Alright, so you want to the full story of my 35 years with computers. There you go! I maintain this page to provide a more personal view on my career than what is usually found in a formal resume or a LinkedIn profile. There's much more in a person than a dry list of skills and positions!
I did a lot of things over the years, experienced successes and failures. That's life in the fast-paced tech startup world! The common denominator is that I build things and teams, I'm still passionate after 25 years in the industry, and I'm not afraid of starting from scratch.
I've been playing with computers since the age of 13. Actually I started with electronics when I was 11 or 12, but got frustrated because although I roughly understood what was happening in the components I was soldering, I felt unable to invent my own things. I discovered programming in a "Learn 6502 assembler" sidebar of a "Build your own computer" series in the french edition of Elektor magazine. This was a revelation: I understood everything, and felt confident I could write my own programs!
My first computer was an Apple IIe, and I spent much more time "studying" game protections than actually playing with them. I bought a Mac SE in 1987 and spent three months reading the whole "Inside Macintosh" before spawning my first window on screen. Using it for university projects helped me a lot: the teachers liked to play with nice GUIs at a time where PC users didn't even know what a mouse was! I studied computer science at UTC, getting a MSc with a specialization in artificial intelligence.
1990-2000: Lost in space
My first job, which lasted 10 years, was in the space industry, building software systems for satellite monitoring and control. During these 10 years, I always had semi-official side projects to feed my insatiable desire to learn and experiment. I wrote a C/C++/Ada code generator in Prolog (a MDA tool when it wasn't invented), have been setting up the first company intranet in 1995 (with an issue tracker in CGI/shell, then an early version of Zope), contributing a PDF indexer to htDig, and generally was curious about everything.
In 1997, after long negotiations (that's how it is in BigCos) I finally had access to the web from my office. Full access to the resources of the web combined with the emergence of Java and all the open-source movement around it was a mind-blowing experience, which made me realize that somehow my job had been boring until then.
2000-2006: I'm not alone!
In July 2000, I co-founded Anyware Technologies with a few colleagues and friends because we had enough of the heavy process of large companies and wanted to have more fun with Java and web technologies. As the Chief Technologist, I helped the company grow up to 60 employees.
For most of our projects we were using Cocoon, a project of the Apache Software Foundation. I started contributing bug fixes, then new features and participated in design discussions. I was elected committer in april 2001. That came as a real surprise, since although being a regular contributor I didn't thought I could be "one of them". But these people were just like me, passionate developers, willing to share their knowledge and enthusiasm by working together.
That was the beginning of a long story, and over the years I became one of the core developers of Cocoon, had the honor to be elected a member or the Apache Software Foundation, and even -- as the chairman of the Cocoon project -- became the first french VP of the foundation!
2006-2008: Dream team on TV
Open source is actually more about people than about software. I came to know lots of interesting people, learn a lot from them, and help others to learn. At the beginning of 2006, Dirk-Willem van Gulik (one of the founders of Apache) proposed me to be an early member of the Joost team to work on an innovative TV-over-IP system with many other people from major open-source organizations such as Apache and Mozilla. This was no less than Kaaza & Skype's founders "next project"! A giant step in the startup and open source world! I worked for 2 years there, architecting and building the backend systems of Joost with more than 15 people in Toulouse in a very stimulating multi-national environment.
In early 2008, Anyware was sold for 12 million euros, and Joost had major management changes that led it to concentrate on the US market and invite its employees to move to New York city. The Silicon Valley would have been an option, but the overcrowded New York wasn't appealing to me.
2008-2010: Mobile is the future
So I joined the newly formed Goojet as the CTO. Goojet was a "mobile social media". It started from the fact that typing a URL on a phone was complicated, and that managing bookmarks was close to impossible for average humans, so using social network virality could boost the usage of mobile web, and be of interest to content providers seeking to increase their mobile audience. After having spent a couple of months fighting with J2ME phones (and writing an HTML browser), the shift towards higher-end phones like iPhone and Android allowed me to do what I'm good at: having an all-encompassing technical vision on the entire system and implementing it.
In late 2010, Goojet had not found the momentum needed for the rapid growth we expected, and decided to pivot to become Scoop.it. I was a bit tired and not really motivated by the new orientation, so we decided to split up.
2010-2013: Building the Internet of Things
This is when Anyware's former CEO started his new startup, Sigfox. His grand plan was to build a worldwide wireless communication operator for all the things where a traditional GSM modem would have been too costly both in terms of money and energy.
He was looking for a architect to build the system's backend, and considering our long common history felt I could fill that role. At that time I also wanted to pursue my own dreams and experiment things, to find the right idea to build my own startup. So I took the job as a part-time freelancer, keeping some time for myself.
I spent 2.5 years there, building the backend systems from scratch, hiring the team, developing it and bringing it to production, allowing weird things to communicate, from water meters to advertising panels, parking spots and even cows!
In spring 2013, after a couple of experiments on my free time (including a dating website based on music affinity), I had the idea of a product I wanted to build and stopped my freelance work at Sigfox to concentrate on it.
2013-2014: Dashboard all the things!
The problem I wanted to solve was the difficulty for SMBs to build operational dashboards aggregating their KPIs and other important business metrics from the myriad of SaaS software they were using. So Actoboard was born. Thibault Richard joined me on the project, an amazing developer looking to escape a boring job, and we entered "garage mode" (actually my home office) to self-fund the development.
We developed a great product, but it turned out it was too technical for the audience we were targeting, and even if more technical people liked it, making a living out of it would have required to raise money and invest a lot in marketing and development. That's what's needed for toolbox-like products. As we wanted to stay a micro-startup, we didn't go that path. So we kept it a side project and went back to freelancing. The product is sill alive and kicking, with some happy customers.
2015-2016: Discovering the other side of the cloud
In early 2015, a simple tweet led to a new job! I called out to the founder of OVH, Europe's largest hosting provider as he was mentioning some cool big data technologies. We started to talk (right on Twitter, with private messages!) and in May that year I started working at OVH, the goal being to open a new office in Toulouse to build PaaS products.
This felt like entering the rabbit's hole to discover the other side of the cloud. I've been a customer of OVH for 10 years, and now I know it works from the inside, and came to know amazingly talented people that make sure that 300k servers are humming quietly to power millions of websites.
I hired a team of 10 talented engineers in Toulouse, tasked with the goal of building ambitious software products for the IoT domain. Unfortunately there was a strategic change at the end of 2015, and the project was killed. My job became to more devops and infrastructure oriented, which isn't what I'm most passionate about, and where my experience as a software developer and architect didn't bring much value. After bringing a product to commercial offering stage, it was time to move on again.
2016: Back in the open source world!
Looks like Twitter is my favorite tool to find a job! David Pilato, a software engineer at Elastic retweeted the same day two interesting job offers for the Elastic Cloud product. We started talking on Twitter, and 6 interviews later I started working in September 2016 in this surprising company: the entire engineering team and most of the other teams work remotely!
Elasticsearch is one of those open source products that is used in almost every tech company. I started using right from its inception and love it, along with the Apache Lucene library that sits at its core.
I'm now part of a distributed team of talented engineers working on providing Elasticsearch as a service, working from home as all team members.