By Fabien Pinnakers (from Openerp)
I needed to change the world. I wanted to … You know how it is when you are young; you have big dreams, a lot of energy and naïve stupidity. My dream was to lead the enterprise management market with a fully open source software. (I also wanted to get 100 employees before 30 years old with a self-financed company but I failed this one by a few months).
To fuel my motivation, I had to pick someone to fight against. In business, it’s like a playground. When you arrive in a new school, if you want to quickly become the leader, you must choose the class bully, the older guy who terrorises small boys, and kick his butt in front of everyone. That was my strategy with SAP, the enterprise software giant.
So, in 2005, I started to develop the TinyERP product, the software that (at least in my mind) would change the enterprise world. While preparing for the “day of the fight” in 2006, I bought the SorrySAP.com domain name. I put it on hold for 6 years, waiting for the right moment to use it. I thought it would take 3 years to deprecate a 77 billion dollars company just because open source is so cool. Sometimes it’s better for your self-motivation not to face reality…
To make things happen, I worked hard, very hard. I worked 13 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no vacations for 7 years. I lost friendships and broke up with my girlfriend in the process (fortunately, I found a more valuable wife now. I will explain later why she is worth 1 million EUR 🙂.
Three years later, I discovered you can’t change the world if you are “tiny”. Especially if the United States is part of this world, where it’s better to be a BigERP, rather than a TinyERP. Can you imagine how small you feel in front of Danone’s directors asking; “but why should we pay millions of dollars for a tiny software?” So, we renamed TinyERP to OpenERP.
As we worked hard, things started to evolve. We were developing dozens of modules for OpenERP, the open source community was growing and I was even able to pay all employees’ salaries at the end of the month without fear (which was a situation I struggled with for 4 years).
In 2010, we had a 100+ employees company selling services on OpenERP and a powerful but ugly product. This is what happens when delivering services to customers distracts you from building an exceptional product.
It was time to do a pivot in the business model.