Did you know that French Boys can create global players ? We of course all know about Bernard Liautaud and Denis Payre who took Business Objects public about 10 years ago and created a 1 billion dollar company in revenues. At ETRE the other day, George Coelho of Benchmark Capital was counting on both his hands the number of European entrepreneurs who have made it on the global scene. Of course Pierre Chappaz of Kelkoo or Niklas Zennström of Skype join the list among a few others.
Today I bring you another fanstastic story. The general public might not know him quite well yet, but Marc Fleury, founder & CEO of Jboss Inc. started a company that has today a number ONE marketshare in the world. His competitors (in marketshare order) are IBM, BEA Systems, Orable, Sun… Not bad for a guy who started in pre-sales at Sun France back in 1997, in the first days of Java.
Marc was enthrilled with Java and wanted to start coding and developping with the Java framework, CORBA, etc. He had relocated by then to Sun in the USA with his family. Unfortunately Marc was trained as an engineer (and I can tell he’s got a very impressive academic background), and in his words, engineers are some sort of 2nd class citizens over there. So the only way he could get back to coding was to embrace the open source movement in 1998.
Inspired by the innovative work of Marten Mickos at MySQL, Marc embarked onto his new vision and ambition: professional open source. Now, what does his company do ? Middleware, as he puts it “boring for most people” but “fascinating plumbing” for him. In 2001 he was already doing training sessions around open source and that’s where he met his current business partner, Sacha Labourey.
Although he won’t disclose revenues, Marc openly acknowledges that all his products (including the JEMS and Jboss suite) have been downloaded a hefty 12 million times. The way he makes money ? Professional support for his products. Key customers include in Europe for instance Disney, the French tax authority (DGI) and the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development.
An amusing anecdote in this episode: Marc tells us about how he went to raise funds in February 2000 with the top shots in Silicon Valley. He remembers that one Sequioa partner told him: “your business plan is not bad, it’s horrible”! When the bubble burst a month later, the company went bankrupt, and they decided to move the business to Atlanta. Today, happy investors in the company include Accel Partners, Intel Capital, Bain Capital and Matrix Partners…
I asked him for his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: “believe”, “keep at it”, “be paranoid” and “believe in yourself” because everyone is going to have an opinion different than yours.
Echoing Benoît Bergeret’s approach, there are really no barriers to building a fantastic company from your own backyard.
And by the way, this was shot very late at night, after one gin tonic too many probably