Though Brightpearl has been around for more than 10 years, the last two years have brought more momentum to the company than ever seen before. After hiring CEO Derek O’Carroll and expanding its customer base, Brightpearl has seen incredible period of growth — and it’s only looking up from here.
With the success of Derek’s executive leadership, Brightpearl brought in experienced fashion retailer, Maurice Helfgott, to chair the board in early 2018. Though Maurice is new to the SaaS world, his background in retail, especially with iconic British line, Marks & Spencer, affords him a keen awareness of the industry and Brightpearl's growth potential.
We spoke with Maurice to learn what lured him from fashion to technology, what impresses him about Brightpearl and what he sees on the company’s horizon.
EMPLOYEES: 98; 76 in the U.K., 31 in the U.S.
WHAT THEY DO: Built exclusively for retailers and wholesalers, Brightpearl is a cloud-based ERP that automates the back office, streamlining everything from order management and replenishment to financial management, inventory and warehousing.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Austin
IDEAL CANDIDATE CHARACTERISTICS: Strong integrity, a can-do attitude and a combination of confidence to make things happen and the humility to learn from experience.
Maurice Helfgott, Chairman
Maurice is responsible for the governance of the business and supports the executive team in managing and scaling the company.
BEYOND WORK: Maurice loves playing the drums.
How do you think your background has affected your leadership style?
I grew up in London and was involved in a lot of sports as a kid, including gymnastics and fencing — yes, that's defending myself and attacking other people with swords. I was also captain of the sports team at school, so I have always been the type of person motivated to take responsibility and shape events around me.
Now, I've had a 30-year career in retail, e-commerce and software. So as an executive, I like to lead from the front, but as a chairman or independent director, I tend to challenge and support the executives.
I have nothing particularly original to say about leadership that hasn't already been said, but I think the principle of integrity is vital — you have to listen well, make judgments and follow through.
I was drawn to Brightpearl because it offers a fantastic back-office solution for the entrepreneurial brands and retail companies I like to champion."
What initially drew you to Brightpearl?
The last 15 years I've worked with a number of entrepreneurial, omni-challenge retailers. Retail has increasingly moved to digital, from proximate to the remote and from the specific place to every place.
Great generals say that wars are won not through strategy but through logistics. If you can't maintain supply lines, you can't feed your army, you can't hold territory and you will fail. Retail online and in stores is very similar. I was drawn to Brightpearl because it offers a fantastic back-office solution for the entrepreneurial brands and retail companies I like to champion. It is the indispensable intelligence and infrastructural backbone on which sustained success and growth depend.
What prompted you to extend from fashion into tech?
I have always placed a high premium on technology. In fashion, like the rest of the retail industry, success is about having the right product at the right price in the right place at the right time. Technology is the indispensable enabler of that.
When I started working at Marks & Spencer, the investment the company made in technology in order to transform its systems was world class. At the time of the first dot-com boom in 2000, I set up a corporate venture arm for Marks & Spencer, leveraged its commercial IT developments into investment and increasingly dabbled in angel investing. This is what brought me to where I am now — chairing a successful SaaS business.
How has Brightpearl changed since you joined?
I joined Brightpearl in January 2018 after seeing the tremendous leadership of Derek O'Carroll, Andrew Porter, Justin Press and the rest of the senior team delivering real momentum. Since joining, we have raised $15 million, and that gives the business the platform to accelerate growth, particularly in the U.S. Increasingly, with the move to Brightpearl's new Austin office and the high win rate in U.S. sales, the opportunities and orientation towards the U.S. market have increased.
We embrace our values — like helping others and encouraging curiosity — and that’s made all the difference in creating such a positive work environment and in shaping our overall culture."
How is this company's culture different than previous companies in which you've worked?
We embrace our values — like helping others and encouraging curiosity — and that’s made all the difference in creating such a positive work environment and in shaping our overall culture. Everyone I’ve met at Brightpearl prides themselves on their passion and ability to contribute to the company’s success, and we have a brilliant team of hard-working and results-driven individuals who have contributed hugely to our rapid growth. It’s really wonderful to be part of a supportive, progressive and innovative culture that allows our employees to flourish and succeed.
What’s next for Brightpearl?
Our mission is to enable intelligent retail. We’ve experienced tremendous growth over the last year because of our ability to service a growing need from brands for a solution that automates their operational processes and supports real-time decision making — something that’s absolutely vital for retailers and wholesalers in today’s culture of immediacy.
In terms of what’s next for Brightpearl? We plan to keep expanding our service and to introduce machine-learning capabilities into our platform. That will give our customers even more insight, value and reassurance when making crucial real-time decisions that impact their business.
Everyone I’ve met at Brightpearl prides themselves on their passion and ability to contribute to the company’s success, and we have a brilliant team of hard-working and results-driven individuals who have contributed hugely to our rapid growth."
Tell us about a moment in Brightpearl’s history that made you proud to be its chairman.
A singular moment that made me incredibly proud of Brightpearl’s growth happened earlier this year when the company was voted the top SaaS company to work for in Britain, topping a very competitive 50-firm shortlist. It was ahead of well-known brands such as Microsoft, Adobe, LinkedIn, Slack and Hootsuite. Even better, the judges commended us for creating an encouraging and caring work environment that supports the professional and personal growth of its employees. That’s what makes me so proud. I hope in the future we’ll repeat that success and achieve similar accolades for being the top SaaS company to work for in the U.S.