Never Say Never: VC Money, and What It Means for eXo

I would like to thank all the people that have sent us email or tweets to congratulate us about our fund-raising, we do appreciate all the support.

The more I think about it though, raising money is not an achievement in and of itself; it is just another step forward, allowing us to grow faster. This important milestone is simply the result of hard work, passion and perseverance.  Getting the financial investment today is great validation of our vision, but it is not the reason that our product has grown to be so great and that our team is so talented. In fact, I am not “happy” and thinking it’s time to relax or celebrate.  I’m satisfied by the work done, that the negotiation went very well for us and our existing shareholders, and that the long administrative process is over. But now it’s time to move on, and work even harder.

It has been 6 years and 4 months since I founded eXo. I was finishing my studies when some engineers from the US Department of Defense saw our code on SourceForge and asked us to provide services; we were the first guys to have a JSR 168 implementation. That consulting gig was a lot of money, and even more when they purchased the support. In other words, the DoD was our angel investor, but with no equity! Yet none of us considered walking away and using our profit to buy something nice for ourselves – we reinvested it all.  And the culture of eXo is still rooted in that today.

Having a single product and a single customer is not what you should plan, but that is how we started. Having 95% of your total staff being engineers is not common either, but that is why eXo is different. We have grown on our strengths with only one goal: customer satisfaction.  We built out our features and product line because our customers demanded it, never because it was trendy. We did not want to do direct sales, hence we relied on partners. We did not want to be “only” a consulting company, hence we relied on integrators. We have always tried to focus on our core competencies, and this has proven to be a good strategy.

Today, we have a unique integrated platform that has no competitor in the Java world, being distributed by a large number of partners, including Red Hat. Again, this is only the result of hard work and perseverance, a set of values every eXo employee shares. I will make sure that raising money won’t change that. We are not done yet.

We have spent 6 years building a profitable bootstrapped company that now employs more than 120 employees in 5 countries. I never planned to raise money; in fact I was against it (note to my psychoanalyst, having a father that used to be a VC is not the reason). I moved myself and my family to the US to make sure that the new deal we had with Red Hat would be a success. I realized there that what we did was big, that the demand is high, that we needed to move fast.

Thanks to Sacha Labourey, I was introduced to Bob Bickel (new eXo Chairman of the board of directors).  With their help, we adapted the messaging for the US market – and we realized, we’re onto something huge. This is an opportunity that we can’t afford to miss. We have to execute and we have to do it quickly.

That’s when we decided to raise money. And frankly getting a term sheet was not difficult, and we had a choice between VC’s in the US and in Europe. We decided to raise in Europe for a couple of simple reasons: that’s where we have our roots and where we have known the VCs for some time, and of course the strength of the Euro. Although money is only a part of the equation, trust is another. We are happy to have a great deal from people we like to work with.

My parents always told me that “you don’t need to tell people you are the best, just be the best and they will know.”  I think this company takes that work ethic to heart.  We don’t stop to give ourselves praise or parade our accomplishments, we just keep doing what we do best – working hard.

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