This story traces the mechanics of scaling an enterprise software company that is close to $100 million in revenue in 2014, and is contemplating an IPO soon.
Sramana: Fred, let’s start out this story by learning a bit more about you. What is your backstory?
Fred Laluyaux: I was born and raised in Paris, France. I started my first business as a DJ when I was in college. I went to a business school in France between 1988 and 1992. I tried to launch a company around the music business and I was tempted to run that as a business. I enjoyed technology although my degree was in business. I did, however, do a training program in the US with a technology company as part of my college work. That is how I gained my passion for technology. I stayed in touch with the CEO of that company and he acquired the exclusive rights for their technology, which was developed by some folks from MIT and Harvard.
He reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in selling that technology in Europe. So, immediately after college, I started my own startup where I helped launch this technology dealing with voice response systems in Europe. I didn’t really know what a startup was, but I was doing that work. This was in 1993 and I ran that business for 4 years.
Sramana: What was the initial technology that you were re-selling in Europe?
Fred Laluyaux: The technology was a system that was converting barcodes into touch tones and allowed simplified electronic data interchange. It facilitated catalogue ordering. If you wanted to buy something over the phone, you would call up that number and press touch tones on the telephone. Our technology would listen to those analog signals and convert them into digital barcodes.
Sramana: What was the profile for one of your clients?
Fred Laluyaux: It was a great technology for people like booksellers. They would want to order 10 books every day from their resellers. We sold a hardware appliance and the individuals who invented the technology did very well.
Sramana: What happened with that business?
Fred Laluyaux: After the Internet took off, the technology that I was selling became irrelevant, so my business died. It was an exhilarating experience building a global business. I loved working with companies like IBM. I took a bite at the software market when the Internet started to take hold and decided that my next step would be in the software business.