As a SaaS company, at Coveo we often talk about the importance of people, processes and technology working together to remain innovative and to scale in the digital age. As the CEO of a high-growth technology company, I’m fortunate to see that in action every day and I’m constantly amazed by the milestones we achieve as a team.
Today’s announcement of a $100 million investment in Coveo is a testament to the promising business Coveo has built and its ability to grow. The investment led by Evergreen Coast Capital, Elliott’s Menlo Park, California-based private equity affiliate, is further confirmation that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities must be at the core of any existing or emerging organization in the digital age, and that the opportunity for expansion when people, processes and technology are aligned is limitless.
Recognized by the Gartner Group as one of the highest for execution and the furthest for innovation in the Magic Quadrant for Insight Engines 2017, named a leader in The Forrester Wave™: Cognitive Search and Knowledge Discovery Solutions, 2017, and most recently included in SCALE.AI (Supply Chains And Logistics Excellence.AI), a Canadian industry-led innovation consortium that has just been approved by the Canadian federal government as part its Innovation Superclusters–there’s no disputing that Coveo is a leader in the AI space in Canada, and is one of, if not the largest, fastest growing commercial Canadian AI player. This is not by accident.
How it’s done
So, how is an emerging tech company from Quebec City changing the game in AI and machine learning, while demonstrating an efficient working model for wealth creation?
It’s not easy, but it’s quite simple: passion, integrity, collaboration and inclusion. These are the four pillars of Coveo’s culture and are at the core of everything we do. These values are not just words, they are the common denominator for every successful product launch, every engaged employee, every empowered partner, every happy customer, and every investor involved–in every successful company our team has led.
Taleo, our last company took $22 million of Quebec capital, brought in the leverage of additional smart investors, and turned it into $1.9 billion US by the time it was sold to Oracle in 2012, returning a Billion dollars to the local economy to create yet another success story. Many of Taleo’s top talent are now at Coveo and it’s safe to say, we’re at it again! Though the landscape and technology have changed, our core values have remained the same and are fundamental to our success and the success of our customers.
At Coveo, passion is essential. This is because passion drives innovation and quality. Only passionate people working towards a common purpose wake up in the morning with a genuine desire to push the envelope, and thus only passionate people drive innovation. We want to continuously evolve and help our customers do the same and in order to maintain our leadership and enhance the leadership of the companies we work with, we have to remain ten steps ahead of the market. Our passion for what we do and how we can bring more value to our customers keeps us from growing stagnant and ensures that we innovate. Our passion ensures that we are up to date on the latest trends and are constantly looking at the big picture to predict what consumers will need next.
Coveo was first to invest and bring to market advanced contextualization (2008), a native cloud platform for advanced enterprise search (2012), deep integration within leading applications such as Salesforce (2013), Sitecore, Adobe, and now Microsoft Dynamics 365, Behavioral analytics (2014), AI-powered relevance using machine learning (2016) and now adding deep learning, and a best-of-breed platform intelligent insights on the Elasticsearch standard (2017). This is not a fluke, this is passion and it’s in our DNA. Passion and innovation are at the heart of our business, and we put our money where our beliefs are by investing twice the industry standard in R&D.
Our big-picture thinking drives quality products that are revolutionizing the way people do business, which in turns drives the customer success stories that further fuels our passion and keeps our engines going at full speed. We think of this as the positive spiral of success, and also why companies like Coveo succeed geometrically better than their closest competitors.
One of the best things about Coveo, our people and our technology alike, is that we deliver on our promises. Something we are not willing to compromise on: we do what we say we will do. That applies both internally and externally. Our SaaS solution, as an example, is and must remain a reflection of our people and value, and it’s important that we perform with uncompromised integrity at all times.
Just as our investors look at the predictability of our business model and credibility of our solution and leadership team, our customers and employees rely on our predictability and credibility as well. It is our job as a company to ensure we don’t disappoint.
