A Slice on Jan Arendtsz, Founder and CEO of Celigo
Jan Arendtsz is no stranger to “wearing many hats.” Early on in his career, he familiarized himself with various roles from consulting, professional service, business development, sales, and more. This is what would later give him the lightbulb moment that lead to starting his own company. When Arendtsz was working in these various roles, this was when using software on a subscription basis was normal. Companies were using more and more SaaS products, so he wondered why there wasn’t a solution to “automate business processes.” A few years later in 2011, Arendtsz founded Celigo, an integration platform as a service that allows the automation of both common and custom business processes.
Arendtsz credits his idea for Celigo not to being smarter than the average person, but rather to being more well-rounded. His diverse background prepared him for entrepreneurship, especially since he bootstrapped his company for the first few years. “I ended up playing many different roles. There are certainly pros and cons in all of that but I think my diverse background helped me in understanding how to run a business. I think I’ve made every possible mistake that can be made, and I’m a big believer that if you don’t make mistakes, you’re not doing something right. It’s more a question of, ‘are you going to learn from it?’”
After bootstrapping Celigo for five years, Arendtsz learned a lot from his experience fundraising as a first-time entrepreneur. “You have to understand what the investor wants, why they’re doing it, what they’re looking for and what their returns are going to be… You have to decide whether you have your needs and they have theirs, it has to be a good intersection.” Arendtsz knew he needed to be “selective” in the investors he decided to bring onto Celigo. From pitch decks to learning perspectives, Arentdsz has found the best-fit investors for his company, all of whom have good chemistry to ensure a strong, long-term relationship.
Bootstrapping and bringing on investors has been a risk for Arendtsz, and obstacles are not exempt from his journey. The biggest obstacle he’s had to overcome with Celigo are the product pivots. Arendtsz has prioritized customer satisfaction since day one and has made adjustments to the product to ensure his customers are happy. “Whenever a customer is unsatisfied with what we do, it never sits well.” Arendtsz doesn’t see having to re-architect the product as a setback, though it’s common for startups. Looking back on the times they’ve had to rebuild their product, he describes it as “the single best thing he did.”
From pivots and obstacles, Arendtsz is now excited to look ahead to the future of Celigo. In the next three to five years, Arendtsz hopes to grow the company and ultimately grow as a person; reevaluating what he brings to the table and continuously solving problems. “I want to ensure that what we’re doing [at Celigo] can be done at a massive scale. What we do is incredibly important for companies who want to grow to tens of thousands of customers.” As a results-oriented guy, Arendtsz is only able to measure success by knowing what success looks like. “Whether it’s a big picture vision or a five-year plan where you’re trying to hit sales numbers or product adoption numbers, etc., you need to be able to say, ‘we need to be roughly here’. Having the right metrics or proxies to measure if you’re there is so important.” Arendtsz used the example of a bottom-up vs a top-down approach. His preferred method is top-down because it’s easy to get too focused on hitting the numbers and short-sighted goals. This allows him to have a clear vision of his goals and make sure he’s doing everything he can to accomplish them.
Arendtsz left me with one last piece of knowledge. “It’s [entrepreneurship] not easy. If it was, everyone else would be doing it. There will be many obstacles: small and large, it’s constant.”
“Don’t give up. At some point, you’ll know when it’s turning into a dead end. I’ve seen way too many entrepreneurs give up too easily.”
Jan Arendtsz has spent the last 25 years in the technology industry after receiving his Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin. He has held leadership positions at Ambrosia Systems, NetSuite, and more. He is currently Founder and CEO of Celigo and resides in San Carlos, California. Connect with Arendtsz on LinkedIn.