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Building Large Scale Enterprise Software Companies: Louis Tetu, Founder of Taleo, CEO of Coveo (Part 1)

Posted on Wednesday, Nov 26th 2014

This interview gives us an opportunity to speak with a seasoned enterprise software entrepreneur who has founded and scaled a number of companies, including Taleo that went public, and was eventually acquired by Oracle for $1.9 billion.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your personal story. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised, and in what kind of background?

Louis Tetu: I’m French-Canadian. I was born and raised in Quebec, Canada. I live there with my wife and three children and that is where we started several software companies, including Taleo and Coveo.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with a little more context. What did you do in terms of education?

Louis Tetu: I’m a mechanical and aerospace engineer. I landed in software by accident because I was focused on industrial engineering. At a very young age, my brother and I started a software company in the area of manufacturing scheduling and ultimately, supply chain management, which was named Berclain.

Sramana Mitra: Were you based all along in Canada?

Louis Tetu: Yes, we were based all along in Quebec. We started our first software company in 1989.

Sramana Mitra: With your brother?

Louis Tetu: I started it originally with my brother. We expanded very quickly. By the time I was 28 years old, we had international operations. It became a fairly popular software in the manufacturing space.

Sramana Mitra: How did that company get funded?

Louis Tetu: We did a little bit of angel money locally at that time. Back in the 90’s, the concept of venture capital was not as well structured as it is today. We were fortunate enough to have around us some entrepreneurs who could put in a little bit of money. We’re not talking here about the same order of magnitude of capital that is required today to start successful global companies. At that time, I would say we were probably successful raising half a million dollars initially  and all the way up to about $3 million to bootstrap the company. The growth happened fairly quickly in relative terms.

Sramana Mitra: You probably want to spend more time later on in the interview on your other companies, but I do want to get a little bit of specifics on this company. How large did that company become?

Louis Tetu: Ultimately, that company morphed and merged into another company. It merged with an ERP company in Holland by the name of Baan. I became President of one of the three divisions at Baan called Baan Supply-Chain Solutions. When we merged with Baan, we were probably north of 200 employees and had clients in North and South America, parts of Asia, and throughout Europe.

Sramana Mitra: How much revenue were you doing at that time?

Louis Tetu: At that time, probably about $30 million. That was a long time.

Sramana Mitra: So the Baan acquisition was a financially substantial acquisition for you then.

Louis Tetu: It was at that time. It wasn’t an acquisition. From an accounting perspective, it was more of a merger because you could do what’s called the pooling of interests. Effectively, it was an acquisition. For us, it was substantial. It was also substantial in the stance of providing us with a greater platform to grow our business.

We’re talking about 1995 here when the acquisition occurred. Baan was just going public. We had the experience of running parts of a public company. I was only 31 years old at that time. That gave us quite a bit of experience. Baan was truly global. When we merged with Baan, we were about 1,800 employees. Two years later, we had 6,000. Needless to say, at a young age, I had the opportunity to experience hyper growth with everything that means in terms of challenges.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building Large Scale Enterprise Software Companies: Louis Tetu, Founder of Taleo, CEO of Coveo
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