Collibra CEO: ‘You have to raise money when you don’t need it’

Collibra raises $250 million, the largest funding round of the year. This makes the Belgian big data company worth 5.25 billion dollars – a fivefold unicorn. ‘We are almost ready to go public,’ says CEO Felix Van de Maele.

What are you going to spend that extra 250 million on?

Felix Van de Maele: ‘We don’t collect that money to invest in one specific goal. We want to continue to grow strongly, as we have done in the past five years. We do this consciously without net profit, as our investors expect, and in three areas: inventorying data, where it all started, quality control, and privacy and security.’

‘We see companies shifting their data en masse to servers in the cloud. We want to be sure that our ‘data intelligence’ will be a fundamental part of this. But currently we have even from our previous round (112 million dollars, ed.) haven’t spent a dollar yet.’

Including the current round, you are on a mountain of cash of 360 million. Is it a good idea to pick that up just because you can?

Van de Maele: ‘I have always been of the principle that you should collect money when you don’t need it. We want a strong balance sheet, so that we are not dependent on an investment round when the climate is less good. What’s more, most of that money will go to wages, which make up 80 percent of our cost base. We are almost 1,000 people. By the end of next year there will be 1,600. We recruit 40 to 50 people per month: mainly IT developers and salespeople, but also supporting profiles: legal, financial, HR. We must be able to maintain that in the coming years.’

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You want to get to $1 billion in sales. Where is Collibra now?

Van de Maele: ‘I’d rather not put a timing on that. We are on our way there, that is more important than the amount itself. In 2019 we have reached the 100 million euro mark. That was chapter one in the life of our company. Now that we have broadened our product range, including data quality, security and privacy, we have started a second chapter.’

The extra capital will go mainly to wages, which make up 80 percent of our costs. We are almost 1,000 people. By the end of next year there will be 1,600.

Felix Van de Maele

Founder and CEO of Collibra

In 2019, Collibra became the first Belgian unicorn, a privately held company worth more than $1 billion. Since then, the capital raised and the valuation have doubled year after year. Will the company be worth $10 billion next year, after a 500 million round?

Van de Maele: ‘I don’t assume that, it is certainly not the plan. Our financial balance is good. But it can always be, depending on what the markets are doing. There was already an oversupply of capital in this round. This allowed us to be selective in which shareholders we admitted: parties with a long time horizon, who are also open to the prospect of eventually going public with them.’

With the current high valuations in mind, was an IPO already considered in this round?

Van de Maele: ‘Not yet. We believe we can build an independent company. At some point we will be so big that an IPO is the logical step. We are already close to that size. An IPO is not an end in itself, and there is no pressure from shareholders. We have to be completely ready first.’

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