After Clippings was acquired by the US unicorn Material Bank in August 2021, the company rebranded its Bulgarian operations. Design Technologies is a new business unit within Material Bank, focused on building SaaS products that power digital commerce for interior design brands, selling furniture, lighting, interior fixtures, and materials, around the world.
“There are more than a trillion dollars of annual transaction volume worldwide in the interior design industry, and it is one of the last sectors that really has not been meaningfully transformed by technology. So, there is a significant opportunity for us to leave a mark and make a defining impact on its future. In addition, we are in an incredibly fortunate position of being a startup, yet already generating millions of dollars of revenue from existing customers, and being part of a unicorn with $150M in funding,” Adel Zakout, Managing Director of Design Technologies summarized.
Unbundling the marketplace and the SaaS technology solution
Clippings started as a marketplace for interior design products on Clippings.com, and as the company grew, it started augmenting its service, providing fully-managing logistics, and building industry-specific functionality on the platform. The focus was shifted to enabling B2B relations between manufacturers and businesses looking to buy their products, such as interior designers, real estate operators, and property developers working on a project.
“We realized that the way those audiences look for products, make decisions and purchase is very different from a standard e-commerce journey. That is why we built technology to make the whole workflow smoother – from the ability to create projects and collaborate on product selections, inviting colleagues, and clients into the platform to discuss interior design ideas and purchases together, to digitizing the B2B purchasing process including quoting, discounting and invoicing. Today, Clippings is a marketplace that is overlaid with workflow management software, to uniquely enable transactions in this industry to happen in digital form,” Adel Zakout explains.
Then brands started asking whether they can use their technology to also sell online and digitize their sales process. This led Clippings to consider licensing their technology and offering it as a white-label solution. The company launched partnerships with the world’s leading furniture manufacturers, Steelcase and Herman Miller, and after the acquisition by Material Bank, decided to double down on building technology to power digital commerce for the interior design industry.
“We split the business so that one business is fully focused on building our SaaS platform, which is Design Technologies, and the other,Clippings.com, continues as our marketplace business,” Zakout explains.
Solving pain points and specificities in the interior design industry
Zakout shares that today the interior design industry is still old-fashioned as brands, manufacturers, buyers, and sellers do not use technology in a meaningful way. This means that the sales process is still done manually and offline. “People still transact with paper catalogs, phone calls, emails, and PDF quotes. By digitizing the whole process, we enable two things to happen; First, we help brands fully digitize their sales processes, and second, we allow them to launch new B2B and B2C sales channels online. This brings efficiency to the brand’s bottom line and creates a superior customer experience”, Zakout points out.
So how does it all work? Design Technologies powers or integrates with a brand’s website by plugging widgets that activate e-commerce capabilities for them. Basically, these widgets provide brands with the ability for a brand’s customers to access the product catalog, view trade/business pricing if they’re logged in, create quotes, engage with the brand’s sales team and pay with a credit card, bank transfer or with payment terms. In addition to that, they have developed a suite of tools to allow the brand’s sales team to manage all quotes, orders and interact with customers through a dashboard-like interface, rather than through PDFs and emails. And finally, the technology of Design Technologies fully integrates with the brand’s ERP, CRM and other internal systems.
In other words, the solutions of Design Technologies cover the end-to-end purchasing journey and process that a customer and brand go through – from discovery through to order. This process includes the steps of learning more about the product, configuring the product, getting a price for the product, creating quotes and managing those quotes, and discussing those quotes with the relevant stakeholders.
“More than 70% of the transactional volume in the interior design industry is B2B, meaning that way they do business is quite different to other sectors. Their clients are not using shopping carts, but are rather expecting quotes, discounts, invoices, and an assisted sales process,” Zakout explains.
Building a world-class team of engineers: Vasil Popovski becomes CTO
To lead technology, Design Technologies has hired Vassil Popovski, who left Leanplum at the beginning of 2022 after successfully leading the company’s product & engineering team for 3.5 years. “I’ve done my job here and it’s time for a new challenge. Managers are most successful when things are going well without them being around to control everything. Over the past summer, I took a 6-week-long holiday and the team didn’t call me for work even once. At this point, it became very clear to me that the new leaders in Leanplum are ready to take over and it’s time for me to hand over the torch to them,” Popovski explained in a previous interview for The Recursive.
At Design Technologies, he will be leading and expanding the team to introduce modern tools for the interior design industry, competing with giants such as Salesforce, Shopify, SAP, and Adobe. “I do believe that we have a sweet spot on how to compete with them, providing specialized workflows for this industry,” Vassil says. He will be focused on building a high-performing engineering team and culture in a very competitive environment.
“We plan to release the first version of our scalable SaaS solution this year, which means that the Sofia team needs to grow by 50% in 2022. Our priority will be to hire engineers from the top 3% pool and we will be competing with Hyperscience, Leanplum, Uber, VMware, Payhawk, and other top product companies for the best talent – so look out!,” Popovski says.