Christian Chabot is CEO and co-founder of Tableau Software. Prior to Tableau he was an associate partner at Softbank Venture Capital, where he specialized in enterprise applications. Before Softbank, Christian was CEO and co-founder of BeeLine Software, which was acquired by Vicinity Corporation. Christian started his career as a data analyst at Cornerstone Research, an economics consulting firm. He is the author of “Understanding the Euro: The Clear and Concise Guide to the Trans-European Currency” and holds an MBA and a BS in engineering from Stanford University.
SM: Let’s start at the beginning of your story. What is your background?
CC: I am from a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I had a typical American upbringing. I came to Silicon Valley to attend Stanford as one of two people from my high school to be admitted. The other is my wife. We were undergrads together. I studied engineering and she studied biology. We both graduated and went into the workforce for a while before returning to Stanford for graduate school. She went to law school and I went to business school.
While I was getting my MBA I met Irv Grousbeck, who has been one of the bigger inspirations in my career. Their business school is mostly renowned for its entrepreneurship program. Most of the credit for that goes to Irv. He was the founder of Continental Cablevision, which was later known as Media One. He practically invented the cable television industry. He is a decorated educator at Stanford, and I am just one of hundreds of his fans.
SM: What did he do that inspired you and drew you in?
CC: I think he is one of those rare people who can communicate the lessons of life and the theory of business in a tightly integrated fashion with actual anecdotal experience. There are professors who can do the former or the latter. Irv is rare because he can combine the two. I think everyone is inspired by him in a different way. He was one of the people who brought out the entrepreneur in me. At Stanford I realized that I wanted to be an entrepreneur as a career choice. Irv convinced me that I did not need to wait for more experience.
Between undergrad and grad school I was a data analyst. I worked at Cornerstone Research, which was in Menlo Park. It is really well-known in consulting circles for high-end economic consulting and analysis on extraordinarily complex financial problems. It was a very research-extensive private sector job.
SM: What did you do after business school?
CC: I graduated from Stanford’s business school in 2000. I was a part of the first class to graduate after the [dot-com] crash. I was committed to doing this as a career choice regardless of the economic situation. I remember when I was in school that everyone wanted to be an entrepreneur. By the time we graduated, there only a dozen who went straight into entrepreneurship. More will surely do it over the course of their careers. When the crash came, all of a sudden investment banking and management consulting started to look attractive to many students.
So I started a company. It was called BeeLine Software, and we invented a better way of doing digital mapping. The business plan of BeeLine was very simple; it was to flip the company. It was to get the technology to a state where to be helpful and useful and then inserted into the grand technology empire that could distribute it. That was the choice we pick for multiple reasons. It was the stated goal. It was even in our business plan. We did that and we had offers from AOL and Vicinity, which was a geospatial company. We took Vicinity’s offer. They ended up being bought by Microsoft. We did that entire company with just three people. We bootstrapped the company, so financially it was a win.