This article is translated from Spanish and reprinted with permission from the Endeavor Rosario office in Argentina, which originally published the interview with Endeavor Entrepreneur Guibert Englebienne. All four Endeavor Entrepreneurs from Globant, including Guibert, will be participating in next week’s Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit in San Francisco.
Guibert is the co-founder of Globant, an Argentinean company that outsources information technology. Their principle objective is to create innovative software products that are attractive to a global audience.
In an exclusive interview, the CTO of the company explains why it’s important to think from day one about exporting, in addition to understanding the possibility for business reinvention and adaptation.
Globant has become an expert on some of the most relevant popular technologies, including social networking, videogames and mobile devices. It has also become one of the premiere companies developing specific practices around Google’s popular technologies like OpenSocial, Google Checkout and Google App Engine. Additionally, it has actively contributed to the Open Source community with different applications. These are not small achievements, given that they arose from a country in the middle of economic crisis in 2001.
The leaders of the company, all Endeavor Entrepreneurs, (Martín Migoya, CEO; Martín Umaran, COO; Guibert Englebienne, CTO; and Néstor Nocetti, VP Innovation Labs) have in common an entrepreneurial talent, knowing how to position themselves in the world and why it’s important to think about potential ventures as global ventures from day one. Guibert, the “creative brain” of the company, talks about these aspects and ends with three key pieces of advice that he believes make for a high-impact global business.
Did Globant start as a global business?
Normally, the feeling when starting a business is that you have to go to local markets and work with those you have a strong cultural tie to. We, for several reasons, had little luck in this manner because our market was in very bad shape after the devaluation of 2001 that forced us to look outside. We could have tried to go to traditional markets for Argentine entrepreneurs such as Spain, Brazil and neighboring countries. As it happens, we first studied the market for our services very well and found that 90 percent of the demand for these services came from the U.S., UK and Japan. That’s how we chose to go in the direction we did.
Can all entrepreneurship be thought of in a global manner?
There are some products out there that cannot be thought of in a limitless way because there are markets for different things. That is to say, to build a parking lot in the center of Buenos Aires or Rosario surely would create a good business but it is impossible to export. However, I think our location in Argentina wouldn’t traditionally have made us look outward. Now, we have the example of Brazil, which is a country that is focusing on its own development, and on the other hand, countries like Uruguay that are necessarily forced to look outside for market opportunity. Though the individual cases are different, they operate on a common principle. That which was traditional 15 years ago, focusing on your own pot, today is not. That’s a very important change that has to do with moving to a knowledge economy, allowing us to cross borders without problems.
What happens to those companies that were born looking at a limited market and grow up today in a totally different global landscape? Can you change your platform and go out into the world?
I think you can, but to be sure, it is much easier if you think about it from day one, because somehow this gives you a global focus and it will imprint in your corporate culture. This is not to say that companies cannot reinvent themselves. What’s more, if today you are not constantly reinventing yourself, it is more complicated to create and go to other markets because all the time your business is being challenged by competitors that you want to stay ahead of.
Can you learn to think in a global manner?
I think there are certain things one has to learn. Through Endeavor, I met and learned about a lot of business people and their experiences, and what I realized is that there are certain patterns that a company typically follows to be successful that largely has to do with the level of globalization in the company. In our case, the selection of markets had implications much bigger than one traditionally sees. For example, the level of competition that the company has, especially because we are not competing with other local businesses that people know, is really important given the global competition that you do not know. As an advantage, I think that the aristocracy that the countries in which we work are accustomed to, simplifies things, and tend not to put unnecessary blocks in the development of a new deal. I know many companies that are stuck in very slow decision-making processes, and are not always transparent, to win a contract.
What advice would you give to business people that are starting out with their company?
In principle I would say that the only thing that has not changed is that we live in a time of change. What’s important is to have the capacity to be curious about many things and have a high tolerance, above all the frustration, because they are tools to be competitive in the times to come. Perhaps in the midst of the boom it is not easy.
For our company to bring in talent and grow in the context of inflation is difficult, so we focus more on sales, so that inflation doesn’t pose a big problem. We evaluate the scenario and make the best of it. So a big piece of advice is not to fall asleep during seemingly bad times because opportunities can emerge in times of turmoil. In fact, we began to think about Globant during the crisis. When the dollar was 4 to 1 we saw an opportunity to export. Another fundamental element in starting a business is innovation, for example to think about how to sell the services the company could offer and how to attract talent. Other possibilities are to add other equipment, buying other companies that run the risk of losing sustainability.
Right now, we as entrepreneurs recognize that we are not aware of everything, so it’s essential that we add the equipment and attach it to opportunities and attract customers that help solidify the company. To form a team, it’s important to have a strong leader—someone who provides direction during tough times. Finally, it is important to think long term, set a target you want to reach and to know the variables that impact a company’s sustainability, because the companies that adapt to change are those that immediately detect what they’re doing wrong.
Guibert’s 3 Keys:
1. Generate a culture of innovation to adapt to different situations.
2. Strengthen the culture of forming teams.
3. Always maintain a culture of clear goals for the short and long term.