A man bursts into the board room, he’s three hours late to the meeting, and scrambling to present what he’s been working tirelessly on—a pitch for ecommerce transformation. The presentation goes well enough, but before walking out the door, the man doubles back to the board of directors. His take-home message? “I don’t think your company is asking the right questions...”
When it comes to high-stakes project pitches, the word unorthodox comes to mind. Let me ask you, is this the image of an individual you’d have heading a multinational company a decade later?
On this, the tenth anniversary of PALO IT, the answer is a resounding “yes!” But in 2009, Stanislas Bocquet was chasing a vision that, while concrete in his mind, had yet to take shape in the world.
“A lot of companies, especially at that time, weren’t asking the right questions. They didn’t need a quick solution, they needed something larger, an omni-channel strategy,” says Stanislas.
The story of PALO IT has many perspectives, and you’d be remiss put its history on the back of any one person, but Stanislas’ story is, at the very least, one worth hearing out, and at the most, a microcosm for everything that makes PALO IT what it is today.
After backpacking through South America in the late 90’s, Stanislas found his calling at his first startup. The company was grappling with a technology that was riding the crest of the Internet wave, but would later explode onto the scene—live-streaming content.
After selling the company in 2001 (fun fact: it’s still in existence today), Stanislas took his talents to an investment fund, managing startups that were part of a portfolio mostly dealing with mobile Internet. The work allowed him to come in contact with dozens of entrepreneurs who had all their chips in technology, and decision makers from a variety of backgrounds deploying an even greater variety of management styles.
Leafing through a magazine in 2002, Stanislas stumbled upon an interview with the founder of a company called Valtech describing his new vision for business culture. Something clicked then. “It was a moment of clarity” says Stanislas, “I thought ‘this is exactly what I’ve been thinking’, this is how a business should be run.”
Soon after, he joined Valtech to focus on business development. While ecstatic to be on board with a company who shared his values, it wasn’t all peaches and cream, as anyone who worked in technology in the early 00’s will tell you. The dot-com bubble burst, and companies started disappearing Avengers Snap-style.
There were two great lessons during this period: first, it’s important to have an international footprint, a business spread across multiple locations and markets (not having all your eggs in one basket, so to speak); second, it’s important to be flexible enough to quickly adapt your value proposal. The market may have been in a freefall, but there was still a lot of long-term potential.
These years ended up being quite fruitful for companies that played their cards right, but there were rumblings of something new on the horizon. “I spent a lot of time speaking to people my parents age during that time, people in their 50’s,” explains Stanislas, “I realised that many of them had been laid off because they’d become redundant or too costly to retain. If they still had work, they were unhappy with it, they didn’t really enjoy what they were doing later in life.”
“Something needed to change in the way business was being run…”
Making the leap
When it came to industry, the path forward for Stanislas was clear right from the start, “In the tech industry, there was no need to stress about the future. There was so much to do, so much happening, and we were still just at the beginning of this massive transformation.”
As far as culture, he wanted a business built on independence and power, where individuals felt inspired to act, not just follow.
One night Stanislas took a list of 130 CIOs and key decision makers from major IT companies and emailed each and every one. While initially expecting a lack of feedback, within 24 hours more than 20 of those individuals wanted to speak to Stanislas about his concept, and over the next five months, he met with over 60 of them personally.
The response gave him both a wealth of insight (which formed the backbone of PALO IT’s reliance on a continuous, democratic feedback loop) and the confidence he needed to put everything he had behind his work.
And by everything, I mean everything. Stanislas sold his flat and his car to finance his project. Large-scale ambition needs large-scale funding—that reality became apparent very quickly, and after some back-and-forth he partnered with Synchrone Technology for additional funding.
The company firmly settled on the pillars of Agile, open source, and a strong internal team. Sounds familiar, but the offer looked quite different back then, exclusively targeting large MNCs.
As anyone in the startup game will tell you, there are always initial growing pains. The first 12-15 months of business were slow, to say the least. Contacts were made, people were interested, but deals were left in limbo.
That takes us back to the thunderstruck boardroom, and the bold-faced message of “asking the right questions...” After eight months of deliberation, the company Stanislas pitched to finally decided to get on board.
Things moved fast. Within one week a team of six was recruited to run a project on open source ecommerce technology and Agile methodology, and voila, PALO IT was born.
Growing into who we are today
The project opened the floodgates, with more and more clients signing on. Soon after, open source guru Francois Zaninotto, and business development extraordinaire Frédéric Bernaroyat joined, they’re still with PALO IT today. Mélanie Bacrot also joined as the company’s first recruiter and HR manager in Paris.
From 2009-2011 the team grew to 80, and in 2012, the company officially changed its name to PALO IT to better reflect the brand’s identity and values. ‘PALO’ inspired by the massive amount of innovation and growth going on in Palo Alto and Silicon Valley, and ‘IT’ acting as a double meaning for information technology and innovation transformation.
At a chance meeting with an old friend of Stanislas’, Tanguy Fournier Le Ray, the two got to talking about the market climate in Singapore. Fast-forward to 2014 and PALO IT has opened its first office in Singapore. Current CIO Cédric Mainguy, and Head of Digital Technology François De Serres, made the jump from Paris to Singapore to help expand.
Hong Kong opened its doors in 2014, with Agile Coach Sophie Pagé joining as the office’s first hire. Sophie is still with the team today as well.
Around this time the business separated from Synchrone to allow the company to fully embrace an organisational model that fits the culture Stanislas initially sought to inspire, “We’ve continuously grown every year, 30 - 40 percent organic growth annually, and we’ve grown in our thought process as well,” explains Stanislas.
That growth continued in Mexico, as Julien Rousselet and Guillaume d'Herbemont kicked business off in 2016. Meanwhile, Frédéric pioneered the Bangkok office in 2017, bringing the company to Thailand.
The list goes on, with each country’s success spurred on by a team of passionate individuals who were willing to take risks to build PALO IT into what it is now.
All the while, the business has also undergone a different kind of evolution, one that’s become increasingly crucial and relevant in the 21st century—working towards the greater good. The values that work as the cornerstone of PALO IT spurred every office in this direction, eventually resulting in designation as a Happy at Work company in 2018 and a B Corp organisation in 2019. Accolades aside, this key element in PALO IT’s identity will only grow as the years go by.
Onwards and upwards
Ten years have flown by, but a lot of Stanislas’ experiences—and the whole team’s experiences for that matter—have set the tone for the last decade. Namely, great ideas might be born in bubbles, but they don’t expand there. You don’t build a company like PALO IT without continuous feedback. You listen to your customers, listen to your clients, listen to the market, and listen to your team.
“I’m very proud of where we are today,” says Stanislas, “To see that all our international offices are aligned in terms of vision, strategy, business model, everything. This is very rare. I’ve had a long journey, but you don’t see this type of cohesion within an organisation often, and I think that shows just how strong our company culture is.”
He goes on, “Now PALO IT is larger than me, larger than individuals, its own entity, and everyone within the company owns a piece of our success. What we have now is an incredible tool to build out our own path to concretely impact the world in a positive way. We all own that tool, and that responsibility."