How We Started a Company
Developing Collaborative Digital Tools
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I am Maxime and I am the co-founder and CTO of Digicoop, a Paris-based company that develops digital tools for teams. Our current product is Kantree, a flexible work management and collaboration platform. Think of it as an all-in-one toolkit to organize, plan, and manage work across any type of company.
Digicoop has been around since 2015 and operates as a worker cooperative, which means that everyone gets a stake in the company and is involved in making decisions.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
After getting a Master’s degree in Computer Science, I worked for startups and wished that employees would be more part of the adventure. Then I went traveling and was a digital nomad for a year and a half.
When I came back, I co-founded Digicoop with former colleagues who shared the same ideas about company structure.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Quite a lot, actually, because being a co-op makes everything more difficult.
In the finance sector, you kind of get laughed at. We didn’t have an entrepreneurial network. We were just a bunch of engineers lacking sales and marketing experience, and the online tools market is very competitive. It took us a long time to get people to listen to us, understand what we’re trying to do, and get them on board.
Who is your target market?
Our users are generally teams of 5-50 in any type of company, small-to-medium businesses who use Kantree as their central organizational tool. At the moment we are targeting teams that have previous experience with work management platforms since we don’t have the manpower to do educational initiatives.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Our marketing mix includes Google Adwords, word of mouth from our power users, and content marketing: resources posted on our blog, articles in the media (both English and French-speaking), podcast appearances, social media coverage, and more.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
The best way to retain customers is to have a quality product that grows with them. We are constantly improving Kantree, based on market analysis and suggestions from users posted in our public roadmap, which helps us better understand and meet their needs. We also work closely with enterprise customers to keep expanding our user base within large companies, and we have a dedicated contact person for those clients.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Since we operate as a worker co-op, known as a SCOP in France, our company culture is rather un-corporate. We want to create products that will empower individuals, not just managers, and will in turn have a positive impact on companies. Kantree’s flexibility means that anyone can manage projects on their own terms.
Driven by our cooperative values, we are all decision-makers and tap into our collective intelligence to grow the business together. 51% of the capital is in the hands of our team, which gives everyone a true sense of working towards a common goal.
We are remote-first, which gives us the freedom to work from anywhere, even though we have an office space where we can go if we need to. Our work is based on autonomy, transparency, collaboration, and a shared responsibility: we are all managers here.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We have a big self-hosting culture at Digicoop. Some of the tools we use are Mattermost for team communication, GitLab for DevOps, and Metabase for business intelligence. All the self-hosted applications and integrated via LDAP and a custom intranet portal.
Kantree is, of course, central to our organization and keeps everybody in sync.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
We are too engineering-focused, which is both good and bad. This approach means we have a high-quality product that can compete with the big players, but we didn’t invest enough in marketing early on to have brand recognition. We are playing catch-up now.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
It’s the freedom to organize your workday. We have a company culture based on trust and self-management. We need to be available on the team chat within certain hours, but other than that there’s flexibility: e.g. you can run errands during the day, as long as work gets done. And we are remote-first, meaning we can work from anywhere.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The stress caused by permanent uncertainty and a lack of long-term stability. Our aim has always been to build a lasting business that provides continuous employment for our team, and we continue to work on it.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I’m not a big fan of self-help and business books, so I haven’t read many. I like the ideas shared by the guys at Basecamp – we seem to have a lot in common and their books are quite good. I always keep up to date on engineering practices, just not through books.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
Having around 15-20 employees we would be in a good place to further develop and support the product, with a customer base covering these expenses. I would also like to focus on developing our SaaS offer.