How to Deal With A Startup Clone


If you are a promising startup, little time will pass until you notice hundreds of clones emerging from every corner of the world. It’s very unlikely to avoid this. There are not enough patents, laws and NDAs that will protect you from this.

Your best chance is to learn how to compete with them, and to make sure you will be the one that will prevail.


Think Global from Day 1

Most startup clones will emerge overseas. Try your best to make sure your startup works everywhere from the very beginning. It’s not an easy task and sometimes it’s an impossible one, but you have to make sure you can get as far as possible.

Before you make any rushed decisions, it doesn’t mean you should burn a lot more money to be international. That would be a very bad idea. It means for you to make sure the language in your website is understandable and relatable in other markets. This will not only help avoiding startup clones, but also to help you decide which are the best markets for you to expand.

For your website to be understandable doesn’t have to be in many different languages from day 1. Use words, icons and actions that are easy to understand overseas. Avoid using many local references that are hard to get outside of your country.

If you measure temperature, distance or weight, remember most countries use the metric system. In fact, United States is one of the only countries that doesn’t have the metric system as the official system of measurement.


Don’t ignore your startup clone

Take your time to analyze the startups that are cloning you. Find out who is behind them, in what market they are, how important that market is for you and if they have any general advantage over you.

You should always learn from analyzing your clones how to make things better. Always be on the lookout for smarter ways to beat any kind of competition.


Always be three steps ahead

Everybody is going to be able to clone what you’ve done, but nobody is able to copy your long term vision. Always have a clear vision of where you want your startup to be heading.

Learn from the market, get as much feedback as possible, and talk to everyone. You have to envision what is going to happen in your sector. Your startup must be ahead of the curve and anticipate what will make users to stick with you.


Recruit a better team

Your startup is as good as the execution. Your team becomes more important than the idea itself. It’s a great advantage if your team is extremely talented, work great together and has strong values and company culture.

Always hire the very best people you can find. Make sure they believe in your vision as well. If you have the right team, a startup clone won’t have a chance to compete with you.


Buy the best clones out

Some of those startup clones are going to succeed and do very well for them. They’re present in a market you couldn’t pay attention to. They grew and it’s a headache to compete with them once you have the capability to be in that location.

Sometimes the best solution is to make them an offer and buy them. If they clone your business, it’s very likely they’re in it for the cash more than the passion of solving a problem. Some of them are very passionate about the product, and if that’s the case, maybe they will be make a great added value to your team.

It’s quite common to find international entrepreneurs that create a startup clone of a trendy idea in their local markets. Write them a check and don’t hate them, they actually did the work for you.

10 Common Mistakes In A Startup Presentation

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We all think we have the best startup idea, but we feel anxious when we’re about to pitch it for the first time. If you’re just entering the startup world, you might think that someone could steal your idea (trust me, that’s the least of your problems), or, you feel overexposed and fear being judged and misunderstood.

You will have to present your startup presentation a lot, so get used to it. From investors and potential clients to even your relatives over Thanksgiving dinner. But you have to do your very best when it comes to angel investors, VCs, and accelerators. They hear dozens (and even hundreds) of startup pitches and presentations every single day.

The more you do it, the better you will be at it. If you’re doing a keynote presentation, it’s a whole different game because it’s not truly a conversation. Here are the 10 most common mistakes entrepreneurs make while presenting:


1. Using badly designed slides

You have to pay attention at the design of your slides and deck. How you present your ideas is more important than you think. You could believe this is unnecessary and investors are in it for your idea only, but it’s not true. Try your best to have beautiful slides and never in a million years have a big chunk of texts in them. This is not 1996.

They want to see how capable you are of presenting your company in an appealing way. If you can’t generate interest in front of investors, you will hardly catch a user’s attention when they’re browsing the web.


2. No storyline

When you’re pitching, it’s important to get people to follow a story and not be extremely practical about it. You want people to perceive your company with a sentiment or a feeling, which would make your startup more likely to be appealing to the public.

