Making data exchange and business relations with retailers as uncomplicated as possible - that is the promise of Procuros. The Hamburg-based startup has already won over numerous customers, especially startups, with its offering, as well as a number of venture capital companies and business angels who have invested millions.
In the person of the founder Patrick Thelen and his professional career, his ties to his home country and his internationality are combined in an exemplary manner. He grew up in Bad Oldesloe in Schleswig-Holstein. He completed his dual studies in industrial engineering at the Nordakademie in Elmshorn and at the German headquarters of the Swedish mechanical engineering company Alfa Laval in Glinde. Both cities are not far from where he was born, in contrast to Berkeley, California, where he completed his master's degree.
In California, he had numerous contacts with startups in Silicon Valley, where he picked up key inspiration for his later founding. First, however, he went into management consulting with the Boston Consulting Group in Hamburg. Thanks to his job, he traveled a lot around the world, including Toronto (Canada) and Djakarta (Indonesia). He noticed that companies everywhere had to deal with similar challenges, which motivated him to develop suitable solutions and to start his own business.
His co-founder was to be Benjamin Wulff, a software expert who had also studied at the Nordakademie Elmshorn. He had founded his first company when he was not yet 18 years old. Later, he was involved in the digitalization of spare parts procurement at Airbus, among other things. He was also co-founder and CTO of the startup Gaia Nutrition, which developed an app for personalized nutrition plans. In 2021, the Berlin-based health startup Lykon acquired Gaia Nutrition.
2021 is also the official founding year of Procuros. Only Hamburg came into question as a location for it because of diverse family and friendship connections. With their startup, the two tackled the problem that Patrick had identified several times in his professional life so far. At its core, it involves the exchange of data between companies that have a business relationship. To date, there have been two more or less cumbersome ways of doing this.
The more cumbersome method involves physically exchanging documents, which then have to be typed out by hand. This is as time-consuming as it is error-prone and absolutely outmoded. A method that has at least arrived in the digital age is that associated with the abbreviation EDI. The combination of letters stands for Electronic Data Interchange. EDI is a standard procedure that has been used for automated and digital exchange since the 1970s.
For a long time, it was the only way to digitally handle ordering processes in retail, for example, which is why it is still widely used today. The popularity of EDI is also related to the simple fact that it works. However, it is also obvious that a technology that has been around for a good 50 years is not up to date in all respects. EDI is relatively slow and rigid and mostly limited to a certain group of users, which also makes troubleshooting difficult overall.
The future solution offered by Procuros also consists of three letters: API. This abbreviation stands for Application Programming Interface. Procuros explains the function of an API with a simple example. When a guest orders a dish in a restaurant and the kitchen prepares it, the waiter who passes on the order and serves the food is the API.
Of course, things are not quite so simple in business life, where, to stay with the picture, there are several guests and several kitchens. A food startup supplies its products to various retail chains and wants to digitally document and process the order transactions. Using the old method, the startup would have to establish a separate connection to each business partner. With Procuros, it all goes through one platform, one interface. Integrating additional participants there is as easy as a friend request on Facebook, assures founder Patrick. Even IT laymen can use it effortlessly. And for those who don't want to do without their usual EDI system, that also runs via the Procuros API.
Success was not long in coming. As early as spring 2021, Procuros was able to secure funding from the InnoFounder program of IFB Innovationsstarter GmbH. This initially kept the two founders financially afloat, which is why they were not necessarily dependent on a financing round. Nevertheless, it came rather quickly. Through participation in a competition, the venture capital company btov and a number of business angels had become aware of the startup. In September 2021, it was therefore able to announce a pre-seed investment of 1 million euros.
At the time, Procuros was still a two-person company; by early 2023, it consists of 35 team members and continues to grow. At the time of the financing round, the software was not yet fully developed. The startup then won its first customers at the end of 2021, including Bosch with electric toothbrushes. Soon, Procuros focused on companies that offer food and other everyday products, known in the jargon as fast moving consumer goods (FMCG). Many of the customers are actually startups, from Hamburg, for example, Luicella's (ice cream) or Brooklyn Soap Company (men's grooming products). They benefit from the business model; they pay a moderate monthly basic fee and then per transaction. So in the beginning the costs are manageable and increase with growing sales.
The fact that Procuros is definitely a startup on a growth path became apparent in April 2022, when the next round of financing was already in store, this time in the amount of 9 million euros. The round was led by the VC firms Point Nine and Creandum as well as Paua Ventures. Existing investor btov participated again, joined by business angels such as Denise Persson (CMO Snowflake), David Clarke (former CTO Workday) and Thijn Lamers (Adyen founding team). The money went into further expanding the team and adding features. In the meantime, the company name Procuros, derived from "procurement", is only partly appropriate because, for example, invoicing can also be handled via the platform.
With over 100 customers, Procuros has established itself in a short time, but that is by no means all that distinguishes this startup. The corporate culture is characterized by social commitment, which goes far back into the time before the company was founded. After completing his studies, Patrick initially took time out to work in refugee aid in Lebanon. In 2019, this gave rise to the organization doin' good, which he founded together with Lars Leipson, a colleague from the Boston Consulting Group. Benjamin, in turn, has been supporting the non-profit organization Leben mit Behinderung Hamburg with his software know-how for years. It is therefore part of Procuros' identity that employees who want to do social work are given time off to do so. In times when skilled workers are scarce and for many a job should be more than just a means to earn money, not the worst argument for Procuros as an employer.