Corizon: Eric Guilloteau

Eric Guilloteau left his job at BT to woo investors and create Corizon, a software product company

Eric Guilloteau has enjoyed spectacular success with his software firm Corizon, and in double quick time. Ambitiously launching the company during the dark days of the dotcom slump in 2000, Eric’s innovative services have been snapped up by BT, Telewest and Regus. The business plans to expand into America, which has prompted a name change from the original Genient to the present moniker Corizon.

Frenchman Eric admits he has always fostered an entrepreneurial streak, despite working for many years at companies such as Visa and BT.

“I started my entrepreneurial career by building businesses and launching products for larger organisations. I felt it was the time to build a stand-alone company,” he explains.

Eric’s time working for BT came in useful in raising finance for his venture. He realised who to approach for funding and found that business angels and other investors were willing to part with their cash.

“When I left my previous employer, BT, I was approached by a number of people with offers of help and funding to start the business,” he says.

“Other technology industry entrepreneurs who had already achieved huge success, such as Mark Hoffman and Stratton Sclavos, really understood what our software was capable of achieving and recognised that we were filling a gap in the market.

“These people, and others, became our angel investors. It helped that they had been in a similar situation when they started their businesses and so could understand the challenges we faced.”

Corizon offers businesses a ‘user-centric’ solution to IT systems, combining many applications into an accessible interface.

“I was inspired to start up Corizon by my experience in large companies such as BT where I saw how difficult it was for the IT teams to keep up with the new products and services we wanted to deliver to customer,” Eric explains.

“Given the tools available they did a great job, but we ended up creating a maze of applications for people like call centre agents which meant the crucial tasks of designing, implementing and scaling customer service became a drag on the business.”

The birth of Corizon came at a difficult time for the IT industry – the dotcom bubble had just burst and firms were reigning in their IT budgets. Eric claims that Corizon’s innovative approach, attention to detail and consistent return on investment tempted clients to part with their money.

Having survived the downturn, Corizon expanded and now employs 40 members of staff. The business also plans to expand into the USA, although the name change to Corizon was forced upon Eric due to a similar sounding company in the American IT industry.

As a Frenchman, Eric is well-placed to comment on the UK’s entrepreneurial culture. Generally, he’s impressed with Britain as a place to do business, although he feels the government could do more to support entrepreneurs.

“The UK provides a good environment for growing businesses from a tax and employment law standpoint,” he says.

“The government needs to allow businesses to attract and retain the best and the brightest staff. We compete not just in the UK but also internationally – for example in our company we have more than 8 or 9 nationalities. Hence tax structure and levels of option scheme are critical.

“Incidentally, the issue here is not just the level of tax but the simplicity in understanding the schemes available. If they are too complex, people will tend to discount them.

“Another example would be to ensure there is no disproportional legal penalty for failure – creating new businesses is a high risk venture – a company not succeeding should not imply directors should be barred from being on future boards for instance.”

So what would Eric’s advice be to someone wanting to follow in his footsteps?

“It’s important to talk to other entrepreneurs and angels for advice and help,” he says. “Venture capitalists specialising in seed capital are also good people to talk to. More than anything else, though, it’s important to take the plunge and learn by doing.” For more information on Corizon, go to www.corizon.com

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