Any company - new or old - which does not see the new web technology in its business life - literally - like breathing, can quickly suffocate - Jack Welch, a longtime CEO of General Electric, author of several business books.
IAI is a public corporation which has won multiple prizes and hires several dozen workers. We have not been created as a whim of giant corporation. We have arisen from real business needs, dynamically improving every element of our activity over the years. Since the very beginning, our strategy has been a long-term one, as it has been planned for 30 years. We assumed a constant development of our enterprise. In the period of 2000-2030, a revolution in sales will occur. We expect great changes to come, as our history is still in the making. Over 15 years have passed and now we are in the middle of the road - between its start and its finish.
The beginnings of IAI are connected with Hip-Hop.pl social network. In 2000, Paweł Fornalski and Sebastian Muliński, the two founders, who still run the IAI today, have created the first music portal in which users - not journalists - were to create the content. At the time Paweł was studying and Sebastian was preparing to write his final exams in high school. Concepts of Web 2.0 and Wikipedia and other milestones of the Internet did not even exist. Creators of IAI were again ahead of their time - Hip-Hop.pl was a giant success, still attracting thousands of users.
During the search for advertisers, we met an owner of a shop with clothing and footwear for young people. Owner of this company agreed to buy advertisement under one condition - we were to launch and handle his on-line store, as well as write a dedicated software solution. When we tried to find a script to install in the shop and simply focus on sales, we could not find anything suitable. The main disadvantage was lack of stocks control with division to sizes and colors, which is the basis of every clothes shop. Not knowing that he was again ahead of his times, Paweł Fornalski - IAI CEO and main system architect - started to write the first lines of the code. Its first version was created in 2 weeks. From now on, we have been improving the very same version of the system, which has been developed by Paweł Fornalski alone in the few first years.
After launching the on-line store, Paweł Fornalski and Sebastian Muliński got involved in the Skateshop.pl. They were - due to shop owner's wish - paid a commission fee, so they put a lot of effort into it and made Skateshop.pl one of the most important shops on Polish e-commerce market. The owner of the shop became a very wealthy man. This attracted other companies that wanted to achieve the same scope of success. From the very beginning we have noticed that a great asset was to keep the stores on our own servers, so the sellers didn't have to worry about the technical aspects.
The success of Skateshop.pl and the satisfaction from using our system caused that - despite the lack of name or website - every week we received a lot of questions about the possible cooperation. Even nowadays, companies recommending our solutions to one another are one of our main sources of new customers. The commission model made us reject many of these offers, as we could not involve in something that would not bring profit big enough to be a worthwhile investment. Commission means that large companies pay too much and smaller ones - to little. We sent these companies to our competitors, because we could not afford to handle them. It was a key moment of our business development, as we realized that the commission model is wrong, because it stops us from developing. We knew what we wanted to do - to start our own company.
In years 2000-2004 our enterprise was conducted under the name of Regulus, which was a company of Paweł Fornalski's father - today a member of IAI Advisory Board.
After sending several dozens of companies to competition, we have created the IdoSell Shop brand, which was designed as an exclusive service to provide the highest quality of system, graphics and technical support, along with the uniformed system of subscription plans - both small and large companies pay the same flat rates. At this time, SaaS (Software as a Service) term did not even exist. IT books used only ASP (Application Service Provider) term.
So we have forseen the future again, because in 2015 everyone knows what SaaS is and what benefits it brings. In 2005, we were the pioneers. Change of business model was risky, because the first customers of IdoSell Shop were companies which were accustomed to commission fee system. Our profits suddenly decreased, but the greatest prize was still ahead of us.
We run many social networks, but all of them were closed (except for the Hip-Hop.pl), because of the growing popularity of our main source of income - the IdoSell Shop. All hands were moved to its development, because the number of customers was growing extremely fast.
Due to the dynamic growth and ambitious plans for further international expansion, we decided to attract investors and enter the NewConnect (WSE - Warsaw Stock Exchange). On April 2, 2009, IAI changed its form to a joint-stock company - IAI On June 3, 2009, during the Shareholders Meeting, a number of resolutions related to the debut on New Connect were passed including the ones on issuing new shares and raising additional capital. In mid-June of 2009, we began the process of attracting investors. Our debut on New Connect took place on December 16, 2009 and proved to be a great success.
