Sramana: You started your reseller or distributor business right after college. How did you handle the crash when you realized the business was no longer viable?
Fred Laluyaux: I was actually ready to move on. I did that business from the age of 23 to 27 years. There was no VC funding, so it was hard to find money. The word startup did not exist. All this time, I was looking at the US trying to figure out a way to get there because everything was happening in the US. I felt that I was fortunate because I had spent the past four years running my own startup working with American technology companies. I caught the startup bug.
When I had to fold my company, Transcribe Technology, I did it so that I could move into the software side of technology. I came across the opportunity to launch the French operations of an enterprise software solution for Armstrong Laing. This was really interesting for me. We were competing with the likes of Oracle and SAP. We built very sophisticated applications for costing and profitability.
We helped large banks and manufacturing companies understand their costs and profitability by product, channel, customer, and many other ways. I started that operation on my own, so I had to learn everything I was doing. I was not an expert in that field and I was suddenly thrust into enterprise software.
My first customer was a big insurance company and what we sold them was literally two floppy disks. The buyers wanted to know why they should give me $100,000 for floppy disks. I did not really know what to say. I thought about it for a bit and then returned with the floppy disks and told him that those disks were on me, but if he wanted the code that was on there that he was going to have to give me $100,000. It worked quite well.
I ran that business from 1997 to 2002. My responsibility in the company grew and the company name changed to ALG Software. My side of the company was working very well and growing consistently. However, the US side was sucking all of the cash and was not organized. They were putting the company at risk. We were not growing as fast as we could. I was about to move on when the board asked me to fix the mess.
My fiancé and I had a great life in Paris in our early 30’s. We basically packed 5 suitcases and flew to Atlanta, Georgia and restructured the company. The chance for success was quite low, especially since it was in 2002. We focused and restructured, which allowed us to restart with a core nucleus of people. We were successful and by 2006, the company was firing on all cylinders. The board decided to sell the company, which was ultimately a good move. I was not happy because I was excited about what we were doing and what our future looked like.