Nov 30 2011

Building to last: The Objectives

I've already established in my previous post that: "I wanted to build a technology company that lasts, a place where we would improve things step by step, an environment where we would enjoy ourselves, while building products that are useful to our customers and to the world." I also mentioned that I consider success and Open-Source mostly means as opposed to standalone goals.

Let me go a bit more into the details of these objectives and why they are very important to me and XWiki SAS.

Firstly the key goal is to enjoy ourselves while building products. This company was started by working on a product that we strongly believed in. In addition to being a great information organization tool, XWiki provides an intuitive way to build Web Applications. XWiki is for web development what Wikis are for content management. Hence the 'X' in XWiki refers to 'extensibility'. XWiki is already an advanced enterprise solution given all its built-in features, but can also be extended using its APIs. Our passion for building the best extensible enterprise product is one of the ingredients that keeps us going.

Our second goal is to provide useful products to our customers AND to the world. To keep the company running we need customers, so we cannot do everything for free. You might ask yourselves, why then not just sell the product? This is where the goal of sharing our products with the world comes in. We want the products we build to reach the largest audience possible from big to small companies, from business users to developers or non profits. We don't pretend to be big enough to be able to serve the whole world, but we want to extend beyond ourselves. This is one of the main reasons I chose Open-Source and why many of the XWiki employees chose XWiki as their workplace. We also opted for Open-Source because we believe in competition and this model is a constant reminder of the respect our customers are entitled to. In Open Source customers trust you with their investment, which forces a reality check on the quality of the services you are providing to them.

We are also building a company that respects employees and that involves them in the decision making process. Of course upper management provides the vision, but this vision is refined based on the discussions we have with all of the XWiki employees who enjoy an open communication channel with the whole management team. Additionally XWiki employees receive stock options and can buy shares in the company. Being a small company this is easier to implement, but we are committed to maintaining and even improving this process as our company grows.

As previously said success is more the means than the goal. With success of course employees and shareholders (which are almost the same people) enjoy some financial benefits, which also means we're able to grow the company, build better products and make them known to the world. Success also helps us enjoy ourselves more and comes as a confirmation that our product is useful.

Finally we want all these goals to last, which is probably one of the biggest challenges. In an industry where changes are constant, the sustainability of the company culture is one of the most difficult parts.

When you build a company as an entrepreneur, you're bound to make sacrifices in the "beginning". Sometimes employees that join startups or small companies also make sacrifices. In the case that the company fails, there will be no reward beyond the good times you spent working on the project and the experience gained (which is already an interesting ROI for young people). But how long does the "beginning" last and for how much time are you willing to make these efforts? This depends on the entrepreneur and the employees, as well as their personal willingness to make these sacrifices. 

I personally made important sacrifices. I invested most of my time and financial assets into XWiki. What I know is that even if these efforts cashed-out financially, the only things that make up for these sacrifices are achieving the above objectives and working with employees to have them adopt these objectives as their own.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and you're thinking about creating a company, take some time to consider your goals first. This will drive your company model and how you should finance it to reach these goals.

XWiki Founder and XWiki SAS CEO