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.

Celigo has attracted funding from top-tier investors like OMERS Growth Equity, NewSpring Capital, Blossom Street Ventures, and TVC Capital.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • 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.


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About Jan Arendtsz:

Jan Arendtsz is a veteran of the software industry with more than 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, business development, product development, and customer success.

He founded Celigo with the goal of simplifying how companies integrate business applications together for a connected enterprise. He is responsible for overseeing all company operations.

Prior to Celigo, Jan was a Director at NetSuite, the leading cloud-based ERP platform, where he launched their integration platform.

Prior to that, Jan worked for Cambridge Technology Partners, where he implemented complex business solutions for a multitude of customers ranging from Internet startups to Fortune 500 companies.

Jan holds a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin.

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Connect with Jan Arendtsz:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today today we have a really incredible founder. You know we’re going to be talking about the rocket ship that he’s building. We’re Goingnna be talking about building scaling financing and all of the stuff that we like to hear. Obviously you know they have a tons of employees. So we’re going to be learning quite a bit there to on hiring on how to go about creating culture. How to think about pivoting the business I mean it took them a couple of business models to really you know, hit it on the nail ah in in obviously talking about perseverance. So. Without further ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest today Jan arants welcome to the show. So originally born and raised in Sri Lanka give us a walk through memory lane. How is life growing up there.

Jan Arendtsz: Thank you for having me a handra.

Jan Arendtsz: Life going up on ah on a small island was peaceful cut off from the rest of the world I had I think a very ah happy childhood and then in Sri Lanka there was ah, civil war which got pretty intense and when I was a teenager. It became unsafe for a young man to be going around and I knew that I had to leave the country and that’s what happened. Ended up at the age of 20 heading from the extreme heat of Sri Lanka to 1 of the coldest spaces in North America in New Brunswick canada to start a degree in computer science back in. 1990.

Alejandro Cremades: How was that for you because I mean it was a different culture different region obviously different weather but you know, kind of like um, exploring you know there was a more outside of Sri Lanka a world outside right? so. How was that for you too because I’m sure that that helped you with really understanding how to deal with uncertainty.

Jan Arendtsz: To be honest, it was super exciting. Yeah, it didn’t matter where I ended up I was ready to leave home at that point for many different reasons including the the uncertain future I was just excited to to leave start a new life. And it really didn’t matter ultimately where I ended up but suddenly Canada is a beautiful country. Lots of great experiences ended up spending some time in toronto as well working there before I decided that. The university of New Brunswick was not quite the the college experience that I was looking for and I ended up transferring to the University Of Texas in in Austin in a few years later

Alejandro Cremades: Now for you studying computer science you know out of all things why computer science.

Jan Arendtsz: Why Computer science I think I was good in math and as ah as a default option it was at that time ah perceived to be a good option from a career standpoint From. Ah, getting a job so on and so forth I later realized that it was really not my calling but I’m glad that I did it. I was pretty decent at it I was never going to be a brilliant programmer I was not into it but I was good enough. Ah, for it to help me get a really strong technical foundation that I’ve used ever since then.

Alejandro Cremades: So let’s talk about then you know graduating they’re from Austin and then essentially you just say took different roles in different companies. But 1 thing that is a very important thing to highlight here is that during that time. During that experience during these different roles that you took you know from the 90 s all the way until you know, right? before you know making the jump to becoming an entrepreneur. There’s are interesting transition that happened from the technical side to really hitting it on the business side. How was that transition for you because typically the people that are more on the technical side find that transition to be not easy.

Jan Arendtsz: Yeah I think for me, it was pretty easy. So I started my professional career working as a developer for about two and a half years for a product company and I think within about six months it became pretty clear to me that this was absolutely not my my calling. Ah, being stuck in a cubicle churning out code and and not being close to the business problem which by the way I did not know at that time I didn’t know what that meant but later on looking back I knew that I always wanted to be close to. The business problem to the business to end users sowan and so forth and I’ve somewhat reflected ah recently as well as to maybe I should have been a product manager but I just wanted to be on the business side I wanted to be customer facing and so from a very early. Ah, stage in my professional career I knew that this was not something that I wanted to do and and then I found a ah, really nice way to transition by joining this consulting company called Cambridge Technology Partners in the in the late 90 s they were 1 of the premier top consulting companies out there and and you got ah a chance to be to use your technical background and and do a lot of the business stuff to be a business analyst a project manager.

