We grew up on a farm in a village called Amelunxen, which had 1000 inhabitants. The farm had 35 milk cows, ten bulls, and 250 pigs. When a cow was calving, it was always a big event with lots of tension as not every birth went well.
Having our own dog, chickens, peacocks, and pigeons was a part of freedom in our life. Feeding them every day, taking care of their health, bringing fresh straw, and many other duties brought us a lot of work, and we did this work every day and at any age. It was wonderful to feel free to do what we wanted to do.
Becoming the most customer-centric company in the chemical procurement industry on this planet is our motivation and promise for the future.
Alexander had the dream of founding his own company since childhood. In 2005 he started studying economics at the University of Cologne. During his studies he worked in Australia for logistics company DB Schenker, in India for the underwear manufacturer Triumph, in Cologne for GS1 in management consulting and in Düsseldorf at Vion Food he wrote his thesis on customer intimicy.
During his studies, he founded his first company a plastic extrusion from scratch. It was there that he became aware of the complexity of the ordering process for raw materials in the chemical industry. His first company enabled him to advance PINPOOLS with a seed investment.
After studying economics and IT-management, Heribert-Josef Lakemeyer worked in a management consultancy and gained experience in various IT projects. His master theses covered different theories how to match demand and supply in a platform economy.
Through this experience, he takes over the after sales and technical part within the sibling duo. In the summer of 2016 Alexander and Heribert founded PINPOOLS, first with the idea of a platform for semi-finished products and then with the step back in the value chain to the raw materials.
Co-founder & former Managing Director of Trivago in charge of Technology
Peter is a co-founder and former Managing Director of trivago in charge of Technology. In 2016 trivago went public at NASDAQ. He is one of the few people in the European startup ecosphere able to bridge the gap between business and technology, having a background in both.
Earlier, he worked as interim CTO at several companies to help troubleshoot their challenges. Peter is a co-founder of Ciao where he also was CTO.
Co-founder & former CEO of Itelligence AG
Herbert is a co-founder and former CEO of Itelligence AG. Today Itelligence AG has a turnover of 1 bn Euro and more than 9000 employees and 25 locations across the globe. Their core business are SAP Solutions. Today Itelligence AG is part of the NTT DATA Network.
We grew up on a farm in a village called Amelunxen, which had 1000 inhabitants. The farm had 35 milk cows, ten bulls, and 250 pigs. When a cow was calving, it was always a big event with lots of tension as not every birth went well. Having our own dog, chickens, peacocks, and pigeons was a part of freedom in our life. Feeding them every day, taking care of their health, bringing fresh straw, and many other duties brought us a lot of work, and we did this work every day and at any age. It was wonderful to feel free to do what we wanted to do.
During one of our first pitches in 2016 to expert chemists at the University of Cologne, most of the audience agreed that we were going to fail. You could summarize the statement, “No one will ever buy an IBC digitally”. No matter how deep the discussions, the more arguments, we had to understand why would this never work, and you had to listen carefully for two hours why this would never work. That evening I took a shower, and I felt like a tank had run above my body. Here are our top reasons why chemical eCommerce will never happen: “We are too special; our products are too special, we are too global, we are too local”. Besides, we already had experiences of successfully building up another start-up before it felt like we had to build up everything again—Trust, product, team, business model, distribution etc.
“This will NOT work: The monopoly supplier landscape, already failed in the dotcom era; I have been doing this work for 30 years with good relationship and phone contacts, my customer wants to have personal contact, I am the best buyer and have already optimized everything, we have good margins – no need to change, my product is so special, and it cannot be sold online. ” - the list could go on...
At almost every pitch event we never won – we were asked such questions like “is the chemical market big enough?”. By the way, the size of chemical market in Europe is approximately 500 billion Euro. Before this pitch, we didn’t know what challenging journey was awaiting us. But I already felt a conflict, and not just internal. My inner conflict was about which problems we can simply ignore and which ones we have to take seriously and avoid. In spite of my inner conflict, there was an obvious conflict between bussines model of Pinpools and as old establisment as the dinosaur was. At that moment, Herry and me realized that there are many barriers which can prevent us from being successful. There are many reasons why we could fail, but there was just one good argument. Every piece of resistance against our digital solution motivated us further that what we were doing was the right decision, and we had to keep going. There was no other way.
