A few weeks back, I spoke to Simon De Baene for The Lean B2B Podcast. We talked about consulting, growth, product innovation, multi-product strategies, and customer development.
Etienne Garbugli: My guest today is Simon De Baene. Simon is a co-founder of GSoft, the software company behind ShareGate, Officevibe, and Softstart, a new employee experience platform. GSoft has its roots in consulting, and through many twists and turns, the company was able to launch multiple products and sign more than 15,000 customers around the world. GSoft is one of the fastest-growing companies in Canada.
Simon, welcome to the podcast.
Simon De Baene: Pleasure to be here today.
Etienne Garbugli: I understood that GSoft was started when you were in school with your business partners. At that time, could you tell me what were the objectives of GSoft? Were you planning to do consulting? Was it to create products? What were you guys trying to achieve?
Simon De Baene: Back in 2006, at the time, I was working in a big tech company in Quebec and actually in the world. It’s called CGI. I was working in the technical support team and I was finishing my CEGEP [school level in Quebec] at the time and I then started at ETS, which is an engineering school in Montreal.
I just felt like the tech industry in Quebec felt a little bit too great, in my opinion. You know right now when we talk about tech it’s like there’s a momentum and everyone wants to start a company now. We all talk about tech, tech, tech, all the time, but 15 years ago, it felt like there were some services companies around Quebec and it was very traditional. And not too far from here in Silicon Valley, it felt like there was a completely different momentum.
So, from our 20 years of life and our first year at ETS, we just decided that we wanted to bring some fresh air into the tech industry in Quebec and we decided to start a company. We felt like building a company was a nice way to express what we had in mind and what we wanted to do in life.
At the time, I didn’t know much about what it’s like to build a company. You’re 20 years old; you don’t know much. You actually know nothing at 20 years old. A big influence for me was my father. When I was young, I just knew that he had a company. I didn’t know what it meant really, but I just knew that starting a company was a thing. At the same time, when I started GSoft, I think two months earlier, he started another company. I just said, “If he can do it, I can do it.” And I just decided to start GSoft at the time.
Etienne Garbugli: Okay. So, an entrepreneurial family. What kind of business was your father involved in?
Simon De Baene: A technology company providing services mostly in the finance industry. They were acquired by CGI around the year 2000 and then he had to work there for a few years. You know when you get acquired and you’re locked in.
Then a few years after that, he decided to start again a company with mostly the same partners. They just started again together. What was the question?
Etienne Garbugli: Did that set your model for what the business was going to be? You wanted to be an entrepreneur. You said, “Okay, let’s start a business.” But were you going after a similar model? Where are you going like, “Okay, my father has this type of business, that seems like the right type of business. Let’s get into that model.”?
Simon De Baene: Right now when you’re looking at companies that are starting, they usually have a very clear idea of what they’re trying to do. But in 2006, when we started GSoft, we had an idea in mind. We just wanted to bring some fresh air to the tech industry in Quebec, but it wasn’t very tangible.
At the time, when we went to the accounting person and had our incorporation traded and he gave us the minutes book, I didn’t know what it was. I just took that home with my partners and we were like, “Okay. Now we have a company, so what should we do?” And because we were kind of good at programming, we decided to take our expertise in building software and just provide services for whoever wanted our services.
What’s crazy is that if you’re 20 years old and you have a babyface, it’s pretty hard to get contracts from different companies. They just don’t take you very seriously. At some point, someone decided to trust us and gave us our first project. We did a good job and from that project, went to another project, and then went to another project.
At some point, we had a portfolio to sell our services more easily. From there, we just became a boutique service company. We were a small team but very strong in building software— a lot of websites, a lot of intranets, a lot of custom-made solutions for different purposes.
From 2006 to 2009/2010, we were a 100% service company. And at some point, Sébastien, one of the co-founders, went to a training or a conference and came back to the office with an idea that was like–
Back in the day, we were working mostly with a platform called SharePoint. It’s a very popular platform built by Microsoft that became Office 365 that we know much more now. Back then, SharePoint was the on-premise version of Office 365, and companies building software on SharePoint had to maintain a development environment, QA environment, and production environment. The challenge was to move stuff around those environments.
