Joseph Tempier is Head of Innovation at Mirakl and is part of the team that spearheaded the StopCOVID19.fr project, the platform that provides masks, hand sanitizing gel, gowns and protective gears to healthcare professionals.
To date, 8 million masks, 1.2 million of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment - blouses, gowns, hair nets, shoe covers...) and 420k liters of gel have been ordered through the platform and distributed to the men and women on the front lines of this fight against Covid-19.
Launched in 48 hours, the platform has connected new manufacturers in the chemical and cosmetic industries like Arkema and Shiseido, with hospitals, healthcare facilities and public and private entreprises -- over 4000 entitites -- all over France.
In this interview, Joseph Tempier shares how the platform was conceived; what it took to surpass the technical hurdles; and the amazing collective effort of Mirakl teams to keep it running and growing exponentially (x15 daily!).
How to prepare for a project like StopCOVID19.fr
Julie Delazyn : Hello Joseph and thank you for joining us today! You are Head of Innovation at Mirakl so you're always having to figure out what's next before it's even there! Can you tell us about what that means tangibly and how that has prepared you for stopcovid19.fr?
Joseph Tempier: hello Julie! I'm very happy to be with you today to talk about the platform. I've been working for Mirakl for 6 years, I was part of the very first team. At that time, we were only like 20-25 people. As head of the solution consulting team, I basically started to work on helping our customers implement efficiently our platform and the technology that goes with it.
Before Mirakl, I worked with Philippe Corrot and Adrien Nussenbaum, our founders, on building the Fnac.com marketplace and I worked on different marketplaces before like C-Discount, La Redoute at that time. In total, I had worked on 100 Mirakl marketplaces.
Last year, I switched and became Head of Innovation. And then, one day, Philippe Corrot told me:
“Ok, we have a new project that is coming on the table right now. It’s like an emergency to develop stopcovid19.fr”
It was quite obvious that I will be strongly involved on this project on the technical side with Jane Barge who is leading the business consulting team.
Launching StopCOVID19.fr: laying the technical groundwork
Julie Delazyn : Let's talk about stopcovid19.fr. It's a closed B2B marketplace connecting new manufacturers to hospitals and private & public enterprises that need materials like gels, masks and robes. It’s been live for 3 weeks and I think 7.9 million masks were sold or donated through the platform. It took a very short time to put everything together, so take us back to the beginning!
Joseph Tempier : I remembered exactly when it was! It was Tuesday the 17th of March. Philippe got a call from the Secretary of State for the Digital Economy - Cedric O - who asked us:
“Mirakl, you are part of the next 40 and we have this situation where we try to bring together suppliers that can produce some hand sanitizer in volume and customers like hospitals and health centers. Today, hospitals are just listing the names of who could be the suppliers and the buyers. We think that maybe you could help to do more. Help having a more scalable process and a real platform"
Philippe asked them: "When do you need this platform?" and Cedric O replied: "In two days?".
I think Philippe said something like: "We are going to do that in 2 days." Then, he called me and told me: "We have the most important project that we have to tackle. I need you guys to set up the teams and see how we can go very fast on that."
From then, the tech team set up the production-ready environment - basically the raw setup of the environment - in just a few hours!
"We are going to do that in 2 days!"
Julie Delazyn: That helped you develop this very specific blueprint to know where to focus your time. And you divided yourselves into teams who could tackle all these different aspects.
Joseph Tempier: Yes! On the tech side, we tried to leverage at the maximum the connectors that we had. So basically with the e-commerce platform, we decided to go with Magento that has a lot of out-of-the-box features that can we activate really easily. And with our Mirakl platform where we can configure things really easily. We really wanted to have something really simple first. The customers and the suppliers we had to onboard are not digital-native. They are coming from the B2B space where placing orders online is not natural.
Of course, we are in an emergency period, so we can streamline some processes on the payment for example, on the invoicing. But at the same time, we can have health purchase groups that represent 1000 hospitals behind. They purchase material for this volume of customers. It’s not like you just take your credit card to pay online. The process is not easy.
Creating a streamlined customer journey
Julie Delazyn: What a quick turnaround. That's very impressive! And, from a project management perspective, how did it go?
Joseph Tempier: We had to define scope of the project, trying to better understand the priorities in terms of lists of suppliers to onboard, product categories, and the customer journey. One of the first goals was to understand what does the platform look like, in terms of UX, in terms of design.
Once we checked that, we’ve set up small teams with, what we call, “a squad approach” to tackle the biggest topics and priorities. We knew exactly what we needed to achieve in the next 2 hours, 4 hours and in the next 24 hours. And then we started to have regular catchups with Philippe and with the government to make sure we had the right priorities in mind. And to set achievable goals in the time being.
What was super useful was that our CEO defined very clear objectives, concrete to-do lists, that he wanted to achieve for the next 24 hours. He said:
“Guys in 24 hours, I want to be able to do X, Y, Z and have the website up and running. Focus on this, anything else is superficial.”
Practicing what you preach: a marketplace solution provider launching a marketplace for good
Julie Delazyn: On this experience, you had to think about the customer journey, the front-end development, and all of the things that a typical customer would have done and not what your team would have done. How was it to pull that expertise and did you at any point say : “do we have those types of developers or what was the shift in that you had to go through?”
Joseph: What was pretty new compared to what we do normally is that we provide advice and we probably provide expertise to our customers to become a marketplace operator. In this case, we decided to be our own marketplace operator because we operate this platform for good, because it's a non-profit initiative but, at the same time, it's Mirakl teams that on-board the sellers and the customers as well. Here we could take the decision in just hours so it was super convenient! We saw the pros and cons of every process or feature we wanted to apply. That's coming from the experience we had at creating 200 marketplaces!
Leveraging the ecosystem of partners and expertise of Mirakl teams
Julie Delazyn: You've been able to leverage your own team within Mirakl but also your ecosystem of partners that also stepped in to help.
Joseph Tempier: We had partners - like Livechat, Zendesk - that decided to offer licenses to help us handle customers online. This was super useful and we all thank them for being really reactive on that matter. We also had other partners who decided to join the force. On the payment side, we are going to have a centralized payment process with Webhelp that is starting this week. Magento as well of course helped us. It was really great to have this kind of initiative, sometimes directly coming from them : “We saw in the news that you started this platform, do you need any help etc?”
Julie Delazyn: And I think I can also speak on behalf of the other employees at Mirakl who have followed this; It's just given so much pride to everyone to be able to be a part of helping in this time when we feel a little bit like our hands are tied, we're stuck at home, and we can't really do anything -- so thank you for the initiatives and continued hard work.
Joseph Tempier: We had a lot of people who were ready to help the project team and with a lot of passion! Everyone was ready to help, it was a project for good. We had big motivation from everyone. We needed to ask them to unplug because they wanted to achieve in a very short notice! People have been fantastic because they were strongly involved, working on weekends.
I really would like to thank the whole project team, on the business side, on the business side, on the tech side. All of the them did a fantastic job to step up to the challenge.
Julie Delazyn: Thank you for taking us through this journey and giving us a glimpse at what went on in these intense 48 hours and beyond, because I know it's something that has continued to scale massively. It's also a framework that can be replicated in other countries and for other types of products, and in a global crisis like this one, that's very important. This truly illustrates the power of a B2B marketplace!
Written by Julie Delazyn
Julie has worked in communications and marketing with tech companies and big corporations for the past 10 years. As a former NYTimes journalist in Paris, she is a passionate advocate of storytelling.