We invest funds gained from share emission only in further development of e-commerce products and expansion on foreign markets. Long-term operations on the Polish market made us the leader of e-commerce. We efficiently combine the best of the two worlds - the "old" and the "new" economy. We draw knowledge and economic experience from the first one - the second one allows us to grow rapidly along with the developing global Internet market.
We want to change the way of conducting on-line stores worldwide. That is why, years 2009-2011 were the time of laborious technical and organizational efforts to handle foreign customers with the greatest care.
IAI provides comprehensive solution for companies selling on-line (almost 1700 shops in Poland). In 2011 we have implemented external services announced in the Information document. We have also developed services in which IAI is the intermediary between the partner and the customer. We have also created first delivery and payment services.
In this period we have predominantly focused on improving the quality of the system, as well as of the customer service. We are aware of the fact that to keep up with the great success, the system has be transformed into the one of the highest quality, made for professionals only. We introduced many changes concerning helpdesk services, as well as the process of project implementation. We moved all online stores to our own server infrastructure which is based on the most modern “enterprise” solutions present on the market. At the end of 2014, IdoSell Shop handled over 2500 shops in Poland which sale for over 2,5mld zł yearly (which constitutes about 10% of Polish e-commerce). We took up many innovative projects due to which we became one of the most important players on the market of delivering online payments and courier consignments.
In September 2013 we moved to the top-class office block. Rented 680 square meters space guarantees the highest standards of safety and comfortable work for us and our clients who visit us due to, for example, trainings.
When we moved, our team consisted of 60 people. At the end of 2014 IAI hired over 80 people and rented another office space enabling further development.
On November 7, 2013 we release another IAI project: ((services/booking|IdoSell Booking|corp). It came into being as a result of our experience and e-commerce partnership. IdoSell Booking is used for booking accommodations in lodgings, apartments and hotels. Once again we follow our rule of direct customer service, providing the customer with the solution for conducting the website and taking the payments. It expresses in what aspects we would like to specialize in the near future. We have secretly worked over IdoSell Booking since the beginning of 2012. Since the date of its premiere, we are constantly working on the improvement and popularization of the service.
The period of the last 3 years was also important for the shareholders – for the first time we pay them dividends. What is more, IAI shares systematically gain in value, reaching price over the value from the day of our debut, as well as the private offer. It is the source of our pride. The fast pace of our growth can be demonstrated by Deloitte Technology Fast50 CE prize with which we were awarded in four consecutive years. What is more, in 2012 and 2014 we also appeared in Deloitte Fast500 EMEA rankings and we won several other prizes and honorable mentions. Since 2013, IAI has started creating a group of partnerships. In September 2013, we acquired 49% of Traffic Trends shares – due to this move, it is now the leader on the market of websites positioning. In September 2014, we obtained 35% of CupSell shares – a partnership which specializes in producing personalized items and creating online shops in which products (for example T-shirts) are produced on the spot.
For 3 years we have been constantly working on going international with our system. Over the period of 3 years, IAI-Shop.com becomes the Polish leader in providing online selling solutions for shops selling products internationally. In the same period of time, we launched our new product, IdoSell Shop, for international market. IdoSell Shop (IAI-Shop.com for the foreign market) starts gaining popularity on the biggest European e-commerce market – the UK. At the end of 2014, we opened our first office in London.
These 4 years constitute a very dynamic development of the company as an organization. We are expanding our offices to 1600 sq.m. and at the end of 2018. our team has over 140 people. During this time, our revenues increase 4 times, and profits 8 times. We are beginning to be a role model for other employers, software suppliers and listed companies. It is also thanks to our dedicated work for customers that proprietary software slowly ceases to be counted, and every company is trying to somehow appear as a SaaS solution provider. Thanks to high ethical standards and consistent increases in revenues and profits, which accelerate with each passing year, and do not slow down, IAI proves that we are still a young startup. Following the business successes, goes a growing valuation. The share price increases from PLN 3 to PLN 26. Finally, on October 14, 2018. there is a very important event. One of the most recognized and respected Polish investment funds in the world, the MCI fund invests and takes over the majority stake of IAI, taking a total of 51% of shares. IAI is being withdrawn from the stock exchange, and existing shareholders on NewConnect receive a very high premium for their trust, receiving as much as PLN 36.78 for each share. So we close the chapter titled NewConnect generating a record return on investment, increasing the value of shares from PLN 2.55 more than 14 times in 9 years.