Some entrepreneurs get to the point of researching about the key investor and make the storyline related to them through subliminal messages. They play with the main character in the problem/solution using information that is too personal for the investor. If they have a father called Larry who used to be a repairman in Kansas, the character on the pitch would be called Harry and he happens to be a handyman for a building in Cleveland, etc. Does it work? Well, it doesn’t hurt…


3. Being asked “So what do you do exactly?” just after you finish your presentation

If an investor asks you to explain your idea again in easy words and dumb it down for them, it’s the polite way to let you know you failed at pitching. The message got lost between your slides and it didn’t work for them. You need to use specific terms and ideas when you explain what your company does, regardless of how experienced you think the audience is.

Most startup pitch events have more than one company presenting. Even if people are staring at you, you might not have their complete attention. They’re just pretending to be listening.

You should definitely try to go as visual as possible. If you have a demo, a video or even a mockup of how your product would look like, show it in your pitch! It will help the audience retain the information better when you’re explaining what your startup does.


4. Not talking about the team

Angel investors, seed-stage funds and startup accelerators will pick team over idea a million times over. A great team can make a bad idea work. If you have a great team and you happen to fail, they know you will be capable of succeeding if you have to pivot or create a new startup.

You have to make them understand why your team is the best and the most determined to make this idea happen. Highlight how your backgrounds will make your startup successful and how dedicated the entire team is. During your startup pitch, concentrate in your actual experience and the skills you have more than the academics. Always remember you’re asking for funds, not a job.


5. You don’t project your image right

Again, they care more about the people than the idea. They want to see if you’re fit to be a leader in a scalable business. They want to see if you have the skills to forge a company culture within your team and make the company grow.

You have to own the entire presentation! It definitely helps a lot if your body language, tone and answers show your potential as a leader.


6. Hockey Stick Projections

This is a startup pitch rookie mistake. First of all, having projections in your slides doesn’t make sense because it’s too early to make these assumptions. This would likely to backfire on you. It will be perceived as you have no idea what you’re talking about.

And even if you can make these predictions, unicorns and leprechauns are more common than hockey stick projections. Real graphics from very successful companies have several growth peaks that reflects when something big happened that created traction.


7. Not talking about retention

You can get away without having traction in your startup because of challenges such as not having enough money for marketing, press or a sales team. True, investors can understand that if the explanation is reasonable enough. But there’s no excuse for not having retention.

If your product is out there running, you have to talk about retention during your startup pitch. This is the best indicator that your company actually works. It validates to investors you’re doing something people want to use. If you have fixable UX problems that are not letting your startup work properly, fix them ASAP.


8. Having unrealistic target market

“Women’s fashion is a billion people market, and if we reach the 0.01% of it, we will be successful.” Investors are frakking tired of this phrase. It will not only turn them off, they could actually get pissed at you for making such a stupid assumption. This is not real, and if you’re saying it, you’re living in a fantasy.

Put this in perspective: You’re telling them you will be able to get 10 million people to buy your product out of nowhere. And you probably haven’t explained how exactly you are going to get those users. It’s even worse if you have no experience or background in that industry.

The way to go here always is to talk about a weekly or monthly growth rate. Ideally between 5% and 10%.


9. Stating you have no competition

This means you didn’t do your homework. Of course you have competition, and everybody will be 99.9% sure about it. Even if your product doesn’t exist, people are using other system or products to substitute yours.

You have to clearly locate your competition and explain why you have a better angle than them. What’s so different and great about you? Why would users change their habits to use your new product/service?


10. All fun and games, but no money

People want to see a business model in your slides. You need to show how you’re going to make money. It’s not acceptable to think your company will grow as fast as Facebook and Twitter did. In those specific and rare cases, traction was the only validation needed.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble: You’re probably not that special. Time will tell, but at the moment you’re pitching, you can’t rely on winning the startup lottery. Investors are not in it for the passion, that’s your job. They’re in it for the prospective of making a good investment and having a fat return when they exit.

Close A Seed Round Quicker


When you’re ready to raise a seed round, it could take way too much time from you if it’s not plan to be effective. Meeting investors, pitching and getting some of them on board are not easy tasks. In fact, some investors you thought were jumping with you for sure might surprise you.

Anyway, let’s say you’re at the right moment to start  the seed round. You need to get in front of those investors, get to know them and get them to know you, and the most important part of the deal: closing it.

