The SaaS Prophet | Jan Arendtsz from Celigo

As a young coder, Jan Arendtsz wasn’t so interested in coding. He was much more interested in why the code should exist to begin with—what problem it was solving, what it was trying to accomplish. So he moved from the coder’s cubicle over to the business side.

As an early member of NetSuite, he recognized SaaS as the future, which may seem obvious now, but at the time this was a riskier proposition. “Looking back, you can say, of course you should have thought about that,” Jan says. “But that was a leap of faith to me.”

After starting a consultant business, he realized his prescience was more profound than he could have realized. IT systems had become a spaghetti plate of SaaS solutions, and getting them all to work together was a major challenge for most businesses.

So he started Celigo, a company that offers an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) to help companies connect all their SaaS solutions to create smoother automation.

In this edition of Founders Journey, Jan talks about his pioneering years in SaaS, how he funded the startup, and he tells us the one thing he’d do differently if he could go back and start over.

More information:

Jan Arendtsz is a veteran of the software industry with more than 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, business development, product development, and customer success. He founded Celigo with the goal of simplifying how companies integrate business applications together for a connected enterprise. He is responsible for overseeing all company operations.

Celigo, the next-generation Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) built for both IT professionals and business users that easily connects and automates processes across thousands of applications. Named a G2 Best Software for 2021, Celigo allows users to quickly build, manage, and handoff complex integrations at scale, requiring fewer IT resources and lowering the total cost of ownership. With Celigo, users can automate processes such as Lead-to-Cash, Subscription Management, Customer 360, Expense Management, Hire-to-Retire, Reporting, Marketing Automation, and so much more, across key applications such as via prebuilt or universal connectors.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Jan Arendtsz 0:00
If there’s one thing that I could do going back, I would say, Okay, I’ve got, let’s say a budget of half a million for all my resources, new hires that I want to make. I’m gonna break the bank on this one role.

Alexander Ferguson 0:18
Welcome to UpTech Report. This is our Founders Journey. This is actually their second part of interview with my guest, Jan Arendtsz, who’s based in San Carlos, California. He’s the CEO and founder at Celigo. It’s good to have you back on, Jan. This is where I’d love to hear a bit more of your journey that we understood about more about your product last time the that integration platform as a service solution, and I pass. And I really want to hear though, the journey that you’ve been on the last 10 years building this, but really before then let’s go back even further. Sure. What’s your story?

Jan Arendtsz 0:54
Oh, so my story is I’m a computer science grad. Because I was pretty good in math. And so started out as a developer at a school for about two and a half years decided that was not my calling. I just didn’t want to be sitting in a cubicle churning out code and night, I want to stand I think if I were to just summarize it, like I wanted to understand what is the business problem that we’re trying to solve? I could not articulate that in that fashion back then. But looking back now, that’s what I was looking for. So as a result, I ended up moving more to the business side.

Alexander Ferguson 1:36
Gotcha. It’s going from developing code to saying, you know, I actually want to know, why am I developing this code? Like, what’s the purpose is out there. So getting into the business side? So where did that lead you next?

Jan Arendtsz 1:45
Right. So I joined a company called Cambridge technology partners, a fairly large global consulting firm. This is I think, back in 97. And phenomenal experience been four years that this coincided with era as well. So we went from working on these really large projects for really large companies, to then all of a sudden, in San Francisco working at these cons and running the show, and we all young and we don’t know what we’re doing and we all learning together. And as a result, just a tremendous learning experience. Right? I played different roles from being a project manager, business analyst, a technical program managers, one and so forth. And that’s where I really learned my trade because you get exposed to so many different environments.

Alexander Ferguson 2:41
That measures a lot of pretty fast paced and constantly learning, trying new things. And growing. So for you this though Sligo is your first business that you ran.

Jan Arendtsz 2:52
Correct. So prior to that, I ran a small consulting firm for about five years, where it was focused on and this was in the mid 2000s, focused on a number of the nascent cloud applications such as Salesforce, NetSuite, and some others, and doing various business process consulting and doing a fair bit of integration work, which ultimately is what?

