Olympe: facilitating the development of IT applications within enterprises

[Portrait] An award-winning scale-up from Vaud, Olympe offers a software composition platform for enterprises to develop IT applications. The company boasts major clients like Nestlé and Logitech. Based in the EPFL Innovation Park, the team has grown by 20% in 2021. In August, Olympe launched the free public version of its development platform and made its core set of “bricks” of code open source. The company will soon be launching a Series A round of financing. We interviewed CEO Laurent Chatelanat.

Nearly 60 man-years have gone into the development of Olympe’s proprietary IT platform. In the words of CEO Laurent Chatelanat, “It’s very complicated to make things simple.” And their platform does just that – it makes the complicated task of enterprise application development, actually quite simple. Founded in 2015 by Chatelanat and Antoine Forel, two software engineers with prior industry experience, Olympe provides companies with an integrated platform that streamlines the software development process and links it directly to business needs – empowering CIOs to extract more business value from their IT assets.

How does Olympe help companies develop and deploy enterprise applications more efficiently?

Our platform basically works by aligning companies’ IT capabilities with their business processes. In the end it’s all about collaboration. Olympe enhances collaboration between IT developers, who know how to write code, and business-line managers, who know what the operational needs are on the ground. The developers create what we call “bricks,” which are technological modules with a specific business meaning. A brick could be a set of contractual delivery dates, for example, or expected output from a production plant. By putting these bricks together – a fairly easy task on our platform – managers can get a holistic view of their operations and focus on the highest-value-added tasks. At the same time, business-line managers can enter their specifications into the Olympe platform.

What are the target markets for your system?

It’s not easy to sell an IT platform if you’re not a big player like Microsoft or Amazon, because a platform is basically a starting point. You then have to build your applications on top of it. So what we do is package our platform along with a series of applications addressing a specific business case or pain point – which we refer to as “solutions” addressing the specific needs of a vertical. For instance, one set of solutions we’re working on is track-and-trace, which involves measuring and tracing a company’s CO2 emissions across its entire operations, or using blockchain technology to trace the transactions in its supply chain – in a streamlined, holistic manner. We eventually plan to provide an integrated system where companies can calculate not just their carbon footprint but all KPIs in real-time, directly from operational data. By packaging our solution to target specific verticals, we can shrink our sales cycle and get more value to the customer quicker. 

What are the advantages of having your company based in Vaud?

You often hear people say that salaries in Switzerland are high, but in our industry, the salaries are actually quite reasonable compared with other tech clusters like Silicon Valley. Combined with this region’s excellent schools, that means we can hire very talented individuals. Another advantage is that there isn’t too much competition. We don’t have Google’s or Facebook’s headquarters right next door! That gives us breathing room to focus on technological and business development and explore the best way to address our markets. In addition, the high number of large multinationals in the region – like Nestlé, which is a typical target company for our platform – lets us build close local ties with our first group of customers. Finally, there are the quality-of-life advantages, especially in a city the size of Lausanne. In just half an hour you can be on the slopes, at the lake, or at Geneva airport!

How has being part of the Scale-Up Vaud network helped?

I’d say it’s given our firm credibility. It’s one of three or four labels that we’re very proud of, and that have helped with our positioning. There’s another high-value initiative which I believe is worth mentioning – the community that Innovaud is creating among business founders. Especially for small, young firms like ours. We’ve learned a lot from the larger companies in the network, as we all face the same business challenges. Such initiatives have gone a long way towards building communication around and about Vaud’s innovation ecosystem. It may be small, but with communities like Innovaud’s, we can take advantage of our ecosystem’s limited size by building strong ties.  

What are your future business development plans in Vaud and internationally?

We just completed a CHF 3.5 million fundraising round, in September of last year. That actually marks a step-change in our business model, because until now our growth has been funded entirely organically, through the sale of services delivered through our platform. But with these proceeds, we can shift to marketing our platform directly even though it involves a longer sales cycle. This means we’ll have to reorient our sales and marketing strategy and look for different skill sets for our sales team, a process we’ve already started. Once we anchor our new positioning, the next challenge will be to scale up our platform’s reach and gain market share. We hope to carry out another – bigger – fundraising round late this year or early next, and will use the proceeds to go after global markets.