Pleo’s going global. Next stop: France
And that’s because we have big ambitions to grow further across Europe, helping more businesses solve their spending challenges and empower their teams – now, we’re getting ready to say Bonjour ! to France.
We caught up with Clara, one of our International Product Managers to learn more about all that goes into entering a new market, and why now is the perfect time for Pleo’s arrival in France.
Tell us a little about yourself…
Hello! I’m Clara – half-French, half-Brazilian. I grew up in São Paulo but studied at a French high school.
Even though I grew up in Brazil, I’ve been visiting my family and friends in France my entire life – usually staying with grandparents either in Paris or on a small island in Brittany called Belle-Île-en-Mer.
How did your journey at Pleo begin?
I’ve been working at Pleo for just under a year, and I guess you could say my start here was a bit unconventional. The role I was interested in wasn’t up on the Careers page but I was really intrigued by Pleo.
After doing a lot of research, I came up with some new feature ideas and improvements for the product, and sent those ideas in an email to Olov, our Chief Product Officer – I mean, I had nothing to lose, right?
He eventually replied to set up a few informal chats, and then I was put through the formal hiring process to start as an Associate Product Manager. A short five months later, I became the International Product Manager for France.
What’s life like as an IPM for France in Market Expansion?
The best way I can describe the domain (Market Expansion) is that we’re a start-up in a more established scale-up.
We have Pleo backing us with the investments, the culture, the structure – everything that’s already been built. But in these countries that we’re entering, everything’s at zero. As an IPM, you’re kinda the first hire for that country. So like an early-stage start-up, you’re wearing many different hats!
My projects range from talking to customers, which is more from a user research perspective, but then of course legal stuff needs to be covered, and then there’s talking with Marketing and Sales. And this is all to ensure that we have all the necessary product-market fit ahead of launching (a call that’s up to the IPM). It’s super interesting work and I really enjoy relaying my findings back to others in the company.
And in the end, you become that market’s knowledge expert.
Based on your research, what does the typical company spending culture look like in France?
France is quite traditional in the way that they do business. There are still a lot of people dealing with out-of-pocket expenses and it would usually only be Directors or C-level people in a company that will have cards. A lot of card sharing inevitably happens, which isn’t ideal for anyone but, is also, illegal.
It’s also pretty common for employees to ask for an “advance” of let’s say, €1.000 when they know they’re about to go on a company trip so they can pay with that. Not exactly out-of-pocket but it still requires lots of preempting the trip and organisation, which is not what these employees are paid to do.
And what about bookkeeping?
When it comes to bookkeeping, the smaller businesses tend to work with external accountants. Based on my many conversations with these accountants, this also seems to be a career that hasn’t changed much over the past 50 years.
The two main ways companies work with their external bookkeeper are both very time-consuming – they’ll send the physical receipts by post or they’ll take pictures of the receipts and send that. Sometimes, the expenses will be entered into an Excel sheet.
It’s this whole end-of-month thing that the accountant has to deal with, for all their clients.
Why is now a great time for Pleo to enter the French market?
Having said all that I did about France being traditional, I do think France is really ripe for disruption and innovation.
And it’s already happening – take President Macron’s goal of having 25 French unicorns by 2025. It’s 2022 and that goal has already been reached. The fact that France has a president who is really pushing for technological innovation not only in France but across the EU in order to bring jobs, change people’s lives and allow Europe to set itself apart from the rest of the world is a huge advantage for the business side, but also has an effect on the mentality.
So even the most traditional companies are aware of these changes and are intrigued.
And why Pleo? Our brand identity and focus on the user experience is definitely something the France market hasn’t seen before from previous fintech players.
Flipping this around… Why should anyone in France come to work at Pleo?
It’s not only about building up Pleo as a brand and business in France, but also as a company and establishing the culture as the first employees. France is a big market for us today and beyond, so we’ll be investing in a diverse team on the ground to ensure the success of the market launch. It’ll be challenging for sure but if you want to be a trailblazer, there’s no better time to join!
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