Swords to dinosaurs: Meet the Google of public procurement

Oppex The database of Oppex includes more than 3.5 million public sector tenders and more than a million are added every year. The company believes it is already the world’s largest source of tenders. The database of Oppex includes more than 3.5 million public sector tenders and more than a million are added every year. The company believes it is already the world’s largest source of tenders.

Sometimes it takes being boring to be successful. This is what Ville Heinonen and Mikko Lehmuskoski have found after co-founding Oppex, the “world’s largest source of public procurement notices”.

Public procurement is a totally boring area for a startup which is exactly why we thought there must be something great about it,” says Oppex CEO and Co-Founder Ville Heinonen with a laugh.

“Like that the public sector represents a $10,000 billion market globally.”

In practice, Oppex is a global search engine for public procurement tenders. It helps companies to find sales opportunities from both local and international government contracts. For example a user types in a search word related to their industry and the results show all relevant tenders from over 100 countries.

The service aggregates thousands of new public tenders daily and translates them to English from around 50 languages. This is exactly what gives Oppex a competitive edge compared to other similar services.

“There aren’t many other global services in this field, but what makes us unique is that no one else offers English translations of public tenders. With our service, companies can find any public tender, no matter what the original language is, explains Heinonen.

“Oppex suits especially small and medium-sized companies who don’t have the resources to go through public tenders in many different countries and languages.”

It seems the company has found the right approach. Despite only being launched publicly in November 2014 (after a few years of testing) the service already has thousands of business users from 120 countries.

International ambitions

Oppex has come a long way since 2009 when Heinonen and Lehmuskoski, who met 10 years earlier while studying together, started the company. The first iteration of the service was born three years ago – coded by Lehmuskoski himself.

“During the first month of using the service, one of the test users found four interesting tenders from Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. Four months later they had already closed one of the deals, worth 300,000 euros,” says Heinonen.

Remote work is a natural part of Oppex’s business culture as half of its employees live abroad. “We want to find the best people for us and that is more important than where they live,“ says Heinonen. (Photo: Oppex) Remote work is a natural part of Oppex’s business culture as half of its employees live abroad. “We want to find the best people for us and that is more important than where they live,“ says Heinonen. (Photo: Oppex)

“When we got similar feedback from other companies, we knew we wanted to take the service further.”

The duo quit their day jobs to become full time entrepreneurs. Now Oppex employs 10 people in its headquarters in Helsinki and abroad and is constantly looking for new talent, from coders to digital marketers.

“The next step for us is to speed up our internationalisation and marketing. Our aim is to be a globally well recognised company in our field within a few years,” Heinonen says.

These ambitions are spurred on by a 1.2 million euro seed funding from media company Alma Media, startup accelerator Veturi, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes, and seven angel investors.

Oppex’s first marketing pushes will be targeted at the UK and Germany as they have been successful test markets for the company. However, as the public procurement process is very similar all over the world, potentially there is no limit to where the company can go.

From dinosaurs to champagne

Oppex’s database currently includes more than 3.5 million public tenders and the company claims it’s already the world’s largest source of tenders. While traditional industries like healthcare and construction represent major areas of public procurement, the variety of tenders and business the company is seeing has taken Heinonen by surprise.

“Sometimes it takes me a few minutes to even understand what a company does,” he laughs.

“There are some amazing public tenders out there, it’s actually very interesting to go through them. We have seen everything from ceremonial swords and dinosaur playgrounds to champagne and caviar.”

Maybe public procurement is not so boring after all.

Text: Eeva Haaramo
www.oppex.com  
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