Are tech products needed to build a successful startup?

Fabrice Scherer, former MSc in Entrepreneurship & Innovation student at EDHEC, shares the journey that led him to create his company, reminding us a golden rule in business: being customer-centric is a winning formula.


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Written on 30 Jan 2019.


In April, we went to Berlin with our MSc in Entrepreneurship & Innovation Management class to get an overview of the German entrepreneurial environment, gain hands-on experience and get insights from successful entrepreneurs.

I particularly enjoyed our visit to the Berlin operations of Helpling, a London-based online booking and payment platform that connects customers with pre-vetted local cleaners. I had something of an Aha! moment when I realized that success does not have to be based on a revolutionary ultra-tech idea. Helpling did not reinvent the wheel; it identified where there was a clear unmet need that it could address.

Helpling recognised that people were coming up against two main issues when trying to find a cleaner. First, many people who work as cleaners are undeclared, so employing them is illegal and customers don’t have any comeback if something goes wrong. Second, people can find a cleaner through an agency, giving them peace of mind, but this comes at a cost.

Helpling tackles these issues by acting as an intermediary for self-employed cleaners. It promises to match customers with a suitable cleaner within 72 hours. Cleaners are further covered by liability insurance and the company will organise a replacement if a cleaner cancels for any reason. What’s more, this is done at an affordable, competitive price.

Helpling proves that to revolutionise a market, you don’t always need ultra-tech products. You need to understand your market and the problems your customer faces. I think entrepreneurs should be careful not to rush headlong into developing a product or service without taking the time to talk to potential customers and explore in depth the problems they are facing.

When creating a startup, being customer-centric is a winning formula. Helpling and Sincor are the perfect examples of that. When my business partner Olivier Mandjee and I created Sincor, we spent a lot of time talking with customers to understand what really mattered to them. Today, we offer turnkey e-commerce solutions for universities that want to sell stylish products online.

We noticed how students felt a sense of belonging to their school, but could not show it, as much school-related merchandise and apparel lacked style. What’s more, students wanted to be able to buy products online and have them delivered to their home. Thus, Sincor was born in the hallways of EDHEC!

At Sincor, we design and create clothing brands for universities. We take care of storage, logistics and after-sales service, too, so our clients do not have to get involved in managing the merchandise or the sales process. This means they do not have to sacrifice valuable space for product storage or devote human resources to product sales and customer service.

EDHEC was our first client and welcomed us into its incubator, which we used as a springboard to reach new customers. We are very grateful to the EDHEC community for its help and support. This, combined with our field trip to Helpling, has got us to where we are today.

Find us at

This article was written by Fabrice Scherer, Co-Founder of Sincor


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