“The big challenge is talent”: Louis Têtu on the Coveo IPO and the state of the innovation economy


“There is no elevator to be successful, you have to climb the stairs one step at a time”

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Quebec-based artificial intelligence (AI) and retail firm Coveo debuted on the Toronto Stock Exchange last month at $ 15 a share. Louis Têtu, President and CEO of the company, spoke to Stephanie Hughes of the Financial Post about the decision to go public, the Canadian tech ecosystem and the battle for talent in a tight labor market . This interview has been condensed and edited for brevity.

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Q: What was the benefit of going public at that time?

I think we’re at a stage and a scale where it obviously makes sense for a number of reasons. We have been working together, CFO, CEO and COO, for 32 years now and this is not our first public company. We’ve already released Taleo to the public, so we know a bit about rodeo here. Coveo had reached a size and scale where, from an internal infrastructure perspective, we have what it takes to be a public company. Access to capital was also a factor. Capital markets in Canada are, in our view, just as efficient as in the United States. .

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So due to this scale we could attract large institutional investors, we will get sufficient coverage, there is potentially the currency brand aspect for mergers and acquisitions, capital for growth and currency to compete. in the talent space against Facebook and Google in Canada. You have to have that kind of profile. For all these good reasons, now is the right time.

Q: How would you describe the Canadian tech startup environment?

I think the environment is great. It is as good as in the United States. The big challenge is talent. This country, I think, probably needs to do a better job than it has done in the past two decades to train more Canadian technology leaders on the world stage.

The TSX has, I would say, changed a lot over the past 15 years to the point where our financial markets are now as efficient as they are south of the border. So sometimes people ask me, “Why not NASDAQ? And I say, “What’s wrong with the TSX?” “

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I sit on the board of directors of Couche-Tard, the largest Canadian company in terms of sales – we are only on the Toronto Stock Exchange. I sit on the board of directors of Industrial Alliance, we are only on the Toronto Stock Exchange. What about Shopify and many others? We have great Canadian flagships and we need to create more.

The key here is talent: how to redeploy talent to Canadian flagships, not to close our borders to foreign companies that come here, but it might be a good idea to stop paying foreign companies to quit ‘They come to use Canada as an engineering branch and create wealth here rather than for investors abroad. Hopefully we’re doing our little bit to help.

Q: In this war for talent, how does Coveo compete?

It’s no secret here that a public event helps because it’s very difficult to fight a foreign company that comes to Canada with restricted stock units to attract talent. The only way to fight back is to have it too, otherwise you’re just the best farming team ever. Coveo was a well-known global leader in cloud computing and artificial intelligence, etc. We were a phenomenal farm team and one of my goals was definitely to stop that and fight back.

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I’m not saying here that Coveo at this point is close to a Shopify, but Shopify used to be what Coveo was. It’s the way to build bigger tech companies and tech hubs that can fuel the ecosystem you need. In a mall you need key tenants and you bring everything else. The fact that Shopify and Lightspeed are doing great – I think Lightspeed is doing great, I don’t believe in that short seller thing at all – we need to create more.

  1. Louis Tetu, President and CEO of Coveo Solutions Inc.

    Coveo Solutions, Canada’s Newest First Tech Launch, Swings Amid Soft IPOs

  2. “We’ve come to this inflection point”: Coveo aims for growth after $ 215 million IPO

Q: What about the Quebec environment? Where does this fit with Canada’s technology hubs?

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I think it’s comparable there. There are a number of pockets of large tech companies in Canadian markets. One of the things we did in this IPO was that we pledged one percent of our equity, one percent of our profits on time, and one percent of our revenue and global capacity. processing companies across the world in support of our ESG strategy and we have worked with a large company on the west coast named Benevity. There is great talent, we just need to deploy that know-how and that talent and intellectual property in our economy to create wealth here.

Quebec is a solid technological hub. The Montreal scene is very vibrant, Quebec City is also very vibrant; Toronto too.

Q: What’s the next step for Coveo now that your business has gone public?

I’m going to give you a super boring answer: the most important thing when we wake up in the morning is to go and create more value for our customers and to recruit more customers and to continue to develop our channels. There is no elevator to be successful, you have to climb the stairs one step at a time, one client at a time, a good recruit at a time and this is my first job, it is to make sure that I mobilize everyone. If we continue this way, the happiness of investors will be on its own.

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If you think of an IPO, too many companies think of it as a “liquidity event”. In our case, there is no selling shareholder. In fact, some of the shareholders around the table did invest in the IPO. It is not a liquidity event. It’s a fundraising event, it’s a growth event – and it’s not a destination. For us, it’s a long game. Coveo can become a global technology leader – to some extent it already is, but can become a much bigger global technology leader and it’s an exciting journey. Having the privilege of participating is very exciting for me and for the whole team. This is what we will continue to do because we would not want to be elsewhere.

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