Project Description

Olivier Shleifer

Founder & Managing Partner, SPRIM

After graduating from university, he started his company SPRIM with his brother Michael Shleifer and Ivan Jarry. SPRIM’s business is to turn the newest scientific developments into business opportunities for more than 400 clients in the fields of consumer goods, life sciences, biotech and technology. Read the full interview here. 

  • What was your experience at ESCP Europe and how did you manage your job entry?

What was great at ESCP was that I tried out a lot of different things. You’re all trying to find what you want to do in life. And since I also wasn’t sure, it was important to test different things.

I worked in agencies at Johnsen & Johnsen, I worked in project finance at KPMG and also in a start-up called Chateau Online. All this together gave me a good idea about finance, marketing, and what a start-up with quite a lot of cash invested is like.

Bottom line, it was an interesting training together with the education from ESCP. And after my first year of work experience I was pretty sure to start something of my own.


  • How was the founding process of SPRIM, the company you founded in 2001?

There are three things that were really important in the beginning. First, there was a booming food and nutrition industry around the world, and the health care industry was evolving. This is what we’ve been analysing: How can we help a health & food company to create new offers in this dynamic market. Today, it is very common in our supermarkets to have all those functional food and optimized nutritional recipes. These approaches were fairly new back then. This is when we decided to found the company that we developed as SPRIM.

“Bottom line, if you work on health care and through having a very interesting business career, you can change your life and the life of your family, friends and a lot of other people out there.”

Second thing was our international approach to build the company. We started together in Paris, but I quickly moved to London, my brother moved to the US and Ivan to Asia. This was a new entrepreneurial approach to found a company at the same time in different countries. And it was crucial to our development.

Being able to act globally from the start helped us to connect quickly to the global agendas of major pharma and food retail companies.

And third, the business development approach. In our industry, you need to know how to sell things. You have to be able to pitch, to push, to do business development, in short, to sell stuff. It’s very important to have people that are very much aligned in this sense to the founding team.

First, some good drivers in terms of trends for our specific industry, second the international process from the start and third, the business development approach. These three things were crucial. Well, maybe a fourth thing was to be foolish enough to try to make it happen.


  • Tell us more about SPRIM! What’s the business model?

We are basically a consultancy, work like an agency and we do difficult clinical research to show the benefits of specific products. It actually took us 5 years to crack the business model that we have today. We have capabilities from strategy to operation and integrate health into the pharma, consumer health, cosmetics, food & nutrition companies around the world. We’ve deadlocked our model throughout the world and it’s pretty much unique.

Who are our clients? We work with the big global players like Novartis, Nestlé, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, retailers like Carrefour, but also with many regional players. In total more than 400 today. And we work with their CEOs or category managers on the one hand. And their marketing and R&D teams on the other hand.

“In the beginning you don’t have any reputation. So you have to build it and find business.”
  • What’s your job on a day-to-day basis?

We have organized our leadership team in three different regions, we don’t have a headquarter, which is a bit specific. Europe, America, and Asia. I’m leading the European operations.

My main job is to travel a lot. Mostly in Paris, Milan, London, Germany and the Netherlands. Sometimes Eastern Europe. I go and talk to our clients to know what they want and what they do. With our teams we try to identify their needs. Then we define projects and execute them.


  • Your company has more than 500 employees now. How do you make it grow?

It’s been different to grow from nothing to something, which we managed around 2008.

In the beginning it was important to be relevant to people and businesses. They have to see the relevance of your work and this is how we cracked the business model. So the mentioned integration of different specialized services around the health & food industry.

Second, is to be proactive. We’re in a strong reputation business and in the beginning you don’t have any. So you have to build it and find business. So go and say “Hey, we have this opportunity for you guys, it’s very interesting and we think we should meet.” Today we do this a bit more sophisticated but it’s still part of our DNA.

And lastly, the way we were able to transfer academia stuff into business opportunity was part of our business idea.

These three things helped us to grow from nothing to something.

“I’m talking about new ways to empower people to manage their health differently. This doesn’t change only a bit, it changes absolutely everything.”
  • What’s your plan for the future then?

We really like what we’re doing. We see good receptions. Our plan is to scale the business even more up. It doesn’t have to be 5000 employees. But nowadays we compete with the big agencies and strategy consultancies. That’s very exciting. And if we were – let’s say twice as big, our clients would notice our global capabilities even more.

Talent is key in our business. That’s why we grow talents from the inside. This year, we had a party for employees who have been with the company for ten years or more. That’s quite exceptional in our industry. People who have been here since the beginning are still here and growing. They have moved around the world with us and are now directors.

Today we say our goal is to build the future of health with our clients. This means to anticipate quite a lot of what will be the future for the companies and the industry.


  • Where do you see your industry going?

One thing that’s not very sexy but very practical is the rate of regulation. It is changing the industry in most parts of what we’re doing. But if you want to look for the revolution, it’s digital health obviously. And I’m not talking about digital apps and websites. I’m talking about new ways to empower people to manage their health differently. This doesn’t change only a bit, it changes absolutely everything.

We have a lot of pilot projects around the world. For example we built an integrated platform in India for type 2 Diabetes with over 150k people connected to it. It helps to manage early stage symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes. There are very interesting things happening and it is the big driver that we have seen. We believe in this.


  • How’s life in Madrid?

I love the place, and it’s good for business. I was born in Paris and worked and lived in Paris, London, Milan and then Madrid. I think Madrid has a very good quality of life, it usually never rains and people are happy to live here. On my first stay in Madrid I met the woman who would later become my wife. We moved to Milan and London but always came back. Now, my kids were born here and it’s a bit more family-centered. I believe that you can feel comfortable in a place for a month, a year, ten years, who knows. The importance is to find the setup where you’re happy to work. Because in work you give a lot of energy and time. And it’s our life, so choose a good place.

“If something is very important to one person, you have to listen to that music and try to make it happen. “