We interviewed the CEO and Co-founder of Aument, Emilio Di Marco about raising funds, building a team and creating a platform for online stores.
Q: Tell us about that period of raising capital for the business. What emotions did you go through?
A: In a nutshell, there was one point where we said, “in two months, we’re closing shop.” Then suddenly, Aument was entrusted with US$1.5 million to keep knocking over the hurdles to growth for small online stores.
Back in December 2021, we began to hire people, some as freelancers and others full-time. We were betting on me finding successful ways to raise money, in order to continue building our ecommerce solution. Sadly, it was taking longer than expected. During that time, I alone populated a CRM with almost 200 investment funds. Hundreds of emails later, I met with maybe more than 50 investment funds. Of those, 48 said no, or simply held off on a decision.
We broke the news to the team: we might go under.
That was when I just closed myself off in order to focus totally on bringing in a round of funding. I had been really enjoying supporting the Tech and Product teams, so it wasn’t easy to disengage from the daily operations. Plus, as the CEO, I’m supposed to align all the teams and all our partners. Me being out of the loop wasn’t going to be sustainable.
Fortunately, we did “flip the cake” as we say in Argentina. Expa, the VC created by Uber founder Garrett Camp came on board – then more investors took notice. I’d been hoping to get $500,000 to keep us going… We ended up raising capital totalling US$1.5 million!It was a beautiful rollercoaster, and I’d been in the first carriage. But when I finished that “job” of startup fundraising, it took me a few weeks to really get back on top of things. I never want to completely remove myself from operations again if I can help it – I enjoy it too much.
Q: Why a startup Emilio? There are many easier ways to make money, and arguably easier ways to feel fulfilled!
A: There is a “why” that applies to us as a group of 4 founders. We had a hypothesis of a problem: that small online stores mostly struggle to get their first sales. They don’t know how to take advantage of all the tools available for finding and engaging customers.
When we started talking to shop owners, we did confirm that their work-lives were borderline chaos! The day-to-day of running an online store takes up so much time, plus we saw a world in which privacy policies were becoming increasingly restrictive. The complexity of the tools for acquisition, in social networks, for client retention, email, SMS, WhatsApp, and so on, is overwhelming.
Us 4 founders come from large companies who can use as many tools and channels as they like. Those big brands take advantage of the data they have, thanks to their ample budgets, tools, and people capital. They can try new things and, if they don’t work, try something else. The majority of companies can’t realistically afford for this to happen.
But what’s left for emerging brands that lack the time to do all this as a one-person outfit? As a result of this background of ours, especially Mario and Sacha in acquisition and mine in brand building, we knew that technology could bring that knowledge to small brands in a scalable way. We then invited Alan into our group of founders too because his technical expertise is unparalleled, and we knew we’d need to build a team of expert devs.
Personally, I’m keen to build something that truly helps people take their steps into entrepreneurship. Even if it only changes the life of one person, it’ll be worth it.
Q: You’ve curated our team so carefully. What were you hoping to do with people from names like Kellogs, WeWork, Rappi, PWC – when big brands are not Aument’s primary target audience?
For context, we spotted shoppers receiving tons of spam – everywhere they’re seeing irrelevant marketing – this leads to a bad customer experience. We thought, “Here’s an opportunity to make life less tedious for people with advertising. At the same time, we can give smaller brands the possibility to remain in business.”
So we saw an improvement that could be made to both the customer experience and small business owners. While those small brands might not be able to hire software developers, a team of data scientists, and then a big marketing agency, simply due to costs, we can give them that through our product.
Everyone at Aument brings their Big Business talent to small stores. That’s the reason for hiring all this marketing experience from big names that could afford the top technology. We’re putting that knowhow, those resources, and the experience into a product and bringing it to a market that sorely needs it.
Q: What is it about ecommerce as an industry that called to you?
A: When you hear that almost all the brands that do not generate a sale in their first 40 days, close down, you realize that the problem you’re solving isn’t just to market more, sell more for them. It’s to let someone’s dream properly gain legs. Of course store owners need to push hard to keep the store alive, but with an automation tool that’s designed for small stores, they have a better chance at survival.
We could build yet another tool for massive companies, but we are not going to change anyone’s life. Hence our focus on small brands.
For my co-founders and I, ecommerce is a door to entrepreneurship, it makes the idea of building your own business feel tangible. I also think it’s a good entry to the world because you can run an online store while working a 9-to-5 at a company. I want more people to have access to a real chance at success.
Q: What’s the hardest thing about leading Aument?
A: This is the first real product venture that I’ve done. I’ve launched other companies, but they were to build something profitable. Aument is here to solve a problem, not to just earn money.
Building a platform from scratch is the hardest thing about this particular journey, but also the most rewarding. It makes more sense to be engaging with users, store owners, and the other teams in the company in order to build together something outstanding.