Jan Arendtsz: So on and so forth and that’s what I did for 4 years after that.

Alejandro Cremades: Now the most immediate step before really going at it as an entrepreneur that was working for a couple of years at netsuite. So what would you say were the sequence of events that needed to happen for you to get going with siligo because you know. Eventually, you would start a company so I’m wondering like what would you say took you you know so long. You know when it comes to your professional career from the 90 s all the way up to 2011 to say hey it’s it’s it’s time to do this.

Jan Arendtsz: Yeah, it’s it’s not like I thought I was going to start a company early in my twenty s just to be clear I was happy having a good time in my twenty s having tons of fun. But I think when I started to approach maybe that. 30 year Mark right? You you start to reflect on on life and and you start to ask yourself like where is this going? What do I want to be am I going to make something off my life and it’s only at that point that I decided I think. I want to or I think it was almost like I need to start something even if it’s small and and then of course I went through this ridiculous process of trying to figure out what’s what’s a great business idea and came up with some like. Terrible god-awful ideas and and so I kind of parked my dreams for a while until I got to this company called netsuite and that’s when I had this idea of starting. Something similar to what siligo ended up being.

Alejandro Cremades: So Then let’s talk about it’s illegal at what point does the idea come knocking and tell us about make us insiders make us insiders there to really understand what was that journey like from the idea coming to you to you giving the notice and really leaping. Into the unknown. But.

Jan Arendtsz: Yeah, so so what happened was let’s go all the way back to 2003 I joined this small startup called netsuite which was I think one ah hundred and eighty people at that time and it was one of the first ever saas companies. And pretty much everyone in the industry that I knew couldn’t even spell Sas at that time and I joined this company and within about three months I came to the realization that ah it’s one of those pivotal. Aha moments that oh my gosh I think Sas could be the future I think I can see this model working and and by no means did I really predict that it would be what it is today. But I had this really strong sense that this is this is going to be big this model and then in my role at at netsuite I was responsible as a product manager to ah run their integration stack to to build their apis out.

Jan Arendtsz: And that then made me think about well who’s going to consume these apis how is the world of saas business applications in the cloud how are they going to communicate again back. This is twenty some years back how are they going to communicate with the typical on-prem apps. Databases of of that era. How is this data going to move around and and so that got me thinking in terms of should there be a cloud-based integration type platform. And that’s ultimately what gave birth to the idea of of siligo now I took a different route to get there by for starting a consulting company. But I think somewhere towards the end of 2003 my first year at Netswee. That’s that’s when I realized that this is something that I think could be. Could be big if the saas model were to take off.

Alejandro Cremades: So I know Thatligo took a couple of business models to really you know, hit it. You know the nail on the head walk us through what were those attempts that you guys took and and what ended up being illegal today when it comes to a business model and how you guys are making money.

Jan Arendtsz: Okay.

Jan Arendtsz: True. So first off I ended up ultimately quitting netsuite and starting a consulting company. Um, where we did ah predominantly business process consulting around the the back office. Ah, doing implementations around salesforce netsuite and and a number of other apps and in the midst of that we ended up doing a fair bit of integration work as well and we we built that company to about close to a hundred people. We’re pretty successful and then we decided. Um, my co-founded myself that the time is right to go build a saas product the the siligo that I dreamed up way back in 2003 and so in 2011, we we shut down the consulting company started the saas company and I would say that was the first phase from 2011 through 2015 we we built our ip we got to about 4000000 I think in. Yeah in arr did relatively well ah all bootstrapped and then decided that the product that we built was not the right product I won’t get into all the details but it was pretty clear that the world of Saas was changing.

Jan Arendtsz: Ah, fast, the the product that we wanted to build was not something that we wanted to kind of augment the existing platform instead we we made this radical decision I still remember discussing having intense debates about this to go build. Ah, new product a next generation integration platform and that is what we ended up doing I ended up raising our series a round on the last day of 2015 and started the ah 2016 with a very nascent platform which was admittedly half baked at that point and with series a funding so that was like the the first phase I would say.