There was a lot of click that needed to happen to make sure that everything was maintained correctly and synchronized. So, he came back to the office with the idea of building a software that would make that much simpler. That was enough to start building ShareGate, which is the first product that we built at GSoft.
It was a total disaster. The first version, after two years, we had four customers. Two of them were friends of ours that purchased the product just because we were friends. So, a big disaster. The product didn’t work very well. It was more like a big technology trip that we had and didn’t listen to the customer much.
When you’re used to providing service, like you’re a service company, to switch from a service company to a product company, you feel like it’s the same, but when you’re doing it, you realize that it’s completely different. The expectation is not the same. The way you build your software is not the same. When you’re building software for a large audience, it’s not the same as building software for a very narrow, specific-need product project for a company.
So, we learned a lot. It was two years of just learning, learning, learning, and a lot of hope when there was nothing at the time. After two years, we decided to do a complete pivot of the product.
We went to Tremblant, in a little house there for a week, and decided to launch the pivot there. The big difference between the two versions is that the first version was the kind of product where you tried to do everything. There were a lot of buttons. We were providing a lot of features but half-baked features. The difference with the other version is that we decided to provide one or two features, but we were doing it very well.
The difference is because you’re not providing a lot of features, you’re not going to sell your product to a lot of people. It’s going to sell to a smaller audience. From there, we kept adding features and slowly but surely growing the audience. And at some point, ShareGate became a massive success for GSoft.
It’s a crazy story because we almost decided to not pivot the product and just jump to another product or try something else.
Etienne Garbugli: What was the trigger then? What convinced you guys to say, “There’s potential here. There’s something to do with what we’ve put together or what we think this could be.”? What convinced you guys to stick with this and just decide, “Let’s make this happen.”?
Simon De Baene: I thought about it and I’m really not sure. I think this is the case of just good instinct and naiveté of when you’re young. For me, it felt like there was still something to do with that product even after 20 years of absolutely no arguments to keep going.
Looking at the numbers, looking at the product, looking at everything, someone with the right mind would have never launched a pivot of that product. There was just nothing to hope for. We wanted to build our first successful product, we wanted to become a product company. That was my dream. At some point, it was like, “I think there’s still something there. I think we should give it a try.”
We did it. We went for the Christmas break and came back in January, rented a place in Mont Tremblant [mountain town near Montreal], went there for a week, worked on that new shape of the product with clear guidelines—no copy-paste of the old product. It’s just like we’re starting from scratch. We keep the same logo, the same name, and we keep the same essence in some ways, but we’re approaching the problem in a different way, in a much simpler way. We’re not trying to do everything. We’re just trying to do a few things but very well.
After three months, we launched the product back in the market. And after a month, someone purchased 10 licenses in one deal and it went crazy from there. No. It didn’t go crazy. Well, when I think about it, that first month, 10 licenses, the second month, maybe a second customer, and three months after that, three customers.
It was slow at the beginning, and at some point, we just started to see some momentum. SharePoint became much bigger at the time. It became Office 365. It became like the cloud productivity platform of Microsoft which is a massive market.
We became the go-to product when you’re trying to maintain your environment or when you’re trying to move stuff around. If you’re trying to keep control of the mess that is happening in the platform when everyone is working hard on it like creating documents there, creating sites there, the library there, these platforms, like Office 365, are where people work.
There are so many things happening there that, at some point, you get to a point where it becomes a mess. The stuff we’re building is keeping that chaos in control and helping companies keep their information organized and keep people working on the platform in a clean environment.
Etienne Garbugli: Do you think there might be a big timing component in that case? You guys suddenly launched a new version out in the market and it starts growing, but at the same time, at that point, you had that Office 365 really picking up. That might have been the force and the initial momentum?
Simon De Baene: Yeah, clearly. That’s the thing you don’t control when you’re building a product. Most success around building products, the luck aspect is very important. We didn’t know that Office 365 was coming in the next few years when we started ShareGate. Sometimes life gives you some gift.
