I am the co-founder and Group CTO of Theodo.
Theodo is a lean software consultancy whose mission is to transform our clients - from start-ups to large companies - to build better digital products. We do this in 3 steps: first design and code products together, then help scale the know-how and finally create the in-house tech capability.
The longer version
I started coding when I was 11. Initially in QBasic on my dad’s 286. I then got to tinker with a wide range of tech. From C++/DirectX to port my QBasic games to Windows 95. HTML/JScript/VBScript - 1996 web technology! - to publish them on the web. Fortunately that website disappeared! And 68k assembly to write games for my TI92 calculator. My math teacher had made the mistake of allowing games in class… if you had coded them :-)
Programming on 68k even got me into my first “venture”, an e-commerce website to sell home-made cables to connect your PC to your TI calculator. I sold 5 of them!
My passion for technology led me to Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and ETH in Zürich. At Ecole Polytechnique I met Benoît Charles-Lavauzelle, my co-founder.
Though we both had the right degrees to start a corporate career, we were excited by the tech revolution and the startup ways of working, and no corporate seemed to offer anything close. So it was a no-brainer to launch our own startup instead.
In 2007 we launched Allomatch.com with Benoît, the search engine for where to watch sports games in pubs and restaurants across France. It was an amazing adventure. I will always remember the 2008 migration from Joomla to Symfony in 3 months. We quickly signed 100 bars and restaurants and helped them attract more customers by communicating which games they were showing. But we also realised the revenues would never grow enough and we had to pivot…
In 2009 we decided to help a fellow entrepreneur, Pascal Loisel, whose company Crysalide was expert in the accessibility assessment of public buildings. Crysalide was winning many customers due to the high-quality advice of its teams, but they had to spend hours auditing the building and then days to write the reports. He shared with us his vision of automating the wasteful aspects of the work. Together we were able to model his expertise and create an “app” (before the iPad, on Panasonic Toughbooks). Producing the reports went from 3 days to 3 hours and Crysalide was able to meet the high demand, grow faster and exit the following year! Building such a useful tech enabler motivated us to launch Theodo and leverage our experience in software development to help our clients transform their business with tech.
We were growing steadily when in 2011 we realised we were not enjoying the Theodo adventure as much as we wanted to. Building software was fun but the project management side was tedious. Our waterfall approach ensured every project ended up in a tense face-off between our dev team and the client. The client’s needs would change by the time the project was finished and this created huge frustrations on both sides.
We were excited about agile & devops (I had contributed to launching the paris-devops meetup in 2010) but had not been successful at convincing our clients to adopt it. During a good retrospective with Romain, a client, we understood why. After a project during which he had changed the whole scope twice, we asked him why he had not accepted to work in agile. He said: “When I go to the doctor, I don’t show up with the prescription. You are the doctor and you have to tell me what the course of action is. If Agile was the way to succeed, it was your responsibility to impose it on us.”
From that day onwards, we realised our job was not just to write great code, but also help our clients adopt the best methdologies. By only working in SCRUM and combining it with our devops and lean startup culture, we achieved results beyond our wildest expectations and the client satisfaction soared. They loved the speed at which we were delivering results in production, so they would entrust us with more and more projects and recommended us around. The company more than doubled over a year!
To cope with such fast growth we looked everywhere for the “SCRUM of scaling companies”, a framework that would bring the same magic to the company as agile brings to a coding team: help us deliver much better results while making the work environment much more inspiring and empowering.
That’s when we met Antoine Contal, a lean coach, who introduced us to the lean learning system. It was the graal we were looking for: all about getting outstanding quality by investing in mutual trust and developing everyone in the company. We started our journey into lean adoption and for the following 5 years our growth rate stayed above 60%.
The group has now grown to 400 people in 8 companies located in Paris, London, Casblanca and New York. As the group CTO I lead the tech quality and thought leadership.
In my spare time I try to automate my (London) home way beyond reasonable.