We chat to Vincent Delaroche, chairman and CEO of software security analysis system CAST. He tells us about CAST has made software development accessible to mangers and executives, and how Brexit will affect SMEs.
Please explain who you are, what your business is, and what it does/aims to achieve?
I’m Vincent Delaroche, Chairman and CEO of CAST. CAST helps the CIOs and IT leaders get a true measure of their software quality so they can predict and prevent IT outages, security risk and other operational disruptions that can damage consumer confidence and rack up millions in lost profits. CAST uses system-level analysis to detect the most dangerous structural IT flaws that expose businesses to software risk. We aim to provide accurate and detailed analytics on the reliability, security, complexity and size of business applications for greater management efficacy and real productivity measurement. I founded CAST 25 years ago to ‘make the invisible visible’.
What time does your day usually start and end?
My typical day starts quite early and includes checking hundreds of emails and working with my direct reports to solve tricky problems. I also sprinkle in a healthy amount of technology press briefings, customer visits, partner discussions and communication with our shareholders and auditors. I try to spend a good amount of my time digesting data from all possible sources, and I make it a personal goal to support all areas of the business where I can and where it makes sense. I am surrounded by smart people who are passionate about our mission and the growth of CAST, and that inspires me to give it my all day in and day out.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love speaking with customers and hearing about how the visibility we provide into their system quality has radically changed how they run IT operations. System-level analysis brings up issues and risks that are often times completely invisible, and the CIOs and IT leads we work with are always fascinated and encouraged by what we bring to the surface for them.
Where did the idea for your business come from? (And what made you want to be your own boss?)
When I founded CAST, I felt software engineering and software development were obscure and difficult for managers and business executives to “see, touch and feel.” I wanted to provide objective software measurement and make it easier to see inside the business. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so CAST is helping IT leaders make educated technology-based decisions. From a very young age, even in my teenage years, I knew I wanted to create something from the bottom-up. CAST is the realisation of this long-held dream, and it gives me great pride to bring something completely innovative and fresh to the global market.
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
Creating demand for an entirely new kind of software has been quite a journey. We’re celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, but there were many times in the early years where it felt like we were climbing an uphill battle. Most business leaders agree that what gets measured gets improved, but the reality is that objectivity and indisputable facts don’t always please everyone. Winning strategic partnerships with big systems integrators and leading management consulting firms has really set the tone for our long-term success and has given us the confidence that we’re here to be a key player for many more years to come.
What do you feel are the biggest obstacles to growth for SMEs in the UK?
In the UK there are some interesting things going on following the Brexit vote. Leaving the EU is going to cause a political mess. However, in the tech industry that we operate in, SME tech leaders who tend to be the fastest-growing shouldn’t be affected too much. European or not, great technologies that fuel the future of the world remain great technologies.
On a more general scale, creating long-term customers is a huge challenge for SME growth plans. Getting those first critical customer wins is extremely important, and they are critical to long-term success. 90 per cent of startups today fail so it’s really important that SMEs build lasting relationships that enable them to grow.
Have you made any mistakes along the way and how did you overcome them/learn from them?
I’ve made plenty of mistakes, especially when expanding our business abroad. There are very few French ISVs that manage to secure real success in the US. There are several reasons for this, including culture, different approaches to business, talent acquisition and more. Often times foreign business executives rely too much on what’s taught at business school and books about the American market (or whatever market is in question), yet they have no personal experience other than visiting on holiday a handful of times. The best way to avoid mistakes is to surround yourself with solid, local folks who have a real understanding of the nuances of the market and listen to them. Try to avoid applying “recipes” to expansion in other geographies just because it works well in another country.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Entrepreneurs shouldn’t become too focused on their exit strategy and instead put more time into the innovation that’s needed to make an impact in the market. To create true, disruptive change, it takes time and a long-term commitment. Surround yourself with good people and unify your employees around a common strategic goal. Success will follow.
Would you do anything differently if you could start again from scratch?
Introducing a disruptive technology or concept requires focus, perseverance and money. When we started CAST, we did well in terms of focus and perseverance, but I think we could have raised more funding on the front end to help speed growth a bit faster. On the other hand, you always run the risk of burning lots of money early on to evangelise to a constituency who may not have been ready to listen to us at the time. The most important thing is that we eventually did achieve our goals, and we’re now on a path of acceleration that’s gaining traction for objectivity and transparency. This is particularly true in the software supply chain. There is a clear demand now from the buy side, and they don’t want to keep paying big money without insight into the structural quality or the work being done on their systems.
What do you do to relax away from the hustle and bustle of work?
I have been a big sailor all my life, so I enjoy getting out on the water whenever I can. I also make it a priority to “turn off” occasionally and spend quiet time with my family, with all of us together unplugged.
What would you be doing if you weren’t running your own business?
I believe I would get quickly bored. I’ve been made for moving the lines, introducing change and leaving a hopefully positive impact behind me. This is in my DNA. What I enjoy most about being an entrepreneur is building something with people who share the same fundamental values. The best and most fun way to do this is having the freedom to choose who you build that business with. So if I weren’t running CAST, I would be running something else, like a charity for orphaned children or an organisation that supports taking good care of our planet.
Do you manage to achieve a good work/life balance?
Yes, I think at CAST we all do. Most of us have families, hobbies and passions outside of work, so it’s a very focused environment in the office, but we are able to go home and just think about taking care of our families, friends and ourselves. I also want to make the office a pleasant place to be, so our spaces are very collaborative and open, and when weather permits, most of our offices have outdoor spaces. Check out our Life at CAST section to learn more.