Let’s say you already approached those startup investors like a boss, and you want to close a deal with them as soon as possible. There are a few things you can do to make this process as quick as possible:


Line investors up for The Ask

Request a meeting with them or to meet in an event or something related. Disclose the reason why you want to meet with them and let them answer you. Remember this is when you already have a relationship established with them and you’re allowed to do ‘the ask’ from them.

If you live abroad, just line them up all of them for the same week. Give them some time to schedule the meeting. Reach out to them and tell them you’re going to be in town to see investors. You could do this three weeks ahead.


Get An Answer Right There

Most entrepreneurs feel uncomfortable asking for an answer or what would the next process be when they meet the investors. They end up leaving with nothing. Ask for an answer, and provide a system to get the answer. If the investor needs to think about it, tell them the timeline you’re working on and when would be best for you to hear back from them.

You can gently remind them about it by email and provide some updates if you have them, but it’s important you give the image that you ask for what you want, and you don’t want to lose anyone’s time.


Everything in writing

Investors are busy and they a lot of startups. You can’t expect them to remember absolutely everything you have agreed upon in person. That’s why you should always send a follow-up email after a meeting, summarizing all the decisions you guys have made.

If you have the meeting in the morning, send it on the afternoon, and if you go for drinks at night, send it the morning after. It has to be shortly after so the information is still fresh in their memory. That way they can validate everything you put in the email. You’re actually helping them to have all those ideas and decisions organized.


Know your term sheets

You really have to know and understand everything about the potential term sheet. Most investors have a very standardized system that you should know beforehand. They can work around exceptions (depending on every case), but you should find out what they normally agree to.

The best way to push for modifications is to have already signed investors with the conditions you want to implement. That way they will see you’re trying to make it fair for everybody.


Don’t lose momentum

It seems I haven’t learned this. It’s quite important to get things done when they’re hot. If you lose momentum, the excitement about your company will fade away. Make sure you set timelines and gently urge investors to make a decision before it’s too late.

It always helps when others are also interested in your company. Of course, you have to be careful about not being too much of a sell-out for the highest bidder. You have to appreciate who are behind the cash, and what they mean for your business.

If you don’t close the seed round on time, it might mean you can’t move on with operations, so every second counts.


Be honest

Don’t lie about your numbers, experience, expectations and the reality of the company. They will detect any BS you try to sell them and when they realize you haven’t been honest (because they will), they will ose trust in you, and that’s a deal breaker.

How To Deal With Big Competitors

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Entrepreneurs with early-stage startups tend to press the panic button when big tech companies are about to enter their field. They start going mad, their motivation goes South and they truly believe the fight is over.

What these entrepreneurs don’t realize they have become their biggest competitors. Usually, the amount of startups that have died because a big company entered their field is not substancial at all.  Usually, what kills startups is the loss of motivation and willingness to go on is what ends up killing their startup.

Just think about big tech companies from 10 years ago that have disappeared. People used their services for a reason and a purpose. When they decided to drastically change or expand, hurting the core experience, people decided to go somewhere else.

Remember, big competitors have more to lose than you. There’s a logical reason why the risk they’re taking is way higher than yours. A lot of them could lose their core in the process expanding the company, hurting the stock price, investors, and pissing the board off.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg flew out to LA to meet Snapchat in late 2012 to know more about their vision. According to the press, he told them about Facebook’s upcoming Poke app referring to it as a Snapchat killer. It doesn’t sound good when a big competitor is about to enter your field and eat you without any mercy.

Perhaps at the time he wanted to pressure them into selling or maybe it’s just the press trying to make Snapchat into another Hollywood story (alongside with Facebook and Twitter), but it clearly didn’t work. Snapchat did amazing for themselves and the app made by their big competitor failed massively.

Of course, I really can’t tell this story in depth since I don’t personally know Mark Zuckerberg yet. I consider him one of the best entrepreneurs of our generation and he seems like a remarkable human being. What’s important here is the lesson behind: Snapchat grew to become one of the big guys.


What about Meerkat vs. Periscope?

Of course, recently we have the example of Meerkat vs. Periscope. Even though it might seems that Periscope is winning, it’s a long way to go. I believe Meerkat will end up being the winner, if the execute correctly. Even though Twitter has been “bullying” celebrities into using Periscope instead of Meerkat, fans feel frustrated because of the comment limit on Periscope.

