Jean-Baptiste Rudelle, Co-founder & CEO, Criteo

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In 2005, Jean-Baptiste Rudelle co-founded Criteo, a company specialized in online targeted advertising. In a few years, Criteo has become a major actor of digital marketing in Europe, Asia and the USA. A graduate from Supélec (French Superior Engineering School for Energy), Jean-Baptiste started his career as an engineer at Philips and Lucent before moving on to strategy consulting at Roland Berger & Partners.

He then became a serial entrepreneur in telecommunications and the Internet. In 1995, Jean-Baptiste founded a company specialized in call-backs. In 1999, he founded Kiwee, the French pioneer for mobile ringtone downloads.

The Flagship of the ecosystem !

In 2004, the company was acquired by American Greeting Interactive, where Jean-Baptiste has been administrator until 2006. Since 2008, Jean-Baptiste has been focusing on the international development of Criteo.

Those like me who spend a lot of time within the French Tech ecosystem, can tell that :

There is no one conversation, one conference panel or one event where the name of Criteo is not dropped in at some point !

But even more than that…since its successful Nasdaq IPO in November 2013 :

Criteo and its CEO, Jean-Baptiste Rudelle have literally became The Flagship of all the Tech ecosystem in France !

From the single project holder or the early stage start-up team to the most promising and growing company or even the VCs, every single actor of the French Tech / Web scene is now claming a piece of Criteo’s success as a source of inspiration, a reference which demonstrates to everyone that :

Yes it is possible !

From this point of view :

We are all Criteo‘s children !

Why are we so pround of them? Simply, because Criteo and Jean-Baptiste show us in fact that YES it is possible :

To create a World Champion from scratch !

For a French company to conquer the US and have a sit among the GAFA !

To pivot 3 times before getting the right model !

To reach a 2 billion valuation in only 8 years !

To find a French VC to share the risk and the adventure with !

Let’s see how Jean-Baptiste‘s approach and adventure are plenty of learnings and encouraging messages for everyone of us !

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A strong acceptation of risk !

Simply looking at their existing business model, one can find a form of risk acceptation that also tells all the confidence they have in their technology :

They buy in CPM and sell in CPC which is clearly a risk transfer !

The image could be :

A cowboy, in a western movie who would be confident enough in the superiority of his gun and talent to accept a duel against 3 others opponents !

That is propably the reason why Jean-Baptiste now insists for his team to take risks.

A Director at Criteo even confess me once that Jeau-Baptiste is used to repeating to them :

If you never fail, it is because you don’t risk enough !

WooA that is something, isn’t it?

To me, that tells a lot of the state of mind which is behind Criteo’s marvelous success…

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Pivoting, pivoting again and then Growing Big & Fast !

Until 2008, Jean-Baptiste and his team have demonstrated a lot of resilience in looking for the right model to exploite their technology, facing a serie of disillusions and pivoting 3 times. At this time, they kept in pushing hard whereas in their shoes a lot would have given up…

Marie Ekeland, their investor at Elaia Partners shared the Criteo’s journey, here, in a wonderful post. She especially mentioned that :

After the 3 initial years of doubt, being able to accelerate and put himself in danger was highly remarkable from Jean-Baptiste and decisive in the future company’s success !

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Big Successes start with Will & Decisions

We have already noticed that in his shoes, a lot would have given up…but we can also assume that in front of his success, a lot would have rather decided to strengthen a national leading position whereas Jean-Baptiste made the decision to accelerate to become a World Champion !

That was a decision he made !

He did it since he had this conviction that :

Sky is the limit !

In the same range of idea, Jean-Baptiste has constantly done what it has to be done to give himself the means of his ambitions…deciding to settle down with his family in Palo Alto or deciding to get Bessemer Venture Capital on board for human ressources and market access points of view ONLY !!!

Those were decisions to make and Jean-Baptiste did it !

That begs to a quote I like :

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.

Vince Lombardi

Or another one which says :

The difference between building a $100,000 ; $1,000,000 or a $1,000,000,000 company is…the will !

I think this last one applies particularly well to Criteo and Jean-Baptiste !

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Criteo is the French Touch !

When I sent Jean-Baptiste my questionnaire to create this post, he replied within 24H on a Saturday morning showing absolutly none hesitation to play that game. From an other exchange we had together at another occasion I can testify that :

Jean-Baptiste is always keen to give a bit of his time to spread the encouraging / inspiring messages over and stimulate Entrepreneurship in France !

But when I asked him, like to the others, to give his own definition of The French Touch, he just skiped the question ! I initially thought it was frustrating since it was precisely the theme of the forthcoming conference in New-York.

Then, thinking about it further, I actually consider this quite logical since making of the French engineering excellence a World Champion, it is pretty clear that :

Jean-Baptiste Rudelle and Criteo ARE The French Touch !

So when Jean-Baptiste answers to Frenchy, we thank him a thousand times and it looks like this !

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Criteo_Nasdaq

Frenchy :

Your favorite word ?


Geek

Frenchy :

What would you change if you had a magic wand ?


Get all government data of all countries in the world available online in a clean actionable format. Accurate information is the foundation of good governance and democracy.

Frenchy :

What is your favorite quote ?


Shit happens, get over it.

Frenchy :

What could seduce you immediately ?


A windy blue lagoon with warm water.

Frenchy :

What is, according to you, the secret of happiness ?


A sense of humor.

Frenchy :

If you were a dessert ?


A wedding cake.

Frenchy :

What in your day to day life remains so French/American ?


So French: Morning Croissant

So American: Starbuck Grande Caramel Macchiato

Frenchy :

What do you enjoy the most in the US/Fr way of life ?


US way of life: Go big or go home !

FR way of life: A theory on everything…

Frenchy :

One thing where American/French people are particularly good at that you would like to develop yourself ?


American: Positive thinking !

French: Analytics !

Frenchy :

In the US, failing is seen as the first step to be successful later, how to bring such a state of mind in France ?


More inspiring stories of failures that ultimately became big successes.

Frenchy :

A French / European GAFA could be possible if… ?


It’s just a matter of time…

Frenchy :

Who are the 3 entrepreneurs who most inspire you ?

Bill Gate for his foundation. ;

Richard Branson for finding time to kitesurf. :

Larry Page for introducing a cost-per-click model that disrupted the advertising industry.

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Merci Jean-Baptiste !

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More about Jean-Baptiste :

– Interview Le Web 2013

– BPI France Capital Invest 2013

– Interview France Info

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More about Criteo :

Founded by Jean-Baptiste Rudelle, Franck le Ouay and Romain Niccoli in 2005, Criteo has grown to be a global technology company that enables e-commerce companies to leverage large volumes of data to efficiently and effectively engage and convert their customers. With their predictive software algorithms, coupled with deep insights into consumer intent and purchasing habits, they are able to price and deliver highly relevant and personalized advertisements in real-time. Every day they are presented with billions of opportunities to connect users with relevant messaging. Partnering with our clients to optimize our advertising placement decisions based on data and activity on their websites, Criteo helps improve online shopping by allowing them to reach more customers and to increase their volume of online sales. To this day, we operate globally in 37 countries and have 15 offices worldwide. Furthermore, we partner with over 4,000 clients and are in direct relationship with over 6,000 publishers.

Criteo is on Facebook and Twitter.

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