Alexander Ferguson 3:25
Because you saw the problem, you’re actually working on it? Absolutely. Yeah. Okay. So what was the turning point for you to say, you know what, I’m, I have a solution here. And like, how long did it take you to build that first MVP of the product? Yeah, I

Jan Arendtsz 3:39
didn’t ever, like maybe two of these light bulb moments. So prior to that, I worked at NetSuite for three years when it was literally a startup. And I joined and I was coming from the consulting company that we just talked about. And I joined NetSuite, and they had all these small customers at that time, and it was chaotic. But it was also brilliant. And I, this was back in 2003, I think. And immediately I was like, within maybe three, four months, I was like, this is going to be the future of software. SAS is really this is the only model right and and of course now looking back, you can say of course that you should have thought about that. But that was a leap of faith to me. And so so then I saw companies struggling to connect various apps. So the seed was planted I’m going to say back in like 2004 2005 but decided to start a consulting company and then to really answer your question once we started doing a lot of work business process engineering and and then doing some integration work, it became very clear that some of the products in the market were looking back rather than forward and that was really the impetus for me to do actually do

Alexander Ferguson 5:01
about like four or five years of doing that consulting business and then realizing, okay, this this can this can turn into something a little bigger. Now for when you when you launch to Lego, did you get funding right from the beginning? Did you bootstrap it from your consulting? company? How did you do that?

Jan Arendtsz 5:15
Yeah, great question. So we bootstrapped. So the company started approximately in 2011. We had the consulting business on the side and responded off. So we started though with enough critical mass in terms of customers that we were able to bootstrap it for about four years. And we raised our series a round at the end of 2015. So that was a journey. Let’s let’s say that was chapter one, to bootstrap a company to a certain scale.

Alexander Ferguson 5:51
Well, what would you say is the biggest lesson learned on bootstrapping a company versus now getting funding?

Jan Arendtsz 5:57
My gosh, there’s so many lessons learned back then. I would say, you know, surprisingly, it’s it’s something that has been consistent throughout and that’s hiring, creating the right roles. And hiring the right people to fill those roles.

Alexander Ferguson 6:24
is difficult when you’re bootstrap because like, you don’t want to hire too many or or even someone who, too costs. That’s,

Jan Arendtsz 6:31
that’s exactly the point. Right? So oftentimes, there were roles that I knew we wanted, but didn’t have the budget for it. And so either we settled for a lower level role or a lower level of talent. And if there’s one thing that I could do going back, I would say, Okay, I’ve got, let’s say, a budget of half a million for all my resources, new hires that I want to make, I’m going to break the bank on this one role. And I’m going to hire the right person at the right level at the right talent level. And then maybe I’m going to cut one off those other resources, because if you bring in the right leaders, then they will create additional opportunities where we can go fill in some of those other ones. But there is no playbook you had to I had to learn that. Myself.

Alexander Ferguson 7:19
Let me repeat. So I understand there. So if you say can you have all these roles that you need to fill instead of trying to fill all the roles with the Okay, talent? Fill less roles, but better quality talent?

Jan Arendtsz 7:31
Correct, especially in some of the leadership roles? The leadership

Alexander Ferguson 7:34
roles? Okay, the bank on the right ones? Okay. And if you had to pick a couple of departments or leadership roles that you’re like, we should have invested in this type of leadership role? Is it? Like, is there a specific department or area that would say, this has to have good leadership?

Jan Arendtsz 7:51
That’s like asking me which one of my kids is my favorite kid? And the answer is all of them. kidding aside, so it’s a journey, right? early stage, it’s important to invest in things like product marketing, and product management, and not cut any corners there. Because you’re trying to, we will always building something, not to get a quick exit, it was always for the long term. And so to do that, right, you want to make sure that foundation is there. So once you have established product market fit to a certain extent, then you want to bring in some really good sales, and go to market leaders, including marketing alliances, so on and so forth. But then you shouldn’t forget, also some of the non revenue functions such as finance and HR, and ups, areas that we grossly under invested in at the start. And if I if there’s one thing that I could fix and go back to 2011. That would be one of the things that I would fix.

Alexander Ferguson 9:01
Is that foundational leadership to be able that knows what they’re doing and can just do a really good job in those key areas that doesn’t generate revenue.