Another problem Periscope is not addressing is sexual harassment on women. I wasn’t aware of this since I’m a guy, but when I saw my female friends Periscoping, I was shocked by the amount of obscene comments made by perverts. Since you can opt-out of posting your Periscope comments on Twitter, it’s a free zone for sick people without any consequences.


Approach Startup Investors Like A Boss

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Back in early 2012, I was trying to figure out who to launch my now-failed startup Pathfinder along with my co-founder. We were very naive at that at the time. I was trying to pull from my experience on fundraising at other stuff, and I was just stupid. I had no idea how to run a startup back then.

When it comes to approaching investors, I was delusional. I even sent what was probably the worst email you could ever possibly send to investors I had no connection to, like Ashton Kutcher. The email was long and awfully written. I expected him to have enough time to read the long-ass email, download a 10MB PDF attached, because, you know, he probably doesn’t get that many emails and letters from random people all the time.

I have learned and grown so much since then. I also have gained weight and lost hair. When it comes to startup investors, I have learned a few basic tips about it:


Avoid cold emails

If you’re asking for money directly in a cold email, it’s probably not going to work. You literally have to be the best thing ever, catch the investor with a good mood and with some time in their hands, and get them curious enough to open the email.

Most successful startup investors I have talked to, just a very few of them admitted to only have invested in a single deal originated by a cold email, while the vast majority hasn’t invested in any startup like that.


Do your homework about the investors

Don’t spam. Analyze them and find out as much as possible of how they prefer to get approached by startups. Maybe they respond to cold emails, maybe they prefer a specific format when they get an email, maybe they like to try out the product first.

Make sure they invest in your industry and they look for early stage startups. They disclose this with as much details as possible on their website to make sure not to get time wasting pitches.


Nourish a relationship with them

Work with them a little bit before going for the ask. You don’t go on a first date to ask that person to marry you (at least in most modern cultures). You have to build trust and a relationship with the investor first. You should also figure out for yourself if you want that person in your business.

Business angels not only bring money to the table, they bring know-how, connection and advice.


When emailing, expect no more attention than 2 minutes

Go straight to the point without much more. You can give details further on or through a document with the specification you need. But don’t make it so difficult to people to understand what you want from them.

And again, sending an email to Ashton Kutcher with a 10MB PDF attached is the worst way on getting in touch with him. And just don’t attach anything when you’re reaching out to investors or journalists. Whenever attachments are necessary, use Dropbox.


Starting with an NDA is a deal breaker

Normally, startup investors are not willing to listen to yo if the first thing you’re requesting is to sign an NDA. As it is, they’re super busy and they need to move with their affairs. They listen to new startup ideas and companies hundreds of times every week.

They can’t keep track of everything they sign. Why would they sign if your pitch is probably bad? This is actually what they would think of you if you ask for an NDA.



5 Reasons Why Having No Competitors Is A Bad Sign

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People get unmotivated to pursue their startup ideas when they realize someone else is already doing it. To be honest, it’s quite difficult to think of product or a service that hasn’t been already created before. They key is in the execution, the team, and how you approach the product.

In fact, not only is very unlikely for you to have no competition, it’s bad news for you if you don’t. Here are the reasons why:


You haven’t done your homework

The fact you claim that you have no competition might mean you haven’t looked hard enough. If this is the case, it portrays you as a person that is not too deep into the industry to be able to lead a startup in it.


The market is not big enough

The problem could also be that you’re aiming for a very specific market. Maybe too specific. It doesn’t have to be a huge market, but you should make sure it’s big enough for your startup to be able to scale.

To have a great startup, you have to be able to grow it and make a profit, even if it’s a long term goal. Remember, startups are companies, they’re not meant to be hobbies.


Your competition already tried and failed

You haver to check if someone was trying to tap into that kind of product and failed. It would be ideal if you can get in touch with the people behind those failed startups. You can learn so much from them, and make an educated decision in how to proceed. You should ask them about why they failed.


You’re ahead of your time

This is extremely unlikely to be a reason not to find competitors. Most people would be trying to be using another way to solve the problem you’re trying to solve. So even if it’s not an actual product, find out how do they solve it instead.

Don’t Ask Investors to Sign An NDA

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When I wrote a post about how important is to pitch your startup idea, it surfaced an old topic that I considered tackled. That is asking people to sign an NDA to pitch them.

