Neil Patel

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In a world marked by unexpected twists and turns, Jan Arendtsz’s journey from the tranquility of a small island to the bustling realm of entrepreneurship is a captivating tale. This interview unveils Jan’s fascinating life, tracing his path from Sri Lanka to the tech landscape of North America.

A story that begins with a pursuit of computer science evolves into the creation of Celigo, an integration platform that has now become a global force. Join us as we explore Jan’s experiences, the evolution of Celigo, and the lessons learned along the entrepreneurial road.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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A Journey of Discovery

Jan’s childhood on a serene island was abruptly interrupted by the intensity of civil war in Sri Lanka. Faced with uncertainty and a need for change, he embarked on a journey to New Brunswick, Canada, to pursue a degree in computer science.

The stark contrast in culture, region, and weather was not a deterrent but rather an exploration of the world beyond Sri Lanka, shaping Jan’s perspective on uncertainty. Leaving home at 20 in 1990, Jan’s excitement for a new life was palpable.

While Canada was not the initially envisioned destination, it became a beautiful chapter of his life, filled with diverse experiences. From working in Toronto to eventually transferring to the University of Texas, Jan’s exposure to different cultures laid the foundation for dealing with uncertainty.

The Evolution of Passion: Computer Science to Entrepreneurship

Why computer science? Jan explains that his proficiency in math and his perceived career potential led him to this field. While not his true calling, this detour became a crucial part of his journey.

Jan’s transition from a technical role to a business-oriented one was catalyzed by his realization that being confined to code was not his calling.

Jan recalls starting his professional career working as a developer for a product company for around two and a half years. However, he preferred to be closer to the business side and in a customer-facing position rather than stuck in a cubicle churning out code.

That’s when Jan transitioned to a consulting company called Cambridge Technology Partners in the late 90s. At the time, it was one of the premier consulting companies out there. Jan got the opportunity to use his technical background to work as a business analyst and project manager.

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Celigo’s Genesis

After working for Netsuite, Jan recognized the potential of Software as a Service (SaaS) and the need for a cloud-based integration platform. At Netsuite, Jan was a product manager responsible for running their integration stack and building their APIs.

Jan started to think about the end users who were going to consume the APIs, the world of SaaS business applications in the cloud, and their communication channels. He also started to explore how they would communicate with the typical on-prem apps and databases of that era.

The realization that a solution was needed to move data around efficiently birthed the idea of Celigo. Jan initially took a consulting route, doing business process consulting out of a back office. They started out doing implementations around Salesforce, Netsuite, and various other apps.

Amid that, they ended up doing integration work and building the company to about a hundred people. Eventually, Jan shut down the consultancy and transformed it into a SaaS company in 2011.

Fundraising for Celigo

From 2011 to 2015, Jan built their IP by bootstrapping, earning $4M in ARR. Celigo’s journey through various business models led to a pivot that aligned with the dynamic shifts in the SaaS landscape.

The product they made initially would augment the existing platform, which wasn’t something they wanted to do. Jan made the radical decision to build a new product, the next-generation integration platform. He raised their Series A round on the last day of 2015 and started 2016 with a nascent platform.

Over time, Celigo has raised $82M. As Jan reveals, by the start of 2020, the company had acquired an excellent reputation for solving specific automations such as orders to cash for companies selling tangible goods or quotes to cash for software or professional services companies.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Jan Arendtsz was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

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Essentially, Celigo was an integration platform that could ultimately automate any type of use case and business process. But, Jan realized that they needed to have a more holistic approach to solving all the automation needs of the enterprise.

Navigating Phases and Learning from Mistakes

Celigo’s phases included a period of deep specialization in specific automations, learning from the realization that breadth was essential. Jan’s admission of mistakes, including product misalignment, highlights the learning curve.

The company’s focus shifted to becoming a next-generation platform capable of automating any business process, marking the current phase.

Building a Global Team and Cultivating Culture

With over 700 employees globally, but predominantly in North America, Celigo’s hiring strategy has been pivotal. The company has an off-shore dev center in India and a presence in the Netherlands, Phillippines, and Australia.

Jan emphasizes the importance of investing in talent acquisition, reflecting on the cultural unity across different locations. The organic extension of Celigo’s culture into global teams showcases the success of their approach.

A Vision for the Future

Celigo’s ambitious vision extends beyond integration, aiming to become a pure-play automation platform. Jan envisions the company evolving into a comprehensive solution for diverse automation needs, leveraging its integration stronghold to optimize business processes.

He anticipates that Celigo is going to be used by an extensive number of companies and not just to solve their integration needs.

Jan foresees a human-centric workflow where the given workflow functions without stopping until a human comes in and makes a decision. It then goes back and starts executing these areas.

At Celigo, they are also working on process mining to be able to really look at business processes and understand how they can optimize them by identifying the weak spots.

Lessons for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Reflecting on his journey, Jan emphasizes the importance of disciplined execution, strategic mapping, and the pivotal role of the right team. While acknowledging the board’s influence, he underscores that the core strategy should emanate from the company’s vision.

Jan points out that certain investors are looking for an exit in X number of years, and they don’t really care too much about what the company’s trying to do ultimately. For them, it’s more about the numbers.

However, Celigo has investors who truly believe in the mission and have excellent dynamics with the different board members and the firms supporting the company, which is a huge positive.


Jan Arendtsz’s story is not just an entrepreneurial narrative; it’s a testament to resilience, adaptability, and the pursuit of a greater mission. Celigo’s evolution mirrors Jan’s personal and professional growth, showcasing the potential of visionary leadership.

As Celigo charts its course into the future, Jan’s journey stands as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs navigating the complexities of the business world.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Jan Arendtsz’s journey from a peaceful island to founding Celigo showcases the transformative power of embracing change.
  • Jan’s early exposure to diverse cultures prepared him to handle uncertainty, a skill crucial in the ever-evolving tech landscape.
  • While computer science wasn’t his true calling, Jan’s proficiency in the field laid the foundation for his entrepreneurial venture, Celigo.
  • Celigo’s genesis from a consulting company to a SaaS platform, coupled with strategic pivots, reflects the company’s adaptability to industry shifts.
  • Celigo’s success lies in its global team, showcasing the importance of disciplined hiring and the organic extension of a unified culture.
  • Celigo’s future extends beyond integration, aiming to become a comprehensive automation platform, showcasing Jan’s visionary leadership.
  • Jan emphasizes disciplined execution, strategic mapping, and the crucial role of the right team as key elements for entrepreneurial success.


For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

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Neil Patel

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