MUNICH, GERMANY, JANUARY 2019. Bastian Nominacher pondered how much Celonis had changed from its start in 2011, when he and his two co-founders were coding in a crammed 15-square-meter room in his flat. Reaching unicorn valuation felt “like driving a car at 250 kilometers per hour while changing the wheels,” he liked to say. It had been quite a ride. The journey had entailed sending a thousand hand-written letters to leads, dropping in (uninvited) to a fancy golf club to pitch Celonis to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) tycoon, bootstrapping without external funding for seven years, despite the prevailing view that technology startups should aim to scale as fast as possible … and a few even less glamorous activities that sounded quite surreal today. Graduating into the unicorn club had attracted the attention of prospects, current clients and competitors alike. The surge in leads required not only growing the sales team but also tightening the ties with SAP’s sales team. Current clients were asking for increasingly complex projects requiring tighter integration with their information systems; hence, Celonis’ younger management team had to pitch to more senior executives. Finally, the focus on scaling prompted Celonis to undergo a technological shift towards a cloud-based platform model and Celonis launched the Intelligent Business Cloud in October 2018. Was that not too much for the client base? Would the company culture survive the fast growth? And would the founders’ leadership team survive the transformation?
• Examine the managerial issues in a fast-growing technology company at the leading edge of digital transformation and big data analytics
• Explore the pros and cons of various business models available to a software company, in particular the value of building an ecosystem
• Analyze Celonis’s contribution to the broader adoption of Lean and Six Sigma by enabling the real-time analysis of digital process data
• Discuss the challenges of fundraising for fast-growing technology companies in Europe
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