We have tried to attract our first suppliers in order to put their offers on PINPOOLS. It was a tough work. We always had the feeling we just have a single chance, a single bullet, to convince these owners, CEO etc., that digitization is not a common thread. It is a chance for those who are taking it. Some picked up the phone and hung up straight away or told us they would call us back if interested. Some expected exponential growth from this new digital distribution channel by investing zero, others just tried new things and had nice experiences. But step by step, we convinced one after another user to join PINPOOLS by cold calls. We set up a call for our first transactions that was used for every transaction. At that time, we were faced with the issue of solving the so-called “chicken-egg problem”, and we will not stop finding the solution to this day.
We also built great friendships with valuable mentors during our first pitch event. They guided us through this environment. They sincerely believed in digitalization, the chances, and the great potential it could bring to the industry. Sharing the same vision was like a strong glue. During this time, it was more of a moral value to find experienced people in the chemical industry who deeply saw the opportunities of a changing industry. Mentors strongly believed in the ability of founders and companies. Our mission at PINPOOLS has been to find the right ways to bring this vision to life for all of us. One of our mentors once said to us, “Guys, you have to go out and earn money from it.”. From that moment on, we focused on features and services that customers found extremely useful and were willing to pay for.
“Der Held wird das erste Mal herausgefordert. Sein Ich verändert sich. Dabei gewinnt er Verbündete, macht sich aber auch Feinde. ” - Folk art quotations.
That means in every narrative the hero succeeds through the journey with challenges as in real life. As a result it gives him as allies as enemies but his ego is changing. As we’ve invested so much money in our vision to become the world’s most customer-focused chemical supplier, Saas was our own capital. We had a good start. But at certain moments, we had to realize what everyone wants, not everyone is ready to pay for it. We had to learn this the hard way. It hurts to lose money and losing your own money hurts even more. We had to learn to be willing to revolve solution multiple times. And for every new level we achieved, we adjusted our strategy and brought our product to a new level. We had different strategies to reach 10k, 100k, 1 Mil., 10 Mil, 100 Mil. Euro GMV. And we learned that the journey of pivoting will never end.
I’ve continued to meet such people like from our first pitch. Over time, we heard so many reasons why what we were doing didn’t work. But we decided to focus on those who see opportunities, not risks - we just went with people who are ready to go, without trying to convince “naysayers”, like the Chinese letter for crisis, which consists of two words of danger and opportunity.
We had to prove that the way we were going was the right one, and we made so many mistakes. But we made sure those mistakes were not that costly, and we made mistakes easily because we could not afford to do these things wrong for too long. We have also worked closely with our customers to develop the product in a way that can directly meet their needs. We are developing our products according to our customers challenges – not just the current challenges but also to foreseen possible future challenges and goals. Becoming a real partner to our customers is the most prestigious level we believe we can achieve.
We had to learn the hard lessons and paid with money and time for it – especially when you consider your life as the most valuable currency. You know you have to learn by thinking over all the lessons you have got, otherwise, you will silently disappear. Over the past five years, we have been steadily moving at a three-digit percentage per year, and our way will certainly take us a few more years. Our goal is to bring our company to a steady 3-digit value within the next five years. We are here to stay, and we are convinced we have reached only 1% of what we can achieve in the near future. Making a real impact and difference in our industry is what drives our motivation. The experience and the vision of how we see our company in the next 5-10 years have been and remain, our main drivers. So, our first five company years paycheck was not a salary (it was really tiny). It was an experience and a great roadmap we drove along together with many fantastic people that I would miss now if I had never met them.
Crossing companies that do not want to digitize for many different reasons reminds us of how we started our way five years ago when people hung up on us during our telephone calls. We are still motivated to provide companies with the fastest digital solution they have not experienced before. We wish to achieve their goal of promoting their own visions, creating value for themselves, and sharing great experiences.
Becoming the most customer-centric company in the chemical procurement industry on this planet is our motivation and promise for the future. Helping as many companies as possible is one of our main goals, and one way is to digitize them.
Founding our first company in the old economical world of the plastic production industry and transitioning to one of the digital global leading chemical procurement tools was a natural success for us. Taking our clients challenges and making them more reliable than before combines both worlds perfectly. Connecting both worlds into one reality. We want to thank all the outstanding people who trusted and supported us and as well as all the naysayers who were icing on the cake of motivation.