At the same time, you create your luck. We worked really hard on that product and it just happened that we did a big bet on Microsoft. Microsoft is a strong company and the chance that Microsoft goes away is very low. Microsoft has proven in the past that they can come up with new stuff. I think it was a good bet from our side to work with Microsoft and trying to build stuff, helping those products to be better.
It just felt right for us and we were passionate about it and then everything was in the right alignment to be successful. It became ShareGate. It’s still a very successful product. I think we’re now more than 150 people working on ShareGate still to this day. There’s still so much stuff to build on there.
Etienne Garbugli: We’ll get to that afterwards for sure. At that point, between version one and version two, there was still the sense of the same business problem that you guys were solving. In spite of not having a ton of clients initially, how did you guys either reconvince yourself that this was a problem or there was a specific problem? How did you narrow in on like, “That’s the problem” when you guys were brainstorming on the next version?
Simon De Baene: The most convincing argument was the fact that there were competitors out there—very successful competitors. We knew that there were a lot of customers purchasing their products and they were doing what we were trying to achieve.
The big difference with our approach is that their approach was more traditional, like big enterprise software requiring servers. And we went for a three-MEG install; click, click, click, next, and it’s sitting on your computer, and you do pretty much what those big products are doing. It was so much cost just to get started.
We were very proud of trying to build the simplest product to migrate with SharePoint and keep your environment healthy. I think that was the most convincing argument. We felt it in our guts. We had the instinct for it, but at the same time, we knew that there was a market there. We knew that there were some successful companies out there.
We knew that if we were able to execute an approach where you can only click, click, click, install, and you’re up and running, we could change the market. That’s what we did.
The big difference with the competitors is that they were selling their products for 100,000, 50,000. They were charging based on what they felt the customer could pay—a very old-school approach. No price on the website. You need to call a salesperson. He’s probably looking at your company like, “Are they able to pay?” Then they will send you the biggest invoice they can.
In our case, we went for the– at the time, I don’t even know if it was called that way, but now we call it the product-led growth approach. I feel like we were very early because we were selling a desktop app in a subscription-based approach. Adobe came much later with a similar approach because they needed the power of the machine to make their software work.
The cloud was there but for the kind of problem that we were solving, using the computer power was the way to go for us, and we went for a price that was very low. The goal for us was; we know that there are thousands of customers using SharePoint, hundreds of thousands, what could we do to get all of them? We went for a volume approach. We wanted a lot of customers with less features, so less maintenance, less support at the same time.
It was also a way to build a customer base and then build a great product with them. We wanted to have the burden on us to get them a low entry price and make them so addicted to the product that they would renew every year and keep paying. At some point, they would pay the same as they would pay for the competitors as a one-time fee and 15% maintenance every year.
That’s the old approach and we went for the– Right now, I feel like it’s just the way to go. Think about it like 10 years ago.
Etienne Garbugli: Yeah, very different.
Simon De Baene: A very different world and it worked. A lot of people told us, “You guys are leaving money on the table.” It’s crazy to do this.” But now, you’re looking at the market and there are not many competitors left. We’re pretty much two big players in the market. We’re still here to this day and keep growing.
It’s crazy because a lot of those decisions, now that we think about it, make a lot of sense, but when you’re in the moment, it’s a very different feeling. It just felt right. It’s the reason why when I’m giving conferences to students, I’m always like, “Be careful with experience because the experience will make you not do things because you feel like your experience told you to not do those things.”
When you’re young, you just do things. You don’t know much in life and so you just go in directions that most people wouldn’t go. Sometimes you hit a wall and sometimes you discover amazing places and it’s like, “Damn.” I think that there was a lot of that in the success.
I miss the old days of being young, but that’s fine. I’m happy now to mix experience with keeping that enthusiasm, to allow you to go in directions that most people would tell you to not go. Sometimes I think you can find amazing things.
Etienne Garbugli: I definitely think there’s something there. I don’t know if you know the founder of a Nomad List?
Simon De Baene: No.
