Kevin Goemmine is CEO of CHILI publish and is speaking at the LiT Summit on 28th June in Cambridge. CHILI publish is a ground-breaking software business and we caught up with Kevin to talk background, vision and his view on leadership and entrepreneurship.
What is your background?
I have been involved in running businesses from the age of 19. I’ve never worked for a boss and always had entrepreneurship in my life. I studied computer sciences, so initially, I developed e-commerce websites. In 2006 I met Bram, who was already doing some really interesting stuff, so when he suggested working together, I seized the moment.
Bram had started a new baby registering network. This is quite a Belgian thing – the idea is that you share a baby list with other people so as to receive gifts you want and need rather than just unpractical gifts that aren’t used. Plus, it comes with a better pricing deal with the retailer. What we provided was the website that featured the lists with pictures and the possibility for people to buy online. We developed this into a large e-commerce platform. By the end of 2014, we were looking at a 10 million euro business turnover.
We learned a lot from doing this and it’s also the actual origin of CHILI publish as it is now. What happened is people were using the platform and after 3 months it would disappear as they would stop using it. So, to extend the value of our product, we enabled people to make a printed booklet to collate their memories. We searched the market for partners and in 2010 we met our other co-founder Joeri. But instead of buying a product, we knew we could develop the software better ourselves. And that’s how we started developing CHILI publisher.
We never actually managed to put CHILI publisher back into the baby company. Our solution turned a niche must-have in the graphics market, it took off so quickly it required our full focus. So in 2014 we sold off a healthy baby business and dedicated all our time and resources to CHILI publish.
What drives you?
My passion is technology and I thrive on turning tech into value. As a programmer by training and developer at heart, I understand fully what I’m selling. This enables me to tell a story in a way that makes sense to a crowd and market that may not be so technically knowledgeable.
My business is to create - I don’t think I would fit into a company in a normal sense.
In 2011, we fought hard against the existing standards in the market. We were the new kids on the block, offering something different: an engine our customers can create an e-commerce model with. Novelties always present a challenge to be accepted by the status quo. But here we are, helping other entrepreneurs to create value by using our platform and adapting it to suit their needs. We have some great customers who have done just that. We call them our SPICY stars. It’s a great community that exchanges tips and tricks all the time. Every story is different, it’s not competition, it’s empowerment of and by other entrepreneurs. Jason Frueh, My CreativeShop, shared his story in Amsterdam in March during our #SPICYtalks18 event. (we don’t share the presentation publicly but drop me a line and I’ll send it over.)
At #SPICYtalks18 you launched UGE – what is this?
We rebranded CHILI publisher as the Universal Graphics Engine, #UGE, to show we give users a powerful Swiss army knife so other entrepreneurs can not only build their own platform but also have the means and tools to execute it. Our customers are people who have the vision to create their own product and platform.
In 2011 this kind of approach was new to the market. There were still people out there who thought it was OK to not only use the API but also pay big bucks for it! We thought this was strange, here it comes free of charge. We introduced a different modus operandi, a common sense model with a focus on entrepreneurial growth for all. Today they call that disruptive, but that’s just how we roll.
So is CHILI publish still at the disruptive stage?
Today, we are disruptive in a different way. In 2018, other people have managed to get some products off with our technology. People produce software that is working and helping others to improve efficiency and save money. Big brand marketing people see this as disrupting the agency process and I understand the unease amongst agencies.
The charges for file making runs into the millions, and CHILI publish removes this need. We simplify things by not having to pay the agency by the hour and putting the control back in the client’s hand. This is disruptive indeed – and it links the entire digital supply chain. When I talk about agencies, I don’t mean the creative agencies, I mean production agencies like HH Global (an existing customer). They will have to choose whether they want to be a technology vendor or production supplier or filemakers. We can now achieve 85% automation and are hitting the 100% automation target soon.
I think it is a good thing – we can create more interesting designs, and generate variations easily while saving money. This can be automated now with CHILI publisher.
We are not a huge company. But we’ve established a good reputation and name for ourselves in the market – we stay ambitious and eager to do more.
You mentioned there remains a production problem?
Technology is never stagnant, so of course, there are still production challenges. In packaging, trapping needs curing. Trapping is an ink distribution procedure - for example, if something needs to be tailored afterwards, this has to be done via an operator. There is still a percentage of manual labour we cannot automate. It poses no issues to companies that are fully digital, but it will if you’re using flexo.
CHILI publish was a new brand to the print industry only a few years ago yet you are growing fast – did you find the print industry was a long way behind the software world?
The print industry has always been about print machinery and technology. The advantages of software were then and sometimes still considered marginal perks. As the business moved from analogue to digital, pricing structures imploded, overcapacity emerged and only the smart print manufacturers started making money in a different way. I spotted a big opportunity, in a significantly sized graphic arts market. I approach everything from the output viewpoint and reached out to companies that could use our tech for their graphic assets. It became the foundation of our community and ecosystem.
I witnessed your commitment to storytelling at #SPICYtalks18, how important is this to you and marketing in general in terms of growing the business and creating new markets?
It comes naturally to me – you give to get so you get to give. I am often inspired by people, and I aspire to tell stories that will, in turn, inspire others. Our story is based on a rock-solid technology, which is an excellent basis. And I can count on a great team that helps me shape a real and factual story. I have a profound dislike of marketing crap. Only facts will incite people to take action and see that they too can make it happen. We’re good at this and people are responding well, so we are striving to become even better.
Take our SPICYtalks event – a yearly gathering where our brand and community truly come to life. Storytelling is a part of that, but we complement it with factual contributions from our customers who have succeeded with our product and independent speakers who align with our vision. It’s a hefty monetary investment that ROIs in added value for all participants. If you come over from the US, we’re honoured you made the trip, it must be worth your while. We also insist on a large level of transparency – we mix up prospects, customers and employees to talk openly about how to solve problems and generate new business and forge partnerships. The transparency and community building is valuable, essential and mandatory to grow. That’s how we turn our community into an ecosystem hub.
You can tell we don’t take community building for granted. What you get at SPICY talks is a great community feeling, interaction, learning and benefit. It is energising, it is an inspiration catalyser for all of us and empowers people to join and share our storytelling.
To answer your question: I consider storytelling a must for growth.
Come and hear Kevin speak at the LiT Summit on 28th June in Cambridge