It’s hard to believe it has already been 10 years since we started this amazing ride. Time to look back on the past and look forward to the future!
The Early Years
Having started my first company in 2007, we needed a CRM to help us manage sales. I launched a Google-search and quickly landed on the Salesforce-page to get a trial. Salesforce immediately convinced me because of the ease-of-use and intuitive UI. So the first licenses were bought. Little did we know at the time it would become a life-changing choice… and that choice was made in a mere 10 minutes…
Our business model was outsourcing of IT-developers, so we needed to keep extra information about our consultants in our CRM. It proved surprisingly easy to add those fields to Salesforce using just wizards and point-and-click functionality. In the next 2 years, a lot of custom functionality was added to the exact specs of our functional requirements without ever having to hire an external consultant. That came as a shock to me because I was used to custom-built software at my former companies where every change was a long process of analysis and development.
Now we could talk to the business-users and configure their requirements directly on the Salesforce platform without the need of an IT-team.
This was a real eye-opener for the opportunities it could bring as we knew at that time how many prospects and customers were struggling with this gap between business and IT.
I still thank that little voice in my head whispering to start a new business unit focusing on Salesforce implementations.
Becoming a Partner
So let’s become a Salesforce-partner! Easier said than done, Salesforce Belgium was only a few people in an office in Brussels (Max and David, the latter one giving me my first class in creating custom objects) and given the fact that we had zero experience in Salesforce projects besides our own org, we were directed to the HQ in Dublin at that time.
Oscar Van Geest (RIP dear Oscar, we had so much fun together) was kind enough to give us a tour of the offices and helping us out on the procedures how the become a partner. It basically boiled down to this : bring us some customers first and then we will see.
That was actually the easy part, as I got in contact with two former colleagues asking me about Salesforce and our competences for a project they were working on. In short, we could fly back to Dublin within a few weeks to officially become a partner!
Starting Cloud Innovation
At the beginning of 2012, our Salesforce Business Unit was two people and we were about to hire a third consultant (at that time I already considered myself a consultant too). Our investors at that time had a different opinion on our plans for the future and so I seized the opportunity to found Cloud Innovation together with our lead (and only) technical consultant Thomas.
I would like to thank Thomas and Pieterjan (our first employee) from the bottom of my heart for enduring all the stress and uncertainties of those early years and the hard work we put in building our foundations.
Cloud Innovation officially started on april’s fools day 2012 in, as not uncommon in start-ups, the kitchen of my house…
Our first offices
We moved to our first real offices in the summer of 2012 in iCubes, the start-up incubator of iMinds at that time (now Imec).
And off course, our first logo contained a cloud - it was very hip at the time.
Our company culture was influenced and inspired by an event, a book and a TV-show from the nineties.
Although we barely had any money in the bank we decided to go to Dreamforce12. Dreamforce can be compared to a pilgrimage for Salesforce consultants, and it was such an inspiration and confirmation that we were in the right business!
Salesforce has a reputation for bands playing at Dreamforce, we were lucky to see The Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2012 at the townhall of San Francisco. You cannot beat that as a team-building event.
We keep this tradition of ski and summer-trips with all of our employees.
Behind the Clouds, a book by Marc Benioff :
Marc Benioff is the founder of Salesforce and his (first) book describes the start and growth of Salesforce. I mostly remember the unconventional guerilla-tactics of marketing actions they did in the early years. It inspired us a lot for being creative ourselves and get results without spending fortunes.
Accidental Empires :
In 1996, I saw a TV-series ‘Accidental Empires’ about the rise of Apple and Microsoft, and that always kept me thinking about starting my own IT-company (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115398/ by Robert X. Cringely). It actually took 10 years to become a reality.
I thanked the director personally a few years ago for sparking my interest in IT and starting my own company. It was reassuring to hear that he is working on a new series that will also be featuring Salesforce.com.
One quote in particular from this series still applies to us : ‘it’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the Navy!’
We will always keep this culture of fun and working hard because it is in our DNA.
Since our start in 2012 we have been growing steadily and we decided to move to a bigger and more corporate location in 2015 - the Ghelamco Arena.
Our HQ will always be in the Ghent area but we also have offices in Antwerp and Brussels. You can still see our first logo that was cut out of a cardboard print still hanging in our current offices as a reminder of those early years.
We are 30 Cloudblazers now and I remember the day when I tought 10 employees would be the maximum we could ever achieve…
Receiving a nomination for the Trends Gazelle 2022 a few months ago really meant a lot to us because it puts our growth in perspective. Very humbled and proud at the same time.
Power to the People
Our people are our most important assets and I would like to sincerely thank each and every Cloudblazer at Cloud Innovation for his and her contribution to our success, without you this would not have been possible!
It is our mission to try to give everybody the best possible opportunities and we will always be very aware that the value of Cloud Innovation is in the people that work here.
10 years of Cloud Innovation has had a huge impact on my personal life. Although in the early years there was not much of a personal life.
But Salesforce also changed my life completely because I met my wife while trying to sell a new project at a customer. The power of Salesforce is not to be underestimated.
My wife, family and friends deserve a huge thank you for their understanding and support! I could not keep doing this without them. Love you!
The Future is bright
Over the years, we have witnessed an amazing growth of Salesforce, not only in revenue and employees but also in their product-offering. We have seen a shift from a Sales support tool to a complete business platform with solutions for every company. This makes us very confident for the future and the choice we have made for the Salesforce platform.
We are really looking forward to 10 more years, we have a lot of ambitions and ideas. I’m sure you will be hearing from us shortly!
But first, let’s have a party!