Etienne Garbugli: It’s the same thing. He started really young, didn’t have any formal training in business, but all the solutions that he discovered are super interesting because they’re different but they also work. He’s just basically doing what feels right to him as opposed to what people tell him should be the way to do this and comes up with creative solutions that create even bigger success.
Simon De Baene: I think it’s just to find the right balance. I’m happy now that we have the experience to mix with that young crazy spirit. I think that finding the right balance allows you to create amazing products and avoid stuff that is just obvious. There are a lot of things we could add.
We probably wasted a lot of time on many things, but what can I say? We’re here today and it works. If we can repeat that, I think we could do it much faster. That’s the power of taking your experience and keeping that craziness.
Etienne Garbugli: So, what convinced you guys to go with a multi-product approach? A few years after that, you guys decided to add a second product. What was the driving force behind saying, “Okay, one product is great; maybe two products is even better.”?
Simon De Baene: We just can’t stop. I talk about it in the last two years and it’s like, “How did we manage to create two successful products?” A lot of companies have a hard time creating one product and we have two no. We’re trying a third one now and it just feels right.
What happened is that we met some people, we discovered stuff. There’s a lot of stuff that you don’t control that happens that just makes you crave something. In our case, to dedicate people to a new product innovation at that time, I think it was based on the fact that ShareGate was still very young. ShareGate was not yet a successful product.
If you think about it, ShareGate, the pivot, was done in 2011. Officevibe was created around 2013. So, there’s two, three years. And we felt that ShareGate was becoming a success but we weren’t at the point where we were like, “We have to dedicate everything we have to that product.” There was still some room for a new product to grow inside GSoft.
I think that if we were in 2015 or 2016, it would have been a very different story. We were lucky that both products had the room to grow inside GSoft. At some point, everything was around those two products.
This is a new challenge that we have as a business. Once you get one or two successful products that get to a point of a good scale, everything is around those products. There’s no room left to build new stuff because it takes so much just to maintain that success. It takes everything you have. I’m not inventing that; it’s a big challenge for a bigger company to innovate because they’re too busy working on their existing products.
So, we were lucky that those two products were done very early, pretty much at the same time, and it happened that both products found a market fit and they became what they are today.
Now we’re trying to build Softstart. I’m working full-time on that product. I strongly believe in what we’re trying to achieve, but we have a very different mindset now. We’re aware of that necessity of creating enough room for product innovation to happen. That’s why we have the lab at GSoft that is dedicated to building new products, and we’re willing to invest money there and we’re willing to lose money there. It’s part of the deal.
So, it’s the duality between exploitation and exploration within the same company. I love stuff around that. In the last few years, it’s like, “I want to be able to support both.” It’s just that exploitation and exploration require different things. So it’s hard to make it happen within the same company.
Etienne Garbugli: Well, let’s contrast those. So, they start at a very different point, probably different start points. How would you compare how the three different ideas or the three different geneses of products came to be based on where you guys were at? The approach certainly evolved over the years and now you have a lab. But, initially, it seemed it was very organic. How would you compare the three different experiences?
Simon De Baene: ShareGate was definitely the learning experience at the moment where GSoft was trying to become something. So you have that “you have nothing to lose” mentality. It’s like, “We have nothing.”
At the time, we had a great small service company, which could be enough. We could have been that forever. There are amazing service companies out there doing exactly that, but for us, it was like, “We want to build products.” It’s so fun to build products.
So, learning experience, nothing to lose, and we were so bad at it. It’s your first time building a product so you make pretty much every mistake. Every mistake possible, you’re doing all of them.
Officevibe was like, “Okay, we have the experience with ShareGate. We feel like we have the right tools to build products and we have the right experience.” And what ultimately happened with Officevibe is that we repeated the same thing—did a complete pivot of the product a year and a half after the launch. And instead of having four customers, we had like16 customers and most of them were not really using the product because it was nice for the first few weeks, but the product was requiring too much from people just for it to work.
It was more like a reality check. You think you’re good because you built one product, but building products is a never-ending learning experience. Even if you think you, “I did it in the past, I have the experience,” the context, the market, society, everything changed in a way that building products—there are some foundations, there are some basic stuff, but it’s never the same—you’re never going to get the same alignment and the same momentum. You’re never going to repeat the same story.