One the success factors we have achieved is the introduction of total transparency and openness to all players on the market. It was during this period that we have successfully implemented the Open SaaS ™ strategy and started to create and make available to the market open standards and protocols that made the implementation of proprietary software no longer justified. Each of the elements of the system can be changed by the client or developer, including URLs, page templates and many more. We have even invested in relations with the environment creating a special support for developers, extending the policy of free and unlimited support beyond our clients. In addition, we focused on very high SLA (page availability), generating 99.997% of page availability and becoming a synonym of quality. During this period, we have introduced a lot of new products and implemented technologies on a massive scale not available for smaller stores, i.e. Webhooks, PWA, extensive return systems, complaints. We have significantly improved the creation of websites, completely changing the process of creating them into customer-oriented, always designing the best possible online store for a given type of product. We have also introduced a new department that implements programming orders for the client (e.g. integration with ERP, suppliers, etc.), operating in the standard in which we have already implemented graphic and webmaster’s tasks.
One of the most important strategic partnerships from this period is the ever closer cooperation with Google, with which we jointly create the Google Shopping ads system called IAI Ads. Advanced IAI algorithms allow sellers to generate orders omitting marketplaces, and IAI introduces the first model of commission settlements from Google ads. We enter into completely new areas such as other partnerships aimed at generating traffic for our clients, including starting with the Dobrekody.pl website. We are also improving the massive generation of intelligent recommendations that we are the first company on the market to provide them on a massive scale as part of the subscription, without additional fees. We are also the first to introduce the display of stores using the SSL encryption, offering free SSL as part of the subscription.
In the years 2015-2018, we have been implementing our second IdoSell Booking product. Beginning with the first customers paying for this service and real sellers, we come to several hundred large companies with from 1 to several hundred objects. We have many strategic partnerships, becoming the preferred partner for Booking.com, Expedia Group, TripAdvisor, Trivago, Szalas.hu and many others. The value of booking transactions (GMV) we service reaches PLN 200 million per year. We have introduced standards unknown so far in the booking industry to the Polish market and foreign markets on which IdoSell Booking is doing better and better. These are Open SaaS ™, GMV orientation and sales increase achieved by customers using our system. Thanks to the cost-effective strategy, IdoSell Booking becomes the most-chosen system by apartment owners for short-term rental. In January 2018. we already know that the business successes of IdoSell Booking guarantee the durability of this project. As proof of this, we decide to re-brand IAI-Shop.com at the IdoSell Shop, breaking with one of the most recognizable brands on the Polish e-commerce market.
2019 began another period of our history. The largest and best-recognized Polish investment fund, MCI, became the majority owner of IAI. It took over 51% of shares, including buying shares of shareholders from the stock exchange at the valuation of PLN 300 milion, withdrawing the company from the stock exchange. The legal form is changing and the new name of the company is IAI sp.z o.o. A period of dynamic development begins. We are increasing the office space to 2200 square meters, and the team is expanding to 170 people.
We would like to handle 50% of Polish market and we have just begun our foreign market expansion. We would also like to provide a full set of additional services necessary to conduct on-line sales.
The key to the company's financial success is the strategy of service distribution based on SaaS model, not on a one-time service purchase. It requires a modern and effective approach to the management of company, projects, as well as the clients, generating a steady and growing flow of cash which ensures financial safety. It also demands the highest quality of services, because only a satisfied customer provides funds due to subscription plans and commissioned works. Functioning in a SaaS model requires constant care of the quality – the client is profitable as long as he uses our services. That is why, we pay so much attention to the highest quality of our system – we want it to be the best on the market. Subscription fees and additional services commissioned by our customers are a steadily growing source of income. Innovative methods of project management allow us to precisely determine the costs of every performed operation and thus, to realize profits from every operation. In SaaS model, one employee can handle even a few hundred customers, so in this case the income is growing much faster than the expenses, which of course means a real profit.