After studying at ESME Sudria, (Class of 2012) began to work for OCTO Technology. While there, he and his work colleague Christopher Parola developed elCurator, a simple and innovative content sharing tool. Today an entirely distinct startup co-founded by Jeremy (Tech Leader) and Christopher (Product Manager), elCurator can boast being used by more than 1,000 businesses worldwide – and the media is taking notice. The proof: the magazine Silex ID dedicated an entire article to the startup on its website in July.
Jeremy Venezia, Co-Founder and Tech Leader of elCurator
What have you been up to since graduating from ESME Sudria?
Jeremy Venezia: During my last year at ESME, I majored in Information Systems. Right from the very start of my studies, I was particularly passionate about everything that had to do with IT, even if I was open to other subjects as well. This appetite for IT is what pushed me to take my end-of-studies internship at OCTO Technology.
How did you find the internship?
Totally by chance, thanks to a friend from my class who was already doing an internship there. My friend suggested I apply when he learned the company was looking for a second intern. OCTO Technology is an IT company that is active in just about every sector – banking, insurance, media, etc. It is as competent at consulting as it is in product development, accompanying customers every step of the way in the development of new products. Unlike other service enterprises, OCTO does its utmost to promote good practices in terms of quality development, using methods which adapt to the context at hand… OCTO is truly a fantastic company, and it was clear from the very beginning that I was a good fit – so good in fact that I stayed on after my internship. I thus worked for two years as a consultant before embarking upon the elCurator adventure…which incorporates – and draws inspiration from – the OCTO culture and good practices employed at the company! OCTO served as a real springboard for our project.
One of the peculiarities of elCurator, in fact, is that its concept was born inside another company. Is it normal for the company to encourage the development of outside projects?
Totally. They supported us, and I honestly think it would have been difficult to create elCurator without them. It all started with an idea someone had at OCTO consisting of developing a tool that could allow for links to be shared, thereby meeting the needs of the enormous sharing culture that had existed at the company since its creation, but which mostly took place via email exchanges. Because we all received so many emails, inevitably some went unread. And sorting them wasn’t necessarily all that practical. We therefore had to come up with a special platform that could enable sharing and centralize these links in an efficient manner. The tool was developed as part of OCTO Day, an event organized once per year in the company during which all the employees put their work on hold to perform service for OCTO and its community. A small team was formed to create elCurator, a tool which, originally, simply allowed for link sharing. Afterwards, Christopher and I continued to pursue the project on our lunch breaks or after work – in other words, whenever we had a bit of free time. We worked in lean startup mode to gradually improve the tool and add features geared towards users. This allowed us to reach more and more people, until eventually 70% of OCTO employees were using the platform daily. After receiving positive feedback internally, the OCTO managers began to wonder if it was now time to do something more “serious.” “If it works well for us, why wouldn’t it work well for others?” As you can see, we received a great deal of encouragement and support to see elCurator through to the end. Our startup thus became a subsidiary of the Group.
It’s funny, starting your own business wasn’t really part of the plan, was it?
No, that wasn’t the goal at all in the beginning: we were just two OCTO consultants who loved their jobs. As it happens, both Christopher and I are open to new possibilities. The business thing sprang up out of the blue. It was certainly unexpected, but since both of us are passionate about IT and product development, we seized the opportunity and didn’t look back. I think we made the right choice.
How many people work for the startup, and what are your projects?
There are seven of us, the majority of whom are Web and mobile developers. The rest of the team is in charge of business development and marketing. Over the long term, our dream is to create the perfect platform for A to Z monitoring; that is to say, find content at its source (combine content and make automatic recommendations with respect to user preferences), back up content, and help users read content at the right moment and in a relevant way before sharing it. Such tools can be separated and are not necessarily designed to be present on just one or the same platform. The new features are not required to be integrated into elCurator, but can gravitate around it to allow for the entire monitoring chain to be treated, whether on a personal or collaborative basis, both within a company or elsewhere.
In addition, we are currently doing extensive research in terms of development. Thanks to open source, we are able to offer tools that anyone can use. We hope to promote the sharing of our technology even further.
One of the decisions made by the startup is to offer elCurator to schools for free. Why?
To us, it was obvious. By taking such a stance, we are counting on those students who use elCurator to continue to do so when they have finished school, and to recommend it to their higher-ups at their future places of employment. Our technology can be implemented on a school-wide scale, or else inside a small classroom, either to learn how to monitor correctly or to share content directly on an extremely precise topic.
Looking back, what did you learn at ESME Sudria, and how does it help you in your daily work as a Tech Leader?
The fact that you only declare a major during your last year allowed me to learn a lot about a variety of different subjects (telecommunications, electronics, energy, computer science, etc.), enabling me to become highly resourceful. When I arrived at OCTO, for example, I knew nothing at all about the technologies I was asked to work on. But that did not prevent me from progressing. That kind of sums up the IT field: you need to be able to learn by yourself and know how to search for and find the right information at the right time. The education I received at ESME Sudria allowed me to do just that. This spirit, this curiosity, this desire to seek out information, this capacity to see the unknown as an opportunity instead of an obstacle…these are the qualities I value and which I often find in the engineers who graduate from a multidisciplinary school like ESME Sudria.
Find elCurator on its website, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.