We have to accept the fact that it’s going to be a struggle every time we start a product. And that’s pretty much what’s happening with Softstart now. The big difference is that we have the financial resources. But even with all the finance, it doesn’t change the fact that building products is extremely difficult.
I think that doing it with the “nothing to lose” mentality also is something that is hard to emulate because when you actually have nothing to lose, there’s a mindset that comes with that. When you’re comfortable; if you’ve got a paycheck every two weeks where the existing products are doing very well, it’s like, how can we bring that excitement, that feeling of it’s do or die? That’s the big challenge. And that’s why it’s important to build the right team to build those products.
I think I have more fun doing it now because I can appreciate every step of doing it. I mean, we were improvising most of what we were doing back in the days. Now it’s like I know what we have to do, but I know that there’s still going to be some unknowns and the market is not going to give us a free pass. I’m more aware of that and I can appreciate it much more. And I’m surrounded by amazing people. It’s just fun building products now.
Etienne Garbugli: In that sense, you have a new baby this year, Softstart, that you’re putting together. How did you guys identify the opportunity for that new product specifically?
Simon De Baene: That’s one of the big benefits of having a successful product is that now you can build stuff around the customers that you already have. We’re lucky we went for volume. We have thousands of customers; I think it’s around 17,000 and they are active customers.
So exploring the opportunities with those customers is much easier. It’s like they’re screaming opportunities all the time, like, “Why don’t you guys build this?” We get a lot of feedback from users that use Officevibe. We get a lot of feedback from people and ShareGate. We have access to those people. We can call them, talk with them, we can test stuff with them. That’s the biggest benefit of doing exploration inside of successful companies that you have access to resources that weren’t there before.
What we’re doing with Softstart feels like a natural extension of what we’re doing right now if you think about the stuff we’re doing in Officevibe. It’s a platform around employee engagement. Engagement used to be the buzzword for a few years, and now the new buzzword is around employee experience. And employee experience starts from recruitment, onboarding…
So, we’re navigating in that world already. And for us, onboarding with the rise of remote work, with the post-pandemic reality, it was just enough products to focus on. What used to be like, “Welcome to GSoft,” at 9:00 AM at the front door of the office has changed to where you’re now welcoming companies in the digital world, which is a completely different approach.
You still need to connect with people. How do you immerse in a company when you’re at home in your office and you don’t have access to the physical world? So, for us, it became an obvious opportunity and it feels right. There’s a market for it. People want it. So it’s like, “Let’s build the greatest product for onboarding employees.”
Etienne Garbugli: So, there’s a bottom-up component where you guys see the signals based on your existing customer base, and there’s a top-down where you’re looking at macro trends where it’s like, “Okay, we know that remote work is picking up. This is working, this is going in that direction.” You’re kind of connecting both and saying, “There seems to be an opportunity there.”
How are you guys making sure that the product matches with the market need, at this point? It gets on the market, the product exists; how do you guys make sure that it fits the market?
Simon De Baene: That’s a good summary; what you said just before. It’s having access to customers so we have a lot of signals. And, yes, we’re very passionate and interested in the trends that are happening around us, and we need to understand them if we want to keep going.
But how do we test the product? We know the minimum viable product and building MVPs. I don’t think we all have the same definition of what an MVP is and there’s a lot of talk around that. I’ll say it in my own words. I think it’s more the fact that it’s very aligned with the kind of products we’re building at GSoft, products around simplicity.
We’re never in the feature world. We’re not trying to outpace our competitors with the features. We’re just trying to build the most important features and make them just dead simple. That approach allows us to be able to build products at a pace that makes sense and that allows us to be in the market quickly.
So, it doesn’t require massive investment to just test the market. And because we have access to customers, we can call them and do a live session with them and show them what we’re doing. And they like that. They’re part of building a product there. They feel connected with us, the same way we feel connected with them. I think that’s the power of being able to build products with your existing customer base and just keep building around them.