Jan Arendtsz 9:10
Correct? Yeah. Just making the investments, right, having resources with a leader, the importance there, but especially just having making an an investment to succeed there.

Alexander Ferguson 9:25
There’s a lot when it comes to hiring and thoughts around that be able to bring the right people in. How big is the team today?

Jan Arendtsz 9:32
So today, we are about 320 or so employees.

Alexander Ferguson 9:38
Wow. And when it comes to hiring the right people, whether it’s whether you’re bootstrapped or VC funded, what do you see is the common mistakes when you’re looking at candidates and trying to choose the right person?

Jan Arendtsz 9:52
Yeah, gosh, I could write a book about this right? Lots and lots of silly mistakes are made right? From not defining the mandate, the mission of the job as to what the desired outcomes from this role and what what the profile of the person that you’re looking for, if you put the time ahead, especially for more leadership roles, or roles that you hire in bulk, such as account exec, associate Sam’s or what have you, if you put in the time ahead, that’s to define the job. And then you have a streamlined process that, in of itself is is going to be massive. But then, you know, other mistakes as well, sometimes of not being in a hurry and settling for, let’s say, less than ideal talent. And my, my favorite thing here is if you hire the wrong person, then the damage that that creates, typically takes about three to six months to figure out if that’s the right person, and then that person, if they’re, they are a leader, they would have hired other people and sort of unwind that mistakes a lot of time. but on the same token, sometimes you you got to roll the dice and, and move forward as well, right? So it’s finding that right balance, there are just lots and lots of things that I’ve learned that we’re getting much better at but still not there.

Alexander Ferguson 11:28
As you said, you could you could write a book, but you’re at the same time still learning as as you as you do it. Coming back, though, to get bootstrap the first four or five years and then funded, what would you say is the most important lesson you learn from going out and seeking funding and acquiring it.

Jan Arendtsz 11:46
So it’s a little bit different when you run a bootstrap company, and you want to go get funding versus looking for funding right at the start. So I just want to make sure that the audience knows that, right, because they you’ve gotten used to doing things a certain way. So putting that aside, it was really important for me, when we brought up the first set of investors to pick the right investors, where we felt that was the right balance, the dynamics were going to be right, they believed in the product, the company, the space, the leaders, so on and so forth. So while we had multiple offers in terms of term sheets, we ended up going with a great investor who’s been with us throughout the journey and super happy and then when we raised our Series B round it’s also finding like minded investors. So those are some of the really important things for me personally,

Alexander Ferguson 12:45
when when you’re looking for that like minded investor who knows your type of mentality the team that you’re running in the mission? What are you looking for, like what indicators show that they’re in sync with your with the way you think?

Jan Arendtsz 12:59
Right? So first off, it comes down to this philosophy that the investment firm has, right every VC or P firm has a certain model so so once you’ve had enough conversations with investors, you can fairly quickly start to see the trends and profile that so that’s, that’s the must at at a high level. So then it comes to once you’ve kind of applied that filter, so to speak, and then you speaking to investors within that, that profile, then it comes down to, for example, who are you working with? Who’s going to be sitting on your board and my whole thing with investors is there. Again, different types of investors, some who are very active, some pretty passive, here’s the money and do what you think is right. I don’t necessarily have a preference but my one ask is, if investors want to get to be pretty active and involved in the business and make recommendations, then please take the time to understand our business. What we don’t want is someone sitting on the sidelines saying you need to do this go hire 30 more A’s or go enterprise the big deals to be had there and I’ve seen this so many times at other companies right? If you understand a business then you will understand why I would tell you no I don’t think that’s a good idea that’s gonna come later. Right? So so that’s what’s important and thankfully we have investors who fit that mold

Alexander Ferguson 14:39
when you found the investor for your series A and B. Was it like when you finally you looked at the the preface, okay, the philosophies, right? What was it like when you talk to them you just felt right, was it like a moment that you felt good or was it just a long period that took

Jan Arendtsz 14:54
I’m gonna start laughing, right because it’s a cliche, but right in the moment without The first series A investor, DVC capital. As soon as I had the conversation, a couple of conversations, I knew these were the guys. And it had helped that they were the last, literally last party in that had a fair bit of experience to understand who I was looking for. I always draw the analogy to dating, right? It’s very much like dating, you got to get to know each other. And I don’t want to I don’t want to sound. I don’t want this to be a cliche, where it’s like, you know, love at first sight. But it just was

