“A Silicon Valley around EPFL: It's Possible.”
Pedro Bados, co-founder of Nexthink, EPFL spin-off, dreams of making the region a breeding ground for start-ups. On three continents, his company has developed rapidly since being its inception in 2005. Following is an interview with this dynamic, 32-year old chief.
Just under 100 employees, a clientele of more than 400 large companies, nearly 16 million in venture capital raised from several partners, and partnerships with companies such as Microsoft, Citrix, IBM and Unisys – these numbers could make any young boss’ head spin. Not so for Pedro Bados, who is in his early thirties and poised for success as he recruits forty young talents from the field of software engineering, advanced user interface design, software as a service (SaaS) and product management.
Technology coming from the Laboratory of Artificial Intelligence and developed by Nexthink permits real-time discovery of significant events in a computer infrastructure from the behavior monitoring of workstations. On this basis, the system models an overview of the network, continuously updated, which records and reproduces solutions to problems. “This revolutionary view into the IT infrastructure enables our customers to resolve problems with service quality of business applications, IT transformation, and security threats,” explains Pedro Bados, CEO of the start-up. “The key to Nexthink’s success is saving time and money in budget while improving service to business end-users of larger companies: from 18% to 36%.”
What are the secrets of a company that grows so quickly?
The team is extremely important to start. I love the adage, first who, then what: being surrounded by the best people provided the opportunity. I think that what sets us apart from our competitors is our product culture. Our first objective since the beginning is to improve the life of end-users above all. That pays off better than having strong business motivation. Instead of developing a product up until its market launch, we put out our software on the market very early. The feedback from our customers and partners then permitted us to grow rapidly, and more importantly, to grow in line with the market.
In terms of sales expansion, we thought “global coverage” from the beginning. Our clientele is composed of organizations and companies with more than 1,000 people, so we had to have a global outlook from the get-go. We deliberately focused on a broad market without much specialization, to reach as wide a range of customers as possible. Obviously, listening to customers and partners and being able to recognize our mistakes are also key elements of success.
Do you consider yourself a born entrepreneur?
No. I was primarily motivated by my studies and my passion for applying technology to unique problem sets. Originally from Spain, I came to Switzerland on an Erasmus exchange. During that year I worked on behavioral modeling for intelligent computers in large companies. The system recognized normalities and abnormalities, which made it possible to increase network performance. But it was missing the real-time application that we’ve since added. The opportunity to develop a company came next. I liked having immediate feedback on our research and experiencing customer satisfaction. At the same time I met the right people, and it all fell into place.
Will you stay in the area?
We have thoroughly considered the possibilities of relocating to a country where labor costs less or closer to Silicon Valley talent, but we made the strategic choice to stay in the region near EPFL, to create jobs and a genuinely local success that both the school and the region deserve. But we find it hard to recruit talent ready to venture into a start-up. Now we have everything to make the region into another Silicon Valley: good schools, a good quality of life, investors and international clients. The culture of IT start-ups doesn’t exist here, but we believe that if, like us, a few more start-ups in the field of computer software develop, that introduces the idea into the air, and others will follow.
What are your goals for the future?
To release new revolutionary products for the cloud and mobility (that we can’t yet discuss in more detail) that will give us advantage in the United States market. We also want to strengthen our global strategic alliances with companies that distribute or integrate our products. In parallel, we’re modifying our product to take advantage of the latest developments in the field. For example, we’re currently experiencing a revolution in corporate IT departments similar to the invention of the Internet. IT is shifting from an application-centric model to a Web service model where the end-user has more freedom; such as bring your own device (BYOD). People want a level of service at work with the same high quality as the ones they find on the Internet, so they can be as productive as possible.