Anastasia Negru is the CEO of SmartMargins. Based in Dublin they help E-commerce sellers correctly price and reprice their items according to competition and market trends, using the power of Artificial Intelligence. Since SmartMargins is at a pre-seed stage, my main focus is on attracting funds. We are currently working along ADAPT Centre. Adapt Centre is collaborating and supporting SmartMargins in our research funding application for EI commercialisation fund. This fund enables early stage teams to spin-in to a University as a research team and harness the research excellence of a University to develop a technology innovation in conjunction with Industry trial partners. Another focus lays on researching and attracting potential trial partners.
You can visit the SmartMargins website here
What are your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is definitely being a woman in tech and especially in AI. This does not come handy while prospecting or reaching out to potential customers.
How has your business strategy been adapted in the context of the Covid-19 crisis?
We’ve changed our strategy from “sell, sell, sell” to “listen, ask, help”. We did not see the crisis as a business opportunity, we approached it with a “how can we help small businesses” attitude. Since our beta is still in development, we focused on nurturing potential trial partners, offering help and advice. We also teamed up with an Irish start-up called “Covid Interns” and have currently two exceptionally bright interns onboard, helping in different areas of the business – from product development to scouting potential trial partners.
What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?
The main challenge is (and will probably remain (for an indefinite period of time) uncertainty. Investors are holding off, many potential customers are in “survival mode”. There are plenty of ephemeral trends and opportunities arising. It’s challenging for a start-up to know what wagon to jump in, it’s rather easy to lose focus. E-commerce players were forced to face the covid reality. Some of them had gone down, some others, their sales had gone through the roof. The majority are trying to stay in the business, innovate, adjust. A great example here are the distilleries that have brilliantly adjusted to the crisis and started manufacturing hand sanitisers. Little did we know six months ago, that we would be buying “cute” or “fashionable” face masks online.
What new trends are emerging in your industry?
E-commerce is evolving at a tremendous pace, and it’s on us to make sure we spot meaningful shifts and implement these within our software, while educating our customers and trial partners. AI and Automation are probably the main trends during these unprecedented times of cocooning and social distancing. Automation and AI are especially attractive now, since most of the brick and mortar shops have moved online. Consumer behaviors have shifted as well, as people started buying more online, and more local. E-commerce businesses are showing more solidarity with each other, a trend which will allow many fruitful collaborations.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
Since the pandemic, many small businesses and startups have started receiving more support and help from established companies within the same industry. Competition as we know it, has transformed and I think this is the most impactful change, one I’d like to see more of in the future.
Are you finding any skills gaps in the market?
From my experience, it’s a tough job to find a really knowledgeable AI specialist/developer on the Irish job market. And I’ve also been looking for a co-founder/CTO for a year now – haven’t been able to find the right fit.
How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?
We don’t foresee any major impact on the business due to Brexit.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
To me success is being able to give meaning and form to a vision and actually enjoy the journey. Be that in business or in day to day life, if you are passionate about what you do and you can inspire people and work alongside them to shape your vision in order to bring value to others, you are successful!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
Go with your guts and never stop dreaming. If you can dream it – you can do it!
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
It’s been an exciting year: SmartMargins has taken part in the 6 month New Frontiers Program, we have given an interface to our MVP and are working on the beta version, we have welcomed 3 interns to our team and partnered up with ADAPT Center to kick start the spin in process with TCD. Nonetheless, over the past year, I have met so many amazing, knowledgeable, inspiring and helpful people that helped to shape SmartMargins and I am forever grateful to them all.
What’s next for your company?
The sky is the limit for us, but we will be focusing on Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund for the next quarter and aim to develop the most sophisticated and powerful AI model in the next year.
What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2020/21?
Our main plan is to develop our AI model and help grow our trial partners businesses. This is the only way we envision our growth for the next year and beyond.
Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
This time next year, I want SmartMargins to be on the screens of the most successful Irish E-commerce businesses, and further beyond the Emerald Island.