Alejandro Cremades: So so so I guess in in that sense. You know, walk us through what the next phases say have been and and what has led you to be able to unlock the 82000000 That you’ve ended up being ended up racing to or know to get to that point.

Jan Arendtsz: Yeah, so the the next phase was I would say roughly from about 2016 to 2019 ish maybe the start of 2020 where we had just a great reputation. In solving specific ah automations such as order to cash for companies selling tangible goods or ah, the the whole revops ah quote to cash for that’s just software companies or professional services companies. So really being able to understand those business processes all the the typical applications that that touch that. For example, if it’s quote Toca there could be a cpq a subscription billing application. Ah a crm. And yeah, erp swan and so forth right? So we got really good. We went really deep into those business processes and earned ah a really good reputation for companies trying to solve that. But as you can imagine we built. An integration platform that ultimately can automate any type of use case any type of business process and we we realized that we were going too deep in one area and then of course you get stereotyped as a result right? because then.

Jan Arendtsz: The the world outside they think okay well this company is really good if you want to solve this problem. But if you want to have a more holistic approach to solving all the automation needs of the enterprise. Then we we got to go use something else. Even though we could do it but it was not proven so there in ah was the the problem and that started this current phase of the company where we we really focused on the Breadth of usage on. The the platform being a world-class platform a next generation platform where you can walk into a company of any size and say we can automate any type of business process that you have by connecting these various apps together various data sources trading partners your supply chain and so on and so forth and that’s the. The phase that we’re currently in.

Alejandro Cremades: So so then in this phase too I mean where you guys are thinking about and the way that you guys have gone about the um, the hiring to I mean you have quite a fair amount of employees. So how many employees do you have today and how have you gone about creating culture right.

Jan Arendtsz: Yeah, so we have about 700 plus employees ah predominantly in North America and then we have an offshore Dev Center in India but we also have a presence in. The Netherlands in Australia and the Philippines so on and so forth. So we’re truly global and so yeah, hiring is I think the area that I think is arguably the most important when scaling a company. Certainly there have been lots of lessons learned on my side and throughout the company in terms of how do you go build the best possible team. Do you have the funding are you taking shortcuts as they say right? Sometimes you get what you pay for. Ah, when do you want to break the the bank arguably if I were to there are only a few things that I would redo in in my journey even though it took multiple phases to to get to where we are.

Jan Arendtsz: Arguably 1 of the things that I would change is maybe if I knew what I know today back then 105 years back in terms of how I went about acquiring talent. Um the investments that I needed to make that’s. 1 area that I think I would I would change because I I cannot stress the importance of getting the right people in the right roles.

Alejandro Cremades: What about having different locations. You know how does the culture vary from 1 location to the other.

Jan Arendtsz: Yeah I think we’ve been really lucky or arguably we’ve done a good job. There is ah we have a very strong culture and it means something to be a siligan.

Jan Arendtsz: Ah, for the longest time it was a little bit nebulous and hard to describe and I think then we did a really good job in maybe 5 years back in in documenting this in in our values as well. Which is something that we use extensively today. So the the example that I would give you is we first started an offs show team in India and it’s just amazing to see how the culture in India while slightly different from the culture here in North America for for obvious reasons has still. Held on to the key tenets of how we operate here. It’s hard to describe. But it’s something that happened organically it was not forced on these employees. It was just the the closed collaboration that we had. Between the the teams. Yeah, and and again we started really small. We started with like I think 5 people in India and then we grew that team and some of the the first hires we made back then are now senior leaders right? So they’ve grown up with us and they’ve. Being able to instill that same culture. That’s just 1 example, it’s the same in Europe same in Australia and the same in the Philippines.

Alejandro Cremades: So Obviously vision is something that would get the people excited would get siligans to be excited about the future that they’re living into as well investors to come on board and then also customers you know too. So when it comes to vision. Yan. Let’s say. You were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of C Illegal is fully realized what does that world look like.

