It goes back to a very special moment in the city of Haren in Lower Saxony, Germany, a traditional shipping village for many generations, that constitutes the very beginning of what has become and is today known to the world as Closelink.
Philippe Lavarde was enjoying lunch together with one of his Castrol Marine colleagues, eating one of his favorite dishes: Currywurst and Fries. They started to complain about business, in particular about customer behavior, obvious market changes and the stubbornness of their employer regarding the former.
Philippe just recently completed important contract negotiations that lasted over six months to comply with all customer requests, especially on pricing for lubricants in major ports. The customer negotiated on every single cent which became quite a challenge to tackle.
However, the signature ink has not been dry when the customer made its first order on the basis of the newly and exhaustingly negotiated terms, only to order a major delivery in a very price expensive port. A port not considered in the discussions and therefore without any pricing benefits to the customer.
Just around the same time, Philippe has been confronted with yet another list of highly competitive prices from a new market player that tried to penetrate the industry.
After long-lasting, emotional discussions and monologues, Philippe and his colleague concluded that the marine procurement market, beyond marine lubricants, is in the process to undergo a major change.
Customers have to and will implement digital tools and means in order to improve and automate their procurement processes. And suppliers have to and will respond to the increasing transparency in the market.
The discussion was held in such a passionate way that both forgot to pay the bill when leaving their lunch venue. But the owner kindly reminded them in time before they head off to change the industry.
Philippe concluded: A platform that intelligently connects buyer and seller in a still highly intransparent industry will have its impact. He presented his vision to his friend Eike Lawatsch, an experienced full-stack software engineer from mytaxi. Eike was quickly persuaded: The idea has great potential. But Eike also understood the amount of work that was necessary to take this idea a step further. Therefore, he brought Tobias Schumacher on board. Tobias also worked for mytaxi for several years.
In 2016, Philippe quit his job. In November the same year, Closelink registered its first paying customer. An idea became a venture.
But transforming old habits takes time. And financial resources. Therefore Closelink closed its first Seed-Investment round end of 2017, shortly before introducing its first two key employees to the company: Jule Martens and Alexander Szyperrek. This marked an engraving moment in company history.
Since its foundation in 2016, Closelink is constantly expanding its network and partnerships to gain momentum and to make an impact in the marine procurement industry.