particular theme or see the video in its entirety using the link at the end of the article.
Origins of Openbravo and its retail strategy
Bob: I don’t know if everybody knows the background to Openbravo so it might be worthwhile for you to give us a quick history of Openbravo and tell us about the things that you have enjoyed, particularly during your tenure as CEO since 2012.
Marco: Going back to the beginning, as we know we’re now celebrating 15 years of the Openbravo brand. But many people may not know that the origins of Openbravo go back five years earlier, to 2001, when it was set up by a group of entrepreneurs from the autonomous region of Navarra in Spain and the city of Pamplona in particular. So, that was where the company really got started, actually 20 years ago.
Another thing that people may not know is that from day one Openbravo has been a 100% web native solution. Now, there are more solutions that are also 100% web native but 15-20 years ago this was actually very disruptive, particularly in enterprise software.
Bob: At that time as well we had an open source ERP application, so how did you and the executive team decide that we needed to focus on retail? Why was it retail? What was the spark that made that happen?
Marco: First of all, we were already having a lot of success in attracting clients who were generally pretty large and often very international but, as you say, we were offering horizontal ERP. So we had clients from different industries and among them we already had retail clients and we could see back then that the retail space was going to be disrupted. There were retailers we started working with about a decade ago, like Decathlon in Asia Pacific, like Magasins BUT and Cirque du Soleil, — to name just a few — and we saw a big opportunity there. So that’s when we decided that we wanted to play in the retail space.
The refocusing was fully realized in the middle of 2012 when we launched what we call Openbravo for Retail with our web POS, a fully functional web POS.
3 ingredients of success during these 15 years
Bob: Marco, having been here for quite a long time, tell me about your memories. What are the points in the life of Openbravo that you remember and have been special to you?
Marco: I think there are various points so let me go through the list – it could be very long! But before I do that, I think there’s one topic which I think is very important and which has been a constant over the years and that is the team. I continue to be humbled and motivated every day we go to work by the Openbravo staff and people.
It’s a team which is truly engaged. I think we all have the same desire — I would almost say obsession — to achieve client success. We want our clients to be really very satisfied with the software. We are willing to go the extra mile and if you see that every day across the company, that’s truly very motivating.
But that’s on one side. When you ask me what are the main milestones, the main highlights in our history I would say, well, there are many, of course. It’s been a long time –15 years for me as well — but I would say the first one was probably when we closed the investment with Amadeus Capital and Adara Ventures.
They have been spectacular financial partners for the company. They were with us when we made the change to focus on retail and they’ve been supporting us ever since. Obviously, they’ve also been enjoying the achievements we’ve made along the road. They were there then and they’re still here today, which is really very good. They are great partners to have as shareholders.
I think another point was the moment – and this is jumping forward a bit in time – when we opened the offices in France. We already were successful, we had customers across the world in different regions but we really saw a big opportunity in the French market, and so we hired a great team in 2018. It has been stellar growth and we’re close to 30 people now. It really seems to be a blue sky opportunity and it’s going to be fantastic. I think you should keep a close eye on that one, as there will be lots of good news coming soon on that front.
4 key moments in our history over these 15 years
Marco: Bob, since you’ve been with us for quite a long time as well — 10-12 years as Chairman of the company — are there any specific anecdotes you would like to share with us?
Bob: That’s an interesting question. As regards our people, there are two things I think that I take from the ten years I’ve been chairman. One was the tenth anniversary party which we had in the Pyrenees. That was just a fabulous event, I thought. The people, the motivation, the fun, the partying… it showed me just what the staff and the employees mean for the company.
And the other one is people related as well. It hasn’t been the most straightforward journey to get to this point. Now, we’re doing very well indeed and it’s fantastic to see the growth of the company but, as we all know, it’s been a tough few years to get to this point. So, I would just want to say, on behalf of the board, “thank you” to the staff because a lot of people made a lot of sacrifices to ensure the company got to this point.
So, those are the two things I would emphasize from a people point of view: the partying in the Pyrenees and the effort and support that staff gave the company during some tough times as well.
There are two other things that I’d like to pick up on. You mentioned Magasins BUT, and I remember the conversations we had in board meetings, trying to decide whether we should take on Magasins BUT as a customer. I remember we had to expand the product and it was a highly risky project but we decided to go for it and I think that you and all the teams — the implementation team, the customer support team — did very well. I think it’s been a great flagship for us over the last ten years.
And then the last thing I would say is that we’re a retail software company but 18 months ago we could have folded as a business precisely because we were focused on retail [which was heavily affected by the pandemic]. I think you and the executive team and the staff have performed a phenomenal job over the last 18 months of not just continuing to grow the company, but growing the company to now be profitable as well.
Today we are omnichannel ready
Marco: That is a very nice combination of subjects. And just to build on your last point, of course it’s true that many retailers with physical stores use our point of sale software and our system in their stores.
But I think one of the great achievements of Openbravo over the last ten years that we’ve been focusing on retail is that we’re omnichannel ready. We enable retailers to transform the role of the stores and the shopping experience that they can offer to their clients.
We were probably better positioned 18 months ago than we may have then thought to serve our clients, the retailers, through the tremendously difficult times created by the pandemic. I think many clients will confirm that we’ve helped them through this difficult period one way or another. So, yes, we’re very happy to see that because it confirms that this is definitely where retail is heading [to an omnichannel future].
I would just like to thank Bob for taking the time to chat to me and share his views and anecdotes. If you want to watch the full video of our chat, you can access it below:
(The above transcript has been abridged and edited.)