The startup community is well aware about this mistake, and it was topic openly discussed back in 2006 (at least, this is as far as I can recall).

The startup community is growing and it seems more people are becoming entrepreneurs. That’s a good thing. The bad part about this is that you get to see people making rookie mistakes that were tackled a few years back. This includes the NDA.

Among other reasons, you don’t ask for an NDA:

  • You’re asking someone to trust you with their money when you clearly don’t trust them.
  • People are not likely to take the risk of executing your idea. It’s better to help you do it.
  • Your idea is probably not as original as you think.
  • You should be pitching your idea as much as possible, not to a very few who would sign.
  • Your idea is worthless; only execution matters.
  • An NDA will not help you much to protect intellectual property.

Techstars’ Brad Feld blogged that if you even ask investors to sign one, you might as well tattoo “I’m clueless!” on your forehead. They take this request as the clear sign you probably decided to become an entrepreneur only a few days ago.

The point is that respectable people in the startup community are likely to dismiss you along with your gazillion-dollar-idea. Fred Wilson hasn’t signed a single one in his more than 20 years in the industry. Guy Kawasaki also blogged about this back in 2006.

Real value is in the execution, not the idea.

As Paul Graham’s essay on how to start a startup stated, the idea itself is only the beginning. A lot of would-be founders think the key is in the initial idea, but VC’s know better. They will tell you to get lost if you ask them to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Seriously, it’s all about the execution. It’s how you make this idea come to life and your day-by-day strategy on how to compete in your market and reach your target will define your success. In Gary Vaynerchuk’s words, ideas are horsesh*t, value is in how you execute them.

4 Tips On How To Network Efficiently

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Networking a must, especially when you’re developing a startup. There are times when you have to be full-on developing the product, and there are times when you have to be as out there as possible. We start engaging with new people seeking for new customers, users and investors.

We are social creatures and we have the drive to connect with other humans. But, how to network is something that doesn’t come so easy for a lot of people. It’s just the way it is. Others, they just suck at network.

Those who suck at it are even worse. They’re not aware of the horrible things they’re doing. They think it’s a game of who gets more business cards, instead of making real connections. They treat networking as if it has to be a technical maneuver and make no impact at all on the other side of the conversation.

Here are 4 basic tips to have in mind on how to network:


1. Firm handshake

It’s instinctive. I seriously believe there’s nothing remotely worse in the entire world of networking than the inability to give a decent handshake at an introduction. It has to be a confident and firm while looking straight at the other person.

When you shake someone’s hand, it becomes a projection of the respect you are giving that person. If it’s weak, it projects you’re not making an effort with that person, it translate as if you don’t really care. And don’t get me started with people who look the other way while giving a handshake.

If you were eventually going to ask something to that person, it’s a lost cause now. Make the effort for those few seconds it takes to make a great first impression, and there’s no better way to make the other person more receptive to what you have to say.


2. Ditch the script and act natural

I despise when people use a mental script to ask questions when being introduced: What do you do, what your startup does, what’s your business model, have you got any funds, etc… It feels as if you’re in a speed dating game and you’re asking questions without even caring. You’re on auto-pilot networking.

Engage with the person you’re talking to, ask questions you’re really interested in. Make a few inputs about what you have asked, but only after gathering enough information, or you will make a fool out of yourself.


3. Don’t be a self-centered a-hole

We all know and hate that designated prick who instantly start working the room again with their eyes the millisecond they realize you’re not interesting to them. That’s rude. Never be that person.

I’ve seen many people doing this to -as it turns out later on- key people to their business. They are very quick to judge and dismiss someone in from of them without the slightest touch of education and good manners. When they realize they made a mistake, it’s too late.


4. Offer something first

Don’t give me that excuse on how small you are compared to that other person. You can always find something that they need. And if that person turns out to be out of your league, even more reason to do it.

Be different, stay confident. They are probably tired of people trying to suck the life out of them and asking for stuff the minute they meet. It has to be a win/win situation. If you find something you can do for that person, the impact you will create on that person will be remarkable.

How To Save Money When Launching Your Startup

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It’s a great feeling when you decide to pursue your idea and create a startup. It’s exciting, thrilling, and scary. You feel as if your gut is telling you loud and clear that you can do anything in the world. At the same time, you’re never been more scared in your life. That’s normal, but let’s stop and talk about money for a second.

