[Interview] Marc Gellings, CEO Business1.com
Business1.com is the base of the international business-to-business 1.com-websites. Africa Business Communities is meeting with founder Marc Gellings.
Hello Marc, can you introduce Business1.com?
Business1.com is the global brand name of our international business-
to- business platform launched in 2016. The platform consists of 158 industry websites, all labelled 1.com; these include Food1.com, Cosmetics1.com, Fertilizer1.com. Our core proposition is offering our customers an online, easy to use solution to finding new leads and products. Each of our portals offers a three-way search option (product, company type and geography) as well as global marketplace, industry news and events. We took our portals to the market one year ago and since then we have enjoyed rapid growth and remarkable successes. For this year we forecast 100 percent growth in revenues and with a bit of good fortune we may be able to achieve breakeven.
What was your motivation for launching Business1.com?
Years ago I inherited the family pharmaceutical company - Interchemie - which at the time was not in good shape. It needed new distribution channels and customers very fast to stay alive. Day and night I roamed the internet for good contacts and leads, which was not something I envisaged when my father appointed me as CEO of the family pharmaceutical company. The end result of my work was essentially the first business portal made - a comprehensive overview of the veterinary industry, including all key players categorized by product, country and type. As I was passionate about the internet it did not take long before I thought this could be a solution to other industries as well. That's how it started. We build portal after portal and with a lot of research tried to cover all global industries.
This is not the first online trading platform – an understatement. What are the USP's of Business1.com?
What makes us different compared to all other business portals is our 158 separate portals. We don't offer a one- size- fits- all solution, we offer a dedicated portal for each industry. Just imagine; you export fresh mangoes from West Africa. Would you rather join some generic online business portal or would you prefer to be a member of Fruits1.com? We give our customers a separate and dedicated online platform, with unique content from their own industry.
In what stage is Business1.com?
Technically speaking Business1.com is still in the startup phase. But, with almost 1,000,000 customers and a daily growth of 250-300 new company registrations you would think differently. We launched the business in 2016 and are still in the middle of our built. Our core engine is working fine - providing our customers with sales leads - but we need to do a much better job at events, conferences, news, books, articles and other content.
How is Business1.com funded and who are the shareholders?
The company is owned and funded by me. I have invested the necessary capital into the building of portals. Specialists from different countries have worked on our platform and since January I decided to expand our technology team with young talented engineers and programmers to complete our design and enhance our performance.
What feedback do you get from your clients?
In the beginning the feedback was not so good. We struggled to offer enough leads. This has now changed. The enormous growth in registrations has a very positive effect on our customer satisfaction. When customers understand how to 'work' our database and what the importance is of a complete and accurate registration, they get the results instantly. One customer told us earlier this year that his international business had recorded a 30 percent growth last year, all due to the leads from our portals.
That makes us proud and drives us to go the extra mile.
Business1.com has been a globally operating company. You already have a strong presence in Africa. How is that?
In my role as General Director of Interchemie BV I know Africa very well. We have distribution channels in almost all countries. Therefore, for me Africa is like a giant, reaching out to the rest of the world. With the internet penetration in Africa improving year on year we see more and more African entrepreneurs looking for business outside Africa. At the same time we receive at least 1 request every day for information on African businesses. Many European but also Asian and American companies are keen on opening up African sales channels. I personally see the biggest growth of our business coming from Africa in the coming years.
What can Business1.com bring to African businesses?
I am glad you ask this question. It works both ways. We can bring healthy, good profitable business to Africa, and vice versa, we enable African companies to export around the world. Our partnership with African Business Communities is in our opinion a unique and special partnership we are extremely excited about. We both want Africa to prosper.
How do you look upon business opportunities in Africa?
As I said earlier; Africa is a giant. With a very young population, well-educated and a growing middle class, there is enormous potential for business. Of course Africa also has its unique challenges but overall I only see the opportunities across many different industries.
What are your ambitions with Business1.com?
We want to firmly establish Business1.com as the number one international business portal in 3 years. Without exception I want all of our individual websites providing each respective industry with immediate sales opportunities, relevant news, good events and exciting job opportunities. We will be the brand of choice to those companies who look for true global sales presence, with strong footprint in Europe, US, Asia, Middle East and now also Africa. We have invested a lot of time and effort into this unique business concept, now we are ready to conquer the world and stay for good.
What does Business1.com need in order to grow?
Our growth comes from 3 areas. Firstly, natural growth comes from new customers finding us through search engines like Google. This is the most important driver for our growth. Secondly, we need partners like Africa Business Communities to promote and manage our brand and business. We invest a lot of time and effort in developing long term relationships with these partners. And lastly we need content partners. For example event companies, conference organizers, news agencies, publishers. For us to grow into a fully-fledged international business portal we need satisfied customers, great partners, good content providers and of course; a well performing state-of-the-art system.
What is the latest news?
The biggest news this year is our partnership with Africa Business Communities. And soon hope to announce another major milestone from our growth strategy; establishing a partnership with an American publishing house, firmly establishing Business1.com as leading global industry portal.