Philippe Courtot is a well-known name in the security industry and for good reason. He has, over and over again, turned startups into multimillion-dollar companies and cashed out big.
For the past 10 years, he's been the CEO of Qualys, a cloud service that makes sure enterprise IT systems are secure. (He's pictured fourth from the left.) Founded in 1999, it now has over 5,000 customers in 85 countries, including 50 of the Fortune 100. Apple, Facebook, eBay and Oracle are all on the list.
Qualys began when Courtot gave it a half million in seed money. He was talked into becoming CEO in 2001 when he arranged a $20 million second round (which he matched 50-50, he says). After raising more than $65 million in total, Courtot told us he is now considering taking Qualys public.
We caught up with Courtot before his keynote address at the RSA Security Conference, going on this week in San Francisco. He gave us some awesome advice on the best way to launch a cloud startup and turn it into a long-term success.
No. 1: Hire talent before getting funding.
Don't approach the VC too soon, says Courtot.
"You don't have to give all of your company to the VC. Not to say they don't have a role — they do. But the key is your team," he says.
By talent he means people who can design your cloud service and write code. Most importantly, they need "good business sense" and the ability to work well with customers.
No. 2: The team doesn't need to be huge.
You shouldn't immediately hire for every possible need your eventual company will have.
"It doesn't have to be 100 people. Your team only needs to be big enough to do your first proof of concept" design, says Courtot.
No 3: Think global.
The days when building a company meant bringing everyone into the same physical office are gone, especially for cloud companies, says Courtot.
"When building your team for a proof of concept, even if that other person is in France or Russia, who cares? If they've got the brains, the talent and the passion," that's what matters, he says.
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