Regardless if you have a lot of money or not, the best chance to survive and avoid making stupid decisions with money is to bootstrap. Especially if you come from a big corporation, Wall Street, or a Non-Profit, you would be used to a very different fundraising formula. So, bootstrapping means to run your startup by just spending the very minimum to get the very essential results.


Forget about a big launch, you’re not Apple

It’s stupid to do a secret launch where you would dramatically reveal your new startup. Nobody cares. This is real life, and you need to make smart decisions when it comes to running your business. You need to save energy and efforts, because sometimes it’s not clear how much time you would need to bootstrap.

You can’t afford being silent until your product is launched. In fact, as I said before, pitch your startup to anyone you can. And no, nobody is going to steal your idea. You definitely need to save money here.


Only essentials, even if you can afford more

If you have some savings, I know there would be a lot of cool stuff you can afford. But that doesn’t mean you should go ahead and spend money on them. Even startup companies with a lot of exposure fail if they do a big launch.

Remember that running a company is full of surprises and unforeseeable expenses. That’s why you need to be smart about money.

It’s very likely you will end up paying for things and services you didn’t think about at the beginning, and most of the time those are going to be very expensive. So every dollar counts.


No flashy expensive first version of your product

You need to roll down an MVP and improve it with the metrics and feedback you will get from your first users. I know people who have spent almost hundreds of thousands of dollars on their first version of the app, without even knowing how users would react to it. Guess what? Most of them failed.

Remember you need agility to add, modify, or delete features of your product. Agility means having time and money in your hands. If you burn everything on a version you don’t know it’s going to work, you won’t have any capital to pivot, and your startup company will not survive.


Leave marketing for later

You really have to work on your startup and launch a few weeks before going crazy on marketing. Right now it’s complicated to approach media because you’re not ready. If you do, you will spend too much time on it and you could’ve used it to make your product better.

Get feedback from your first users and debug the product as much as you can. When you get seed capital and users are going back to your platform, then start spending money on marketing. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.


Don’t rent an office just yet

Waait! Don’t go that far when you’re just starting. Right now you need to launch a product and forget about getting an office. Avoid permanent expenses as much as possible. Raising funds will always take more time than you expect, and having too many fixed costs could kill your startup.

Check out coworking spaces nearby your area, coffee shops with good wifi or start working from home if you’re disciplined enough.


No expensive trips until you have something to show

You shouldn’t go to SXSW this year if you have nothing to show just yet. There will be a lot more opportunities to go to big expensive conferences, and even there will be a time when you don’t want to go to them (because you’re too busy actually working on your startup). Right now you need to focus your wallet and time in building a good basic version of your startup.


I think I made all the mistakes enlisted here. And more. You will get better at running your startup with time. I promise after a while you will become a master on how to bootstrap your startup.

We’re building Fikstores 2.0

Photo: Rui Delgado

After posting my article on Medium earlier this year, I took my time getting back to the startup battlefield. It was hard, because my mind was resisting all mindfulness exercises, instead preferring to do nothing and also people kept asking what I was doing lately.

But, fast forwarding to today, I’m very psyched to be working alongside the team that created Fik Stores, and now we’re building something for those retailers who are serious about doing business online. What we have right now is a WordPress-based online store builder, where people can setup their online shops within their full website, using beautifully designed store templates.

Working closely with clients, we realized that those who have their stores as their main business, or who are working very hard towards that goal, had a very real need to improve and optimize their sales. This is something we’ve been working on with clients manually: we’ve been gathering all the possible data and metrics, and giving them suggestions on how to improve.

This process is something we should make scalable and accesible to all the online store owner who would want to implement it in their stores, no matter what platform they’re using.

So, we took residence on Telefónica Open Future in Madrid, and we’re going to work with big data technology to make a tool that will provide the store administrators with smart suggestions based on the metrics and patterns within their clients.

If you knew Fik Stores before, you will see important changes during the summer, as we get prepared to launch what we call Fikstores 2.0… If you want to setup your online store, we want to talk to you. If you want to work on e-commerce and you’re a programmer, developer, designer, or big data analyst, we really want to talk to you as well.