Alexander Ferguson 15:33
true. It did feel that way. Like,

Jan Arendtsz 15:35
absolutely. And, and, remarkably, even with our second investor, NewSpring capital, I met the partner for for breakfast, when he was here in town. In San Francisco, he didn’t have to drive all the way down to meet with me. And we met. And typically these things happen through first conversation. We had breakfast together. And literally, I told him later as well, right? I mean, that’s what ultimately sealed it because we were able to look each other in the eye and understand how we work, and so on and so forth. Everything else is ultimately a detail if we don’t fit the criteria and vice versa, then we won’t, we won’t partner. Right? So it’s, it’s that that personal connection is really important.

Alexander Ferguson 16:24
Yeah, well, I, I appreciate both the understanding of bootstrapping, and then funding and you know, in the moment you feel right, but making sure the philosophy is there. And then building a team, once you have all those ingredients, obviously, you need to grow your customer base. So I’d love to kind of focus on here is when it comes to marketing, and sales to be able to grow your your platform and your solution. What are you seeing as common mistakes people make? And how have you avoided those mistakes or learn from them? To be able to scale?

Jan Arendtsz 16:54
Yeah, so when it comes to sales and marketing, and I like to use the term, just go to market GTM? In general, especially for what we do. Every company is different, right? So one, it really depends on the precise scenario that we have. So I’ll I’ll say, just in general, maybe looking at some of the mistakes that that we’ve made, is, we’ve been predominantly a brand based inbound type model. And I’m a huge believer of that. But then I think perhaps we didn’t make the right investments, maybe four or five years ago, to look at other avenues as as well. And, and so these are all things that you learn in time. Another thing that I see often is throwing money at a problem, especially when it comes to the marketing, right? It’s very easy to say, okay, what’s the cost of an mq? What’s the cost of an opportunity let’s let’s Boyne let’s go with paid advertising, so on and so forth. And if you don’t understand what the return is going to be, if you don’t have the ability to measure and use analytics and use data, then likely it’s not going to work. And suddenly you can get lucky. But that that doesn’t work. Hiring good salespeople. Gosh, that’s, I can go on on that for a fair bit. All the mistakes we’ve made there. But but but now we know how to do that, right? So and then the importance of some of the indirect channels, such as channel sales, OEM sales, right, all of that has to be taken into into account.

Alexander Ferguson 18:42
So we could we could probably spend another hour on each of those subjects. But if we could just take a quick deep dive into let’s start with inbound. I mean, what was would you say a big lesson learned there, because it sounds like you started with that. And I’ve always been focused on it. using that as your foundation of getting what you see the big lesson learn of, or even a tactic that you did that has worked really well to keep the inbound leads coming in.

Jan Arendtsz 19:04
Right? So I’ll give you a lesson first. So when you have a model, it’s like the gift that keeps giving and so you know, we use this term here internally, the run rate business without doing anything much we know there’s a certain amount of business growing every month that’s gonna come to us. It’s easy to get comfortable with with that model, because you don’t then start thinking about how can I turn this inbound stream into something 10x or 100x? Because you can, but it’s since it’s been there and it’s a given assumptions I’ve made that well that’s that’s what we do. In terms of the tactic, that’s what pretty well for us. I think Just being able, staying with the inbound theme, right? And knowing what we do, and being able to take that and harness that and build a machine out of it, I think that’s something that we’ve done really well,

Alexander Ferguson 20:15
like praying the right articles that people are just finding it, or is it is it just building a certain brand, by getting your referrals, it’s

Jan Arendtsz 20:24
more about the business problem that you solve, and being able to articulate that in in the right way on the website and through other channels, right, and, and then, once you do that, then people know how to find you. Because it’s not like you’re trying to sell them something that they don’t want. These are real pain points that these companies have.

Alexander Ferguson 20:49
If you articulate properly on the website, people who have it will search and find you and say I want you because you’ve properly described it. And they they see that you are the solution.

