Jacques-Alexandre Gerber
IMPACT INVESTING

Jacques-Alexandre Gerber

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Managing Partner Agave Partners Capital, Entrepreneur

Jacques-Alexandre Gerber on preparing for disaster

“In business, especially when you’re a startup, even if you do the best job and you do everything right, which almost never happens, something is going to hit you six months down the road. And what are you doing to be ready for it?”

ABOUT

Jacques-Alexandre Gerber is a serial high-tech entrepreneur and computer scientist who has led the global business development efforts for each of his startup companies (Intalio, Stoic, Fermat). Building on that experience, he joined Agave Partners in 2017 to assess and coordinate cross-border Financing and M&A deals, and now focus on investing in High-Tech companies for the Energy Transition.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Jacques-Alexandre Gerber

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the Supporters Fund Ask An Investor. I’m your host Jeffery Potvin and let’s please welcome Jacques-Alexandre Gerber, Agave Partners Capital, as our investor today. Welcome Jacques. It’s a real pleasure to have you join us today.
Gerber: thank you Jeffery. pleasure meeting you and thanks for having me.
Jeffery: super excited to have you here man. there’s so many great things that you’ve done over your career and I love just unpacking all this great stuff so we’re going to jump right into it. and the best way for us to jump in is if you could share a little bit about your background all the way back to your school days in Lyon to the startups and to what you’re doing today at Agave Partners Capital and we’ll jump in from there. then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Gerber: All right. I don’t know about that. But, yeah. Thanks a lot. So, back to Lyon. Wow, that’s a while ago. I graduated as a computer scientist in France as everybody will hear from my accent. And actually after that, I went on to my military service. that was still required at the time per French Law. but you could do that as a civil servant for French embassies or French companies around the world and that led me to go to Cairo, Egypt where I worked for 18 months on educational programs around French of course and as a computer scientist. I was very happy to work on very innovative online programs for Egyptian teachers teaching French which back in the mid late 90s was very innovative. So, it was a fantastic experience. I mentioned it because it was very informative for me to spend so much time in such a different and foreign country for a variety of reasons that I really appreciated. and it was really instrumental in my career I think. and at the end of this, I was actually called by a friend of mine. We did our studies together. we just arrived in San Francisco and he called me pretty much out of the blue saying, hey Jacques, I’m in San Francisco. I’ve just started the company. we’re doing some amazing things. You’ll love it. come on board, etc. and I was not prepared for this as a computer scientist. Going to see Silicon Valley was a dream. So, he followed me to pay for my flight ticket to come visit him. So, I said, okay, there’s nothing to lose. So, I came there with my small suitcase to check it out. and almost 25 years later, I’m still in the San Francisco area. So, that’s how it started. we started this company called Intalio and it was started back in 1998, end of 98. I joined at the end of 99 and initially as a software engineer, then very quickly we had a first client. we are not ready for that. We are developing a lot of technologies where a bunch of nerds are writing code and nobody with any business or sales experience. We did a lot of open source projects. So, we became pretty visible online and some companies started pinging us about those technologies and what they mean, how to use them, etc. then we got a client willing to pay us to get services. So, one of us had to go check it out and help that customer and that was me and that’s how I moved from software development to the business side, where I actually spent most of my career. So, we developed that company together. it grew pretty significantly. You can imagine that, starting in 2000, we went through a lot of ups and downs. we went through the dot-com crash. 9-11 are resuming businesses after that. even the financial crisis that was not as extreme. but still in 2007 to 2008, we did many rounds of financing, raised quite a bit of capital for history and developed the business internationally. In 2012, we had 1500 clients in 65 countries. I was managing all the business side, sales, technical support, etc. growing pretty well and starting to negotiate really significant contracts with really big companies. and the board decided that at the time, it was probably the right time to do an exit. They had been supported by the company for 13 years. At that point in time and some for a very good time, some investors were more recently of course on board. and I thought it was a good time to leverage those discussions and those partnerships to negotiate an exit. it was less interesting for us. We had been with the company for 12 to 13 years. we had very small percentages of the shareholding given that we’ve been diluted many times. So, it was not very exciting to do that. So, we left the company more or less willingly and started a new company that we called, STOIC (Sutoiku, Inc.) in reference to the stoic philosophy that tells you that when things don’t go your way, it’s not in your control. you can just live through it and learn the good out of it and try to make better from it. So, I can pause here if you have some questions. but that’s how we left our first company and started our second company. We were in 2012 then. and of course, it was a very different story than when we started our first company because we had 12 years of experience. We had raised funding before we had developed relationships, especially in Silicon Valley. We knew what it meant to do software. So, it was a very different story. So, we had no problem getting capital very quickly, hiring the best resources at the time, and having the right processes and methodologies to develop software. and we worked on ideas that came to us through our experience very quickly, so good. striping and finding what we wanted to do was much easier the second time given the experience we had from the first time. So, we started working on an idea of bringing simple tools. The idea we had really of Jeffery was that as computer scientists, we found that computer scientists had done a pretty bad job at really supporting business people. we spend. businesses have spent enormous amounts of money in IT. But, at the end of the day, does it really hurt them? Of course, it does. There are a lot of things. nothing we couldn’t do with all those systems. But, especially big companies’ IT departments have become enormous, really hard to manage, and the value for the business is not always obvious. and we thought, there was a contradiction here because automation computer science should be there to really make your life easier, to automate things and to let you focus on the good things and not get in the way right. So, we thought that we wouldn’t quit as computer scientists. we didn’t quite achieve that promise of really making the world much better and easi