I think that once you get a good customer base, that’s gold. They are people on the field, experiencing the problems in their day-to-day, and you can talk with them and they can share their experience with you. You just need to be good at listening to them and be good at being creative in the solution you want to provide to them.
I think with the customers we have, we’re going to be able to build amazing products for the next 10, 15, 20 years. And it’s not the kind of thing that I realized early in the business because we were too busy trying to make it. But now that we have existing products that are successful and we have a lot of customers out there, how can we build a long-lasting company?
For me, it’s obvious. It’s like, “Let’s work with them. Let’s build products for the people we’re already serving.” Then we just need to be good at finding the right method of doing it, but I think that the broad concept is to build with your customers.
That’s only something you can do once you have those customers. So we’re in a different phase than a startup would have. When you start from nothing, it’s a very different approach.
Etienne Garbugli: When you guys have a new product concept, a new product idea, or a new product comes out, what do you think gets these first customers to want to take part? Is it because of the goodwill that you’ve built with having the other products? What gets them to say, “Oh, they have a new product! I’m going to check it out, I’m going to share my feedback and help them build a great product.”? What convinces these people early on?
Simon De Baene: First, you have to solve a problem. That’s the obvious one. They’re not going to buy your product because they like you, and I don’t want them to buy a product just because they like us. If they only do this for that reason, once they get to use the product, if they don’t like it, it’s not good for business.
So, solve a problem; be passionate about the problem. Solve it so well that people are going to have a good reason to use it. Then I think what helps is the credibility. We already helped you with another problem and we solved it very well. So, it’s trust.
You have to build trust with your customers. Once you build that trust, just keep maintaining that trust and just bring the other stuff. And don’t try to be too pushy about it. Solve a real problem.
And now that you have access to those customers, if you find a good way to introduce the product to their reality, you’ll see if there’s a fit. But because we know the way they use our product and the way they talk to us, the feedback they give us, we know that they need it.
Now, it’s a question of; how can we introduce it? How can we build a nice ecosystem of products that can promote each other without becoming too pushy like, “Hey, just buy all our products.”?
It’s a fine line. I don’t have the solution yet, but the more we’re growing as a company, the more the products are converging in a very subtle way, and the more they’re connecting to each other in an indirect and direct way, the better we’re going to make it happen and the better we’re going to be able to keep growing as a company.
Because if I can use my ShareGate customers, and I can find a way to introduce them to what we do on Officevibe, that’s amazing. If I can do the same thing with Softstart, it allows a new product to emerge, and then the next product can benefit from that.
That’s one of the reasons why we’re trying to evolve the family of products around the existing products. We’re not trying to go completely left field. It’s like cousins. They’re not too far. Then we keep extending.
And I think it’s easy to say that, but it’s the third product. To be honest with you, in the last 15 years, we’ve probably launched 25 products and they all failed. Some of them were very small experiments. We actually invested massively in products that we decided to pull the plug on and it’s still very difficult.
My wish is to build a family of products. I think now we’re in a better place. We have the right mindset. We have the financial resources, we have the expertise, the right people. We have everything in place to make it happen. Now is the time to execute and make it happen.
We were so busy in the last few years just to make sure Officevibe was successful. We’ve never been that motivated at growing the family of products in the company.
Etienne Garbugli: As a company that started as a consulting company, what’s the role of services in all this? Are you guys still offering services on top of the software? Is it still related to the other? Did the role of services evolve over time? Is that something that’s mandatory for a B2B company to grow to where you guys are?
Simon De Baene: To your question, if we still provide services? No. In 2017, we did a full transition to a 100% product company. I think that the services, at the beginning, helped us learn about the market. We were very young; let’s keep that in mind. GSoft is pretty much my first job. I mean, I worked at CGI before, but it was more like a job when I was in school.
The service side of the company helped us learn, get to know people, build a relationship, and get exposed to problems happening in companies. We’re fully dedicated to B2B products so we have to understand how companies operate.
That was our first taste of how companies work. And it didn’t taste very well. It made us realize that there’s so much stuff to fix. There’s so much legacy in companies, more than we think.
