Otrium

“We’re always looking to see what can be automated.”

Interview with Max Klijnstra — co-founder of Otrium.

Otrium

Otrium founders Max and Milan started a clothing company after they graduated from university. The company made sweaters, among other items. Their “Evil Cats in Space” sweater sold well, but the “Skull & Roses” one? Not so much. This is where the inspiration for Otrium came from, something that’s a recurring problem for clothing brands both large and small: clothing that hasn’t sold. Their solution: an online fashion marketplace selling brands’ previous collections at significant discounts.

A screenshot of the Otrium website

What’s notable about Otrium is that its concept works for suppliers as well as consumers. Max explains, “If you’re a consumer in the Netherlands you can go to the Designer Outlet in Roermond, if you’re looking for big discounts on brands. But you have to travel there and back and you don’t exactly know what you’ll find.” Even the online sales with big discounts don’t work, according to Max: “There are flash sales online where you can get considerable discounts on brands over, say, a week but items are usually shipped by another company and take weeks to be delivered. And you absolutely can’t return anything.” “This,” he states, “isn’t in sync with the times, it’s outdated.” “Otrium is a solution for both consumers and suppliers,” he says, “the more brands that sign up, the more clients will follow.” Despite this advantage, not every brand was eager to jump on board at the beginning.

“Otrium is a solution for both consumers and suppliers.”

Max Klijnstra co-founder of Otrium

Boxes with the Otrium logo in a cabinet in their office and a screen showing the Otrium website

Trying out several business models

Otrium took the feedback they received from the companies that didn’t want to become clients very seriously. “These companies told us what we’d have to offer them for them to do business with us. We used this information to figure out how we should move forward,” Max says. And that strategy looks like it’s working because Otrium is growing at an amazing rate.

“We found something that works,” says Max, “it’s something that consumers and suppliers look out for. This didn’t come overnight, by the way, it took a while.” “We tried out several business models. Dealing with them was difficult because we had already presented a very specific plan to our investors, “ he says. “Later down the road we figured out that this approach wasn’t feasible, but our investors were more relaxed about it than we were, which gave us a lot of insight,” he states. “Sometimes you have to just let go of something you previously thought would solve everything,” Max advises, “You can’t be too strict. That’s how we learned that what works for a small brand can work for a larger one as well, just on a different scale.”

“We tried out more than a few business models.”

Max Klijnstra co-founder of Otrium

Otrium founders Max and Milan with a giant teddy bear

Technology is indispensable

“The scalability of our platform has been extremely important since the beginning,” Max states. “Take, for instance, managing a warehouse that stocks about 200 brands. Each brand is completely different, and not only when it comes to things like inventory data, barcodes, packaging, and product descriptions, but even sizes,” he says, “Every brand has a different idea of what a size L should be.” “Imagine,” he continues, “with all this in mind, that the number of brands you’re stocking doubles. The thing here is that your processing times can’t also take twice as long. We’re always looking to see what can be automated, so processes can take two minutes instead of two hours. Technology is indispensable for this.” “We want to prevent the need to hire more people for everything that needs to get done because that’s not scalable,” he says, “That’s why we’re currently investing in machine learning and data, to future-proof the company and keep it agile.”

A customer support employee of Otrium at her desk

“It can’t be anything good”

The payment process, too, has to be scalable and technologically advanced enough so it can be easily integrated into other systems and grow with them. “It wasn’t easy with our first PSP, at all,” Max tells, “It was like working with the government. This was the type of thing where you needed an enormous instructional manual, with references, just to figure out what was going on, and don’t even get me started on design: you’d make a really good looking website and the checkout looked like it was from 15 years ago.” “And to top it all off,” he continues, “there were fees on top of fees, but we couldn’t figure out what we were paying for,” he says. “To be honest, when we came across Mollie I thought: this is so much cheaper that it can’t be anything good,” he says, correcting, “But this turned out to be wrong, especially when we found out how easy integration at Mollie is —it’s truly seamless.”

“What’s also a plus point for Mollie is that you have an overview of everything in a single platform,” he says, “especially now since Klarna has been integrated.” “We used to work with multiple systems, for example for Klarna and PayPal,” he explains, “Now, all of that is all under one roof. This really makes our customer service department happy because it makes their job that much easier.” Moreover, “The prices [for payments] have also come down, “ he says. “The most important factor for us, though, is scalability. We’re processing four times as many transactions as when we switched to Mollie while the employee count has stayed the same,” he notes, “And this gives us a solid foundation to grow even bigger.”

“We’re processing four times as many transactions as when we switched to Mollie while the employee count has stayed the same.”

Max Klijnstra co-founder of Otrium

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