Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is software development pro Simon De Baene, who currently applies the title of CEO and Co-founder to three exceptional companies: GSoft, Sharegate and Officevibe. Perhaps even more notable is the fact that he’s built epic workplaces for more than 100 employees in Montreal’s thriving tech scene…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I’m the CEO and Co-founder of GSoft, Sharegate and Officevibe. My job is to build the most epic place to work and inspire a team of more than 100 people to build great software. I want to make everyone successful around me. It’s very challenging, but this is a dream job for me.
Why did you start working at your company?
I was sitting at the school cafeteria with my co-founder, Guillaume Roy, and we were talking about how software had a very mediocre reputation. Most companies don’t give a shit about good software development practices, and the resulting products are most of the time just bad. We were tired of that, so we decided that we would make a difference. GSoft was then born and it was all about building software the right way.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Honestly, the best part of what I do is to have a great impact of people’s lives. With over 10,000 customers around the world, we get a lot of positive feedback, which is the best feeling. When someone tells you that you changed their life, what more can you ask? Also, I work with great people in an amazing office in Montreal and we’re a very ambitious family that is always pushing harder. The biggest challenge in such an environment is to maintain that company culture that makes us so successful.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
When your kids don’t remember your name. Just kidding. From my experience, my best ideas that completely changed the business emerged while I was travelling the world, so it makes me a strong believer in having a good work/life balance. If you’re truly passionate about your work, a good work/life balance will give you an edge over everyone else. It will let you step back a little bit and see the problems from a different angle, and this is not easy if you’re working 80 hours per week. So I would say that the one sign is that you stop having a good pace of innovative ideas. Whenever I feel that, I book a flight somewhere in the world to get back on track.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
That’s a tough question. It’s a little fuzzy, but one thing I know is that I’ll be part of a disruptive company. I also want to be involved in mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs. I want to make Montreal flourish within the global tech industry.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
I started the business at 20 years old, while I was still at school and I had to convince large organizations in Quebec to let us build their mission-critical software applications. At this time, I still don’t know why customers decided to trust the new kids on the block, but it happened. If I have to give an answer, I would say that authenticity played a key role. There’s no bullshit in what we say and we always did whatever it took to make it happen; the customers appreciated that.
I also never shaved my beard, so customers would think I’m older than I really am. It would give me more credibility – I’m not kidding!
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Success comes from the respect I get from my employees, my customers, and my industry. The fact that some people count on me to make huge decisions – not just because I’m the boss, but because they trust me is better than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, money is good and it gives a lot of freedom, but this is clearly not the main reason I’m doing all of this. It’s too much trouble to just be here for the money.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
There are so many of them. The day we won our biggest project ever at the time with a major bank. The day we rescued Sharegate from the brink of bankruptcy, which is now a very profitable multi-million dollar product. The day I won Ernst & Young’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year prize.
Another memorable moment happened a few weeks ago when we brought all the employees to Punta Cana for the Christmas party. I was sitting by the pool during sunset and watching the ~85 people who were there. They were all playing in the pool and I said to myself, “this is so crazy and I’m so proud to be part of that.” It’s difficult to explain, but I’m sure you get it.
Do you have any advice for the young professionals?
Don’t pretend, be authentic. Work for a great organization. Make a difference. Don’t sit down to watch the parade, but be part of it. Focus on great results, not just money. Money will come to you if you don’t think about it.
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
At Bombay Mahal, they make the best butter chicken in the world. You can bring your own wine and you can be yourself.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
I like to read, skateboard and travel.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
The best place to travel is somewhere new. Travelling somewhere you’ve never been before is the best way to get out of your comfort zone, and this is the moment you become the most creative.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Tupac – California Love.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Barista somewhere in Australia, probably Melbourne.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
At GSoft, our cause is the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation dedicated to help sick children. A big thanks to my partner, Maxime Boissonneault, for bringing that very important cause with him when he joined the company a few years ago.
What to you is notable?
A way to connect with people who share similar ideas and values!