If I can talk for us; we’re a tech company, we’re using the latest, best software, best of the breed, but this is not the case for most people. Most companies are still using that old-school legacy product that they feel like they’re stuck with and they’re still using a lot of paper.
The service side helped us understand that. And because of the service side, we started to build a lot of stuff on SharePoint, and ShareGate came right after that. It helped us understand the platform. So, no service, ShareGate. That’s for sure.
And then Officevibe happened at the moment where the GSoft culture was something we were very proud of and wanted to share more than ever. It just made sense to share that belief around creating a more human environment and respecting people. So, it just made sense.
Now I think that what the service was doing, at first, was replaced by the fact that we’re having customers. We have access to the knowledge that we use to grasp by being on the field. So it was replaced. I think I prefer to have access to customers and being on the field because now we have much more clarity and more diverse customers from around the world experiencing so many different things. So there’s so much to learn from them. And after that, it’s our job to build the right stuff for them.
So, a lot of learning. I would say that service is one thing we didn’t talk about, but GSoft is a bootstrap company. We have no debt; never got any funding. So we’re 100% owner of GSoft. And why? Because the service side became a way to raise capital.
Back in the day, we weren’t paid a lot as partners. I had the smallest salary in the company and we were taking the money and trying to reach milestones in terms of how much we had. And at some point, we took that capital and just invested in ShareGate and then Officevibe.
And because of that, now we’re 100% owners. We were profitable since day one, never raised any capital, and we’re 100% owners of the company. It’s crazy. Now that we’re approaching a hundred million AR, sometimes I have to pinch myself because there are not a lot of relatable stories in the market. I can think of MailChimp. They just sold for 12 billion. Two owners, 50/50. That’s crazy.
So, the service side of GSoft brought us a lot. I’m happy that we went through that phase. To be honest with you, when I was 20 years old, I didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly. I just knew that I wanted to be that fresh air, just to be part of creating something that would be from Montreal and Quebec. I just wanted to create something nice around here.
I didn’t have a clear product idea to build. And if someone had given me millions of dollars when I was 20 years old, I don’t think I was ready to invest that much. I was not ready to have that kind of money in my hands. I’m happy that it took a longer time and now it’s a different story.
Etienne Garbugli: There’s a nice, organic evolution as a company and probably as a person, I would assume, as well. Thanks a lot for your time. Where can people go to learn more about your work and your company’s work?
Simon De Baene: We just launched a new website. I’m very proud of it. There’s a lot of good stuff in there. Officevibe has its website, ShareGate also. These are full-blown SaaS products with so many people working around all of these products.
Everything is there. I think people can reach me if they want or if they have any questions. I try to answer as much as I can to people when they have questions. I’m pretty available and trying to help people.
I’m here today. I think we have a great story and I’m always very proud to share it. When we started GSoft, it felt in our mind that reaching 10 employees was the biggest success ever. For us, it was everything. We didn’t think big at the time. We didn’t feel that we deserved it. It didn’t happen around us.
We were not from that world at all. I knew that my father built something, so I’m always very proud to show that it’s possible. There are a lot of companies that fell for sure. The only reason that some are successful is that they allow them to believe it’s possible. And it’s a mindset at some point.
It’s more like; it’s possible, in Montreal and Quebec, to build amazing companies. It’s a matter of giving it a shot to allow yourself to believe that you hold that up. It’s possible. It just happened here.
I know that we have a very special story. Maybe it’s special because it’s my own story, but I feel like the probability that it happened was very low, but we weren’t impatient. It’s been 15 years. We’re almost dinosaurs in the tech world.
We’re promoting a lot of stories around build fast and companies that sold after two years. These are amazing stories, but there are also amazing stories of older companies that were patient and waited a long time to reach some great milestones. And that’s fine if you have passion in what you do.
I know that you’re doing a lot of things around B2B. I think that B2B is still very underrated. A lot of people don’t understand how many things need to be fixed in companies to make them more successful. There are a lot of products to build to help companies.
The difference with consumer products is that companies are willing to pay for those products. You get a check. That’s amazing. They have budgets for that.
Etienne Garbugli: Yeah. It’s amazing. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
Simon De Baene: Thank you very much.