Jan Arendtsz 21:01
Right. And then suddenly, once you engage with them, you can speak their language, they know that we know their problem, we speak the same language. And that becomes really important, especially in a space like integration where it’s such a big space, there are so many different verticals and types of business processes that need to be automated, it becomes important to be able to not be too broad and be able to focus on certain things.

Alexander Ferguson 21:33
And I feel like actually on your site, you’ve actually built out some nice descriptors, like are you in this category, this category, like yeah, SAS, software, e commerce, supply chain, finance, accounting. And so you’ve probably built in specific language, if someone’s coming to you, and they’re that space, you say, Alright, this is what you need for the typical type of integrations, they get that right.

Jan Arendtsz 21:50
Correct. So I call that self identifying right? Either based on your role based on your industry based on the SAS apps that you use, or based on the business processes that are within your domain, how quickly, can we identify with you that you’ve come to the right place?

Alexander Ferguson 22:11
Gotcha. Okay. Now, switching real quick, though, over to the salesperson and then we’ll wrap up here. You said there’s a lot of lessons learned there, and you’ve learned them all. What would you say is a big the biggest takeaway, if someone’s going to build out their sales team and hiring the right? client service people? What would you What would you say is one takeaway that you’ve learned?

Jan Arendtsz 22:34
Um, I would say, hiring the right sales leader is so important and so hard to do?

Alexander Ferguson 22:46
How do you know you have a good sales leader versus not a good sales leader? See?

Jan Arendtsz 22:53
There’s unless you’ve done it before, it’s a little hard. Because how do you know how to interview properly? And then how do you know to detect the signs early enough? If they are not the right person, and either put them on the right path or part ways?

Alexander Ferguson 23:12
people already that you’re looking for, like a specific demeanor or or or background or knowledge?

Jan Arendtsz 23:21
Less so I think it’s their approach on on how they go about solving the sales problem? Is it a holistic approach? Are they just trying to hit a number at any cost? Do they care about the success of the company, I have the saying you can always hit your number by doing various things, some unnatural things as well, to get across the line. And sometimes, sales leaders need to do what they need to do. And that’s how they get paid. But do they? If I were to just put one thing, right? Do they truly understand the business problem that we’re trying to solve? Do they truly understand how we’re going to market and then are they good sales leaders once they have that context to be able to execute? oftentimes you’ll find sales leaders come in with a playbook that they’ve used in two or three other companies and they may have been super successful and they might be really good but you have to adapt that to what we’re trying to do you have to understand why we’re in business Why do our customers buy if you don’t understand that the the potential that you have the ceiling that you have is always going to be limited?

Alexander Ferguson 24:39
So they come in all bravado saying I’ve got my sales thing it’s it’s bulletproof. I’m just gonna apply it to your business is going to be great and they don’t ask questions they don’t want to understand there’s those should be some red flags.

Jan Arendtsz 24:50
Those should be red flags, and I love it when a sales leader comes in and says I’ve got a process that’s one of the questions we ask them. what’s what’s your sales process, walk me through your sales process. Knowing that if you’ve done the job for a while, you’ve learned across multiple jobs that you’ve formulated a certain way of doing things right and you’ve abstracted that that is phenomenal now, but you cannot just then come in and say, okay, for everything I see the same nail and I’ve got the one hammer and I’m just going to use it right so they have to be able to apply that.

Alexander Ferguson 25:24
Yeah, I know we can probably spend another hour digging into to those lessons, but thank you so much for sharing throughout from funding to hiring to marketing and sales. Go to market strategy, a ton of insight for those that want to learn more about Sligo definitely listened to our first part of our interview where he broke it down so nicely also go to And if you need a iPad solution for your for your company, definitely check them out. Thanks again for joining us. Good to have you.

Jan Arendtsz 25:51
Thank you so much for having me. Appreciate it.

Alexander Ferguson 25:54
Absolutely. Again UpTech Report. This is our founders journey. Take a look at our other episodes at UpTech Report comm UpTech Report is sponsored by TeraLeap. Learn how to leverage the power of video at Thanks so much, guys. We’ll see you next time. That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.

Transcribed by



YouTube | LinkedIn | Twitter| Podcast

The Serviceman | France Hoang from boodleAI

Plugging in the Property Managers | Agustin Fiori from Channel Connector