Interview with Benjamin Mestrallet, CEO of eXo Platform
eXo has recently announced the appointment of Carlos Diaz as chairman of the board. Official press release here. In light of this, we thought it might be interesting to share some insights regarding this nomination by interviewing Benjamin Mestrallet, CEO of eXo Platform.
So Benjamin, how did you meet Carlos Diaz?
How much time do you have? We might want to make a ten season TV show out of this. I first met him in Paris. We were navigating the same circles and notably faced each other during a start-up competition.
But it was when we both moved to San Francisco around the same time that we started to see each other more. The tech community is tight here, as well as the French entrepreneurial community. Obviously, being an entrepreneur, managing your own business and facing the same challenges, we had a lot of things in common.
With time, and endless crisis management, we got to know each other better and developed a mutual respect for each other.
When did you decide that Carlos would be an interesting addition to the management team?
Our previous chairman, Bob Bickel, joined the board when eXo was a purely portal business. His background at Bluestone (which was subsequently sold to HP) and as an executive with JBoss (subsequently sold to Red Hat), among other things, gave him a unique insight into that market. He was also advising us on Codenvy.
Then, gradually, eXo transformed into a digital collaboration solution. Codenvy was acquired last year. In parallel, Bob had his own business and other board duties to juggle. So it seemed a better fit that he should come onto our advisory board instead. We started thinking about a new chairman – and naturally thought of Carlos.
Was it easy to convince him to come on board?
We bribed him. Lol. Carlos created the first enterprise social network software with Blue Kiwi (subsequently sold to Atos), pioneering that market. He knows the digital collaboration market very well, so it was a natural fit for us.
Also, last year Carlos launched Refiners and became a business angel and a start-up advisor. So it was also a good time for him to come on board with eXo.
What will be his role, precisely?
The chairman of the board presides and organises the board – that’s the highest strategic management body in our organisation. The board decides on the direction, the financing, the budget spending and the management choice. So as chairman, his input would be key in all strategic decisions and choices.
In particular, we very much look forward to his guidance on our product direction as well as our sales scaling efforts as Carlos has great insight into these areas.
What do you most like about Carlos as a person?
His innovative spirit. Unlike most tech entrepreneurs, Carlos doesn’t come from a purely tech background, which gives him a unique edge and a unique perspective. He always sees things from a very surprising (to me) point of view. In that sense, you could say we complement each other.
What did you talk about last time you saw each other?
Oh, a great many things … eXo … the food (we had lunch at Apicius in Paris, which I highly recommend) … also the current start-up financing market and the bubble-burst probability … Refiners, San Francisco, the weather, the kids … you name it.
I’m excited about eXo’s evolution and growth and think having Carlos with us will help us innovate and pursue our mission.