“It takes 20 years to become an overnight success.”
– Eddie Cantor
… Hopefully 10 years will work too!
From the first Portlet Container to the eXo platform company
For me, the eXo adventure started almost 10 years ago when I coded the first JSR 168-compatible Portlet Container. At the time, our first customer, the US Joint Forces Command (part of the Department of Defense) pushed us to create a company to help them build their content collaboration system during the Iraq war.
I didn’t really understand why they did so, but I was grateful that they trusted a small French company with such an important program. Now that I live in San Francisco, I better understand American pragmatism: we were simply the best option for them (both from a technical and price standpoint), so they gave us a chance … and we took it.
Bootstrapping eXo: lessons learned on service delivery and scalability
During the first seven years, we bootstrapped the company and grew it from 2 to 150 employees. It may sound easy, but bootstrapping a company is complicated; it requires a lot of energy and persistence.
The main issue is that short-term (mainly cash) needs are a distraction that slows your growth. In our case, we spent way too much time building unique solutions for our customers that were difficult to maintain and upgrade. Don’t get me wrong: a service delivery team is key for a software vendor, but it has to be built to only help partners configure, customize, and extend the product you ship.
Portal partnership, funding and scaling up the operations
In 2009, after an OEM contract with RedHat (their portal technology is based on eXo code), I decided to move to San Francisco and to involve some key advisors like Bob Bickel, Sacha Labourey, and Edwin Khodabakchian. We quickly realized that our model had its limits, and that we couldn’t scale any more.
First, the onboarding mechanism (from the installation to the first proof of concept) was too complicated. Second, our pure indirect sales model (through SI and OEMs) made it difficult to forecast our growth and manage the sales cycles pace. To resolve these issues and move the company to the next stage, we finally raised US$ 6 million in 2010. The good part about having bootstrapped the company is that you end up with less dilution and more control.
Since then, our main focus has been on working night and day on a version of the platform that we would scale far beyond what we ever did. The last seven months have been epic, probably the most intense we’ve ever had, with both the Codenvy spin-off and the eXo Platform 4.0 launch planning.
eXo Platform 4.0: full-featured social intranet and the most beautiful open source project ever
Today we release the Express and Community Editions of eXo Platform 4.0: The Open Source Enterprise Social Platform.
After 10 years, I feel like this is the first product we’ve launched that has this level of fit and finish: something that has never been accomplished before in the open source world. I even think it is among the most beautiful enterprise software ever launched.
eXo Platform 4.0 is not only a piece of art. It’s also:
- Easy to install
- Easy to evaluate
- Easy to use
- Easy to configure
- Easy to customize
- Easy to extend
- Easy to purchase
The timing is also perfect. Companies now realize that they need much more than an enterprise social network application. They need an enterprise social platform to build a full set of social web applications to connect their employees, partners, and customers with their information system.
It’s time to commoditize the social business market – in style!