But integrity also has another dimension. We believe and expect our employees to stand by their own opinions, respectfully but in every circumstance. I can say without a doubt that being a CEO, if you are not careful, can be a very lonely job. Without integrity and good communication, employees can have the tendency to tell upper management what they want to hear and show them what I would prefer to see, rather than the reality of the situation, which is not always going to look optimistic. However, I’m a firm believer that the best way to run a company is to get the exact temperature regardless of how cold or hot it is, every day. Bad news doesn’t get better with time, so having high-integrity people who will tell you the truth and focus on reality is a must. As the late Steve Jobs said, “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” It is my job to make the call about where we need to go as a company and the direction to take but if we are turning the wrong direction I need our people to tell us what they think at all times. The truth is, when you think that way, the journey is always greater than the destination.
This philosophy has allowed us successfully expand our team from inception to 350 employees world-wide, grow our partner ecosystem by 200% over the past 24 months, and grow our revenue and sales more than 50% year over year.
We understand that we are capable of achieving more when we work together; with each other, with our partners and with advocates for Coveo. Anyone alone can go quickly, but to go far you need a team. With the right team, you end up getting there faster anyway. Combining our knowledge and expertise ensures that we can solve problems faster and create unprecedented digital experiences. Creating an environment where we are seeking the truth, not who’s right, further fuels our innovation and creates more value for customers. Our best and most successful ideas have been built on the strengths of people across the companies.
If you take a look at my LinkedIn profile, you’ll see “allergies” listed and it’s been there for more than a decade. One of the things I’m deeply “allergic” to is company politics. We simply don’t have time and refuse to tolerate political games. We work better together and we make sure that’s articulated regularly. The Coveo team is made up of people who cherish teamwork. It’s not about being right, it’s about getting the job done and helping each other to make sure it’s done well. With this mentality, the organization is a self regulating ecosystem, all driven by values.
Nature has a powerful force in cross-pollination. This is typically what enriches species. Similarly, our organisation follows the same mechanism; you will never find innovation in homogeneity; by putting together people who come from the same industry, think the same way, share similar experiences. Innovation is about re-assembling known concepts in a different way, to solve new problems or similar problems in a better way. How could someone from the retail industry bring a new perspective to a group of experts in customer service? Or, how could someone from engineering inspire great marketing collateral? You don’t know until you try. But I can say with certainty, opportunity strikes when you blend ideas and experiences.
Our best ideas come from diverse opinions, backgrounds and experiences. We leverage the collective talent and perspective of our team and network to constantly improve. We firmly believe that innovation, creativity and customer satisfaction are born from inclusion. Everyone wants to be heard–and they should be, and different people will bring different points of views that, collectively, enrich the whole and create new ways. At Coveo, we want everyone to understand what our mission is, and to have an opportunity to bring new ideas and explore. Failure is an option, because if we never failed we would not be trying enough new ideas. The only thing we ask our employees is to fail as fast as possible.
Anyone who engages with Coveo has had an impact on our success and brings with them a treasure trove of ideas that have the potential to inform our next product, campaign or use case. This is why we look to include our partners and customers and bringing them into our vision as well, constantly expanding the gene pool of the company. Fundamentally, that is really how we manage innovation.
With this $100M financing, we intend to broaden our market footprint with even more aggressive investments in sales, marketing, channels, as well as launch new lines of business beyond the current Salesforce, Microsoft, and Sitecore products.
In addition, we’re opening up a whole range of new opportunities by expanding our platform on Elasticsearch, enabling organizations to leverage Coveo as their enterprise-wide relevance backbone, from eCommerce to customer service and the intelligent workplace. This, relative to our opportunity, is the most exciting part. We see it as our customers are realizing the potential of the Coveo for Elasticsearch platform to deliver personalization across their enterprises. As a firm, we believe that moving from efficiency to proficiency is the next major quantum leap in business, and that AI-powered search will be at the core of it, perhaps just as, if not more important as the database was three decades ago. With that in mind, it’s no wonder Coveo employees are so passionate. We are at the cutting edge of delivering personalized and relevant experiences to real people.
What’s more, this financing will help accelerate the growth of Coveo by tapping into a local talent pool with world-class machine learning and AI expertise. We’ve grown our R&D centers in Quebec City and Montreal to more than 200 developers and data scientists and show no signs of slowing down. The investments that Canada is making in the space, starting with our SCALE.ai innovation supercluster where Coveo was a key promoter, are fueling our opportunity in an accelerated fashion.
Coveo is leading the AI-powered search revolution and we want to bring you with us!