The start-up pack


How can fledgling companies secure a foothold in the market? That’s a crucial question for all start-ups, including those in the supply chain sector. Over the past two years I have been closely monitoring and analysing the supply chain start-up situation in Europe. In Supply Chain Movement you can see the resulting Maturity Matrix showing relevant European start-ups founded a maximum of five years ago. I’ve seen new companies a start-up pack emerge, several have disappeared and a couple have matured to the scale-up phase.

It’s too early to say what makes a supply chain start-up successful, but I recently attended a fascinating presentation by Hugh Jansman, a wolf expert from Wageningen University. He explained that there are a lot of similarities between wolf behaviour and human behaviour. Wolves are social animals that live in packs in which each wolf has its own role. In other words, a pack is a cross-functional customer team.

During his presentation, Jansman highlighted the seven success factors for a wolf pack: family first, earn trust, lead with friendliness, the strength of the wolf hinges on the strength of the pack, teach the young and respect the elders, never stop playing, and stay curious. As I see it, Richard Branson’s Virgin Group still has all of these factors. Even though it has become a conglomerate of companies, they are all ‘packs’ sharing the same principles.

Expanding start-up pack

To investigate the commercial success of the European supply chain start-ups, we recently held a short survey (ten questions) among 41 of them. It revealed that the majority of those start-ups are very optimistic. Almost all of them are positive about the unique nature of their solution. This is particularly noteworthy considering how full the Maturity Matrix is; the start-ups seemingly lack awareness of the (European) market. Just under half of them are positive about their international expansion, but perhaps that’s because the rest are still only focused on the local market. To become successful, supply chain start-ups must expand their international reach. It’s not enough for a start-up pack to focus on their own territory. After all, there are other packs active in the same area.

Martijn Lofvers, Chief Trendwatcher Supply Chain Media