over 6000 registered users, Super
SecrÃ©taire is the largest online community of office assistants in
France, possibly in Europe. The site offers information and tools to
make its members more productive. A large library of document
templates is one of the most popular features. Active communication
spaces provide the "glue" for the online community. But that
is just the beginning...
We caught up with Xavier De
La Tour, Co-Director of Super SecrÃ©taire, in the company's new offices at
Republic Alley, Paris' hotbed for Internet start-ups like NPTV and NewsFam.
After having stolen the show at last November's IT-Asset, Super SecrÃ©taire
is poised to make a big splash in 2000.
- In retrospect, Super SecrÃ©taire seems like an obvious winner, but how
did the idea come about?
Xavier - The original idea came from our
wives. At first we didn't pay much attention but the more we thought
about it, the more it made sense. Secretaries are often the first
to be connected to the Internet in small and medium size companies, they
spend a large part of the day in front of their PC and they influence many
Assistants support the organization but
where do they go when they need help? Super SecrÃ©taire fills a need
for tools and information while providing a support community.
With 1.5 million francs in recent
Angel financing, Super SecrÃ©taire has passed the first big hurdle in a
start-up's life. Where did the money come from for the first months?
We were lucky in that the site quickly attracted
users with virtually no initial marketing. We just got the word out
to the relevant search engines and experienced viral growth right from the
start. Of course, it wasn't a free ride. We haven't taken out a salary for the last few
months but we were able to start without outside cash.
Our upcoming expansion made it the right
time to seek financing.
What exactly does Super SecrÃ©taire got
up its' sleeve?
In French, SecrÃ©taire can be separated
into two words, "Secret" which has the same meaning as in
English, and "taire" which in means to remain silent (smile).
For the really cool stuff, you will have to wait until the launch around
The basic idea is to go from a being a community for office
assistants into being a productivity tool for office assistants and
virtually every other office worker from the top to bottom of the
In our first months of operations we
found that about half of our frequent users were not secretaries but
managers in small companies. We had built the site to serve
secretaries. Half of our customers were using the site as the own
In the upcoming version of the site we
will offer more tools and information
to help office assistants do their job better while at the same time
providing services for companies in which the boss is the office
assistant. We are really excited about the transition because it
grows our potential market by a multiplier and lets us move up in the
value we can bring to our customers.
What has been the key to success this
Luck and staying focused on our market
segment's needs, not necessarily in that order ;-)
Our alliance with Assistant Magazine has
proven very valuable to both parties. We went to see them early on to
explore collaboration options. We found many areas in which our
respective mediums, print and online, could be complementary. One example is surveys. Doing them by mail is expensive and cumbersome,
doing them online is a breeze. We simultaneously publish the results.
We also exchange advertising which brings us more traffic and them more
subscribers. It is a win-win situation.
Any advice for other community builders
Listen to your community members, they
may lead you to a bigger opportunity. We started off catering to
office assistants but quickly realized that our services could interest a
much broader audience. The transition to becoming the perfect
support for all office workers isn't going to be easy but the upside is
We are hard at work preparing the next
version of Super SecrÃ©taire which should be out in April but we are
simultaneously listening to
our community for the next big thing...