Silex connects buyers and suppliers via an artificial intelligence platform. Created 5 years ago, this French start-up has made it its mission to optimize sourcing for purchasing departments. First in France, then tomorrow across the Atlantic.
Silex. A funny pre-historic name for a 21st century start-up. However, there is no doubt that the French company created in 2014 by two friends, Quentin Fournela and Nicolas Bridey, is indeed in the era of artificial intelligence. Quentin explains:
“The name Silex is a nose-thumb to a market, the purchasing sector, which had evolved little. More seriously, the X represents a spark. What we sell is the meeting between a buyer and a supplier. And between them, there are sparks.”
Silex and the Company
Silex has positioned itself in the field of corporate purchasing after seeing and experiencing the difficulty of finding a solution that effectively sources suppliers, Quentin explains:
“On the market, there are on the one hand everyday solutions such as the yellow pages and Google and very static solutions such as the history of a company’s suppliers or closed B2B networks. There was no general and relevant solution that would source all companies with all the necessary information. When you are a buyer in a company, the first step is to look for your supplier. Before the triptych order-invoice-payment, there is sourcing, which represents 30% of a buyer’s time. Bringing technology here generates a lot of potential value.”
How Does it Work?
The two friends, soon joined by developers and engineers, developed a cognitive sourcing technology that delivers the best information to buyers and allowing them to compare suppliers.
“The platform first collects huge volumes of data on all companies. This is public data from open data, INSEE, the web and customers’ own data on their suppliers. The goal is to have 360° data on suppliers. For this we use big data technologies.”
In France, more than 10 million companies are updated every day on the platform.
This is where artificial intelligence enters the game.The user expresses in natural language what he or she wants and the system will sort out a list of results that corresponds exactly to what they are looking for. With one click, the user can contact these companies.
“We are talking about automatic language processing, machine learning, deep learning, everything that makes it possible to understand texts and structure blocks of texts that are expressed in natural language. This is what allows the automatic classification of suppliers.”
And this allows the buyer to automatically find the best service provider.
95% Less Search Time
Today, Silex can boast that it reduces the time spent searching for suppliers by 95%.
“The people who save the most time are those who have the most complex sourcing, such as purchasing and innovation departments. Our solution allows you to turn 3 weeks’ worth of research into half a day. For a more traditional purchase, for example in the public sector, it is reduced from two weeks to two hours. It relieves the teams and frees up time for them to do something else.”
The cost is €800 per user per year plus the implementation cost of €600. That’s €1,400 for one year for one user. And the expected gains are significant. The city of Meudon in the Paris region, which is a customer Silex, predicts 26% in savings on purchases this year, or around €10 million.
“In the private sector, it’s the same dynamic. It has become so difficult to find margins and sell for more that activating levers that generate an ROI between 8 and 16% leads to considerable savings.”
The Enthusiasm of Public Actors
Companies with revenues above 500 million euros and with the most mature purchasing departments are those that are currently interested in artificial intelligence solutions such as Silex’s. Total, Monoprix and Malakoff Mederic are among its main customers.
But making technology accessible to small structures is a real challenge for Quentin. Silex works with public actors such as the Ministry of Defense, the State Purchasing Department, the City of Meudon and the Aix-Marseille Provence conurbation, who do not hide their interest in AI solutions.
“Public issues such as smart cities, recycling, cleaning and urban planning raise complex innovation issues and generate a wealth of information. It is not always easy to find your way around. Solutions like Silex help public actors organize their purchasing in this complex environment and make the right choice.”
From France to America
Today, the little Frenchies, who have grown to include 30 people and 40 by the end of the year, are looking across the Atlantic. After an invitation to the G7 in Canada last year, the team is in the process of deploying its solution to public stakeholders in North America. The city of Los Angeles has also recently solicited them.
“We have reached our critical size on the French market so it is time to develop our first projects abroad. Profitability is also at stake this year.”