Jan Arendtsz: Yeah, so we do have a very ambitious vision for a company of our size if if I were to say let’s fast forward three years from now citiggo is going to be used by an extensive number of companies. Not only to solve their integration needs in connecting business applications together. But we want to use our stronghold in integration. To become a pure play automation platform and by that I mean there are many ways to automate business processes that could be human-centric workflows where you’re ah a given workflow is stopping until a human. Comes in and makes a decision before it. It goes back and starts executing these are all areas that we’re working on process mining is another area that we’re working on to be able to really look at business processes and understand how can you optimize that business process. What are some of the weak spots. In that business process so going from a more integration centric automation company to a true automation company is the dream the vision that we have and we think we’re going to get there in roughly about 3 years

Jan Arendtsz: And that’s I think what certainly gets me excited every single day when I wake up my executive team and I would say the rest of the company as well.

Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing now Always in this case, we’re talking all the future and and I want to talk about the past two with um with a lens of reflection if I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back to 2011 That moment that they let’s say you were thinking about doing something of your own and let’s say you know you had the opportunity then to um, just have a sit down with that younger yan and giving yourself one piece of advice for launching a business. What would that be n why given what you know now.

Jan Arendtsz: Yeah I think there are lots of choices there. Um, so I think I gave you one before which was the importance of hiring and the importance of getting the right leaders. In place perhaps ah another one is to ah focus more on some of the execution parameters. We always were pretty ambitious. We we knew where we wanted to go ah but having ambition and having let’s say a product roadmap and and a certain destination in mind is 1 thing. You’re here you want to get there. How do you get there? How do you map that journey. What are the the key. Ah, what’s the framework. What are some of the ah the key milestones you want to map out and be able to be execution focused. What are some of the key metrics that you’re going to use to. Understand what you are on on the right path and this all sounds pretty obvious. But if you if you really want to master this. It requires a fab bit of discipline and and you got to have the right tooling and the the right.

Jan Arendtsz: Framework I would say to be able to excel in execution and and and certainly this is not limited to going back to 2011. It’s a case even today of course we know a lot more I’m surrounded by senior leaders who’ve been there. Done that. But if I knew what I know today back then I think the way we executed arguably would have been much more disciplined and and perhaps the end result might have been different as well.

Alejandro Cremades: And also you raise money from some you know, really fantastic investors to I mean when you’re thinking about strategy. You know, especially the Australia you will be receiving and where it’s discussed at a border I mean where you have people like omer’s tvc. Ah, blosome you know newspring and so forth how how does it work when when you’re able to masterfully have this strategy that comes from the board and being executed. You know perfectly by management. How how does that day. Alignment and and that seamless you know, ah synchronization between both aspects. You know how that what the stack look like.

Jan Arendtsz: Yeah, so first off the the strategy is not coming from the board and if the board were here in front of me I would say exactly the same thing the strategy one ah hundred percent has always come from us and I think that’s way it should be. Ah, the board has a role to they’ve got certain responsibilities to ensure that we’re doing things the right way. Um, that’s been the dynamics I think I’ve I’ve been fortunate and and part of it is because we we set out to accomplish this. Is to find ah investors and ultimately a board that ah where ah that believes in the mission. That’s I think arguably the most important thing.

Jan Arendtsz: As you know, certain investors might be looking for an exit in x number of years and they don’t really care too much about ultimately what this company’s trying to do it’s it’s more about the numbers. The investors we have truly believe in the mission and then arguably the. The other really important factor is the dynamics between the various different board members and the firms supporting us I think has just been really really good. So I’m I’m happy to say having been a funded company now I think this is our eighth year ah I’ve had just an excellent board to work with not to say that every interaction is everyone agrees with everyone else something that shouldn’t be the case. There’ll be in some debates and in certain cases intense debates but I’ve had a very good board.

Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing. So yeah, and for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Jan Arendtsz: Shoot me an email yarn at I’m not a great social media type person but you can suddenly look me up on Linkedin as well.

Alejandro Cremades: Is here enough for yeah, thank you so much for being on the dealmaker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.

Jan Arendtsz: Thank you I appreciate it.


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