“Developing technology can be done from anywhere in the world.” That is one of the founding mantras of Globant, the software development company that in 2014 became one of the five Argentine unicorns. Guibert Englebienne is part of this story that began in 2003, along with his friends Martín Migoya, Martín Umaran and Néstor Nocetti.
Today, their company has a stock market value of close to US$10 billion and 17,250 employees in 18 countries, where they work for companies such as Google, Rockwell Automation, Electronic Arts and Santander, among others. Its revenues reached US$ 814.14 million in 2020, with the pandemic being a major catalyst for opportunities.
They recently acquired 80% of Walmeric, a Spanish firm specialized in the development of marketing automation technology. It was the first product-oriented acquisition to meet the objective of accompanying the reinvention and digital transformation of organizations.
The company continues its expansion around the world and in regions of the countries where it already operates. “We just opened in Bariloche, in Tierra del Fuego; we are doing the same in other countries, we opened in Viña del Mar, in Cali (in addition to Medellin and Bogota), we have offices in Monterrey (in addition to Guadalajara and Mexico). We are going to these places because we believe that people like to live and work in the place where they are”, says Englebienne, who is also president of Endeavor Argentina.
What changes did Globant experience after the pandemic?
There was no before and after. Work distribution is an essential part of the changes we have seen this year and Globant has been working that way for a long time. But the pandemic, which is like a tsunami that sweeps everything away, meant that many companies that were trying unsuccessfully to surf the wave of digital and cognitive transformation failed to get on board. It threw them against the shore and they found themselves saying, “I’ve got a lot of things left to do and change was coming in earnest, now I’m forced to do it.” And that finds Globant at an ideal time. We are a player with a very important reputation and caliber for this moment. Customers are looking for solutions that are much faster, smarter and allow them to execute this digital transformation much faster than they would have anticipated. All of this translates into a lot of growth for Globant throughout the pandemic.
Was this inability to ride the wave related to mismanaged resources?
Every organization generates habits in their business, these habits know, scale, and perfect. It is very difficult, therefore, to look at other operating models. For a long time you say: “No, this is not a business that interests me”, then new players appear. Then they jump in late and they do it without the integrity that comes with being passionate about an idea and being able to execute it with the dynamism that entrepreneurs put into it.
And who wins: the one who embraces technology faster or the one who does it better?
Today technology is changing everything. Embracing it instead of denying change is fundamental. Now, what opportunities to explore within this almost infinite universe has to be at the intersection of those things that our brand and our strengths as a company have given us. We talk a lot about looking at reinventing organizations and I think you have to do an introspection and really try to see what you’re good at, what you have an advantage in, and what should be an embarrassment if an entrepreneur comes along and beats you.
It’s quite an exercise...
It’s an important leadership exercise. I am sure that many CEOs know the need for this change, but when they go down one or two steps within the organization, they find that the organization is willing to do the same as it has always done. So, you have to somehow hack the whole middle management. Give a lot of autonomy to these teams and be able to form others around new initiatives, trying to reduce the strings.
Can all organizations reinvent themselves?
Some time ago I was speaking to an audience and I asked them how many would bet a US$100 bill that the state-owned oil company could lead space exploration. Nobody bet that bill. I followed that up by asking them, “Well, let’s imagine now that it’s Amazon that does it.” And then several hands started to appear. It’s crazy, because the oil company has been in transportation, energy; however Amazon until not so long ago was an online book seller. So I think we have to conclude that organizations, which are nurtured by the same people as others, think, act and therefore have different results. It is in certain attributes of the organization how to generate that habit of disruption, to encourage change, to celebrate that change and to celebrate mistakes.
And what opportunities did Globant find for those for whom the future of work is a reality?
One of them has to do with this acceleration in the need to do things. Going digital but much faster. We believe that the future of organizations lies in increasing the capacity of each member of the organization through the use of artificial intelligence (AI). Five years ago we decided that 100% of the people in Globant had to be trained so that, at least, they could identify that in certain tasks they were doing, artificial intelligence could be applied. Today we have technology that allows our developers to program much faster, with much safer codes, thanks to the fact that they have an AI that is watching what they are doing and is proposing a code that has been reviewed by their peers, according to the company’s standards. We work with AI to design, to test, even to amplify humanity within our organization. That is the essence of generating human capital, connections, a strong social fabric that retains people and that social capital that allows you to move within the organization.
What about new developments?
Everything we have been working on shows us that Globant is growing a lot. And on the other hand, we are at a point of thought leadership on how to make these transformations that allows us to sit at the table with CEOs of large global companies. They are needing, not just to develop products, but to be digital, to move with technology as if it were a tango.
Is there an implicit mission to break with the idea that technology has arrived to capture human jobs?
We believe that AI is going to improve each one of us. Denying technological change and wanting to protect the status quo is not the best recipe for staying relevant ten years from now. Now I think we are going to another next step, which is the digital transformation of societies: the mobility of talent, new educational models, new labor relations. You should think a lot about these upcoming changes. Perhaps the danger is not knowing very well and, because of not knowing, trying to regulate and cover everything up.
Do you think there is a lack of support from the educational system or from the government?
Definitely. People are realizing that the traditional educational offer does not have the necessary dynamism to be able to adapt to what is coming. This year we launched an initiative called Certified Tech Developer together with Mercado Libre and Digital House and we had tens of thousands of applicants throughout the region. This, It is important that the education system works hard to help children to think about their career and about the world that is coming. I come from Argentina and in Argentina free public education is like a social mandate: “I finish high school and I know I will go to university”. But many kids finish school without knowing what to study and that is a waste of effort and resources.
Talking about you is also talking about Endeavor Argentina, about entrepreneurship. How do you see the current entrepreneurial ecosystem?
We believe that there is nothing better than a crisis to start an entrepreneurial venture. This was the case for Globant. There are big losers and there are big winners in this pandemic. But, in general, for those who are starting out it is a good time to look for opportunities. The pandemic is also going to generate changes in the way we feed ourselves with products and services and that definitely requires a lot of changes. In Argentina in particular, we are seeing a lot of entrepreneurs that are growing, that are super interesting. We have Satellogic that is going public trying to have a constellation of satellites that will allow us to visualize the Earth with a precision of less than one meter with a high frequency. We have entrepreneurs like Ualá that are growing to include a huge amount of population in Latin America. Very important entrepreneurs continue to appear. There is a lot of focus on unicorns, and Argentina has been a cradle of many unicorns, but I like to focus more on all the work that goes into creating these unicorns, which is phenomenal. Latin America needs to start thinking in the long term, to think globally, competitively, innovatively, in assembling teams. Cases such as Mercado Libre, Despegar or Globant are examples of companies that have been able to capture opportunities in a lot of geographies and have done it very well.
What do you think will be the next unicorns?
I think they can definitely be Satellogic, Ualá [editor’s note: the interview was conducted before the last investment round that turned Ualá into a unicorn], Etermax, Mural, Technisys, Onapsis. They are all in good shape to become unicorns.