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The 'Bill Gates of Belgium': Odoo entrepreneur Fabien Pinckaers on the business lessons he's learned

09:15 27/07/2019

Dubbed the Bill Gates of Belgium, Limal-born Fabien Pinckaers created and sold his first management software aged just 13. His company Odoo now employs 580 people. 

Is your goal still to be the world’s most widely used management software?

Yes. We’ve built an amazing product and service, used by 4 million users worldwide. However, I still think we are only at the beginning and there are a lot of things to do. Most companies are still largely inefficient in the way they operate. We have done a lot to improve their situation, but there are so many more areas to improve.

What else interests you?

Keeping the great company culture while we grow and focusing on having happy customers and employees. These things didn’t interest me in the early years but now they have become my secondary focus.  

How do you keep fuelling your motivation?

I always have been motivated by building a product that can have an impact for its users. That hasn’t changed. The difference now is that I am more focused than when I was young. I developed a lot of different products then. Now, the target is more narrow – to help SMEs grow by making them more efficient. 

What’s the best advice you ever took?

Just do it. Success is all about execution and moving forward every week.

How do you like to spend non-work time?

I think about work, even during non-working time. Mostly because I don’t feel like it’s work. Building something to help millions of employees to work better is way more interesting than most entertainment activity. 

What’s the most memorable quote you keep in mind?

I remember an Oracle vice president of sales at a conference in Paris around 2003. When he got a question about MySQL and other open source databases, his answer was dismissive: “Open source? You are talking about this 0 billion dollar market?” He was right at the time: the market of open source databases was only worth around €100 million. But in the years that followed, MySQL and PostgreSQL ‘stole’ millions of Oracle users. Then in 2009, Oracle purchased Sun, the owner of MySQL, for $7.4 billion. It reminds me that, while we grow, we should never underestimate the smaller players. Actually, the young start-ups usually execute more quickly, with more interesting and innovative ideas than established players. Today, I still spend a lot of my time testing software from the competition in order to learn from their key features.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt?

We can do everything, but it takes time. 

This article was first published in the Wab magazine

Written by WAB magazine


Frank Lee

Comparing Pinckars to Gates is insulting. Did Pinckaers succeed because his dad offered him a juicy contract? Did Pinckaers drop out of college? Did Pinckaers steal ideas from others and present them as original ideas (remember when "windows" copied Xerox software or when their OS could finally multitask after every other OS was doing that already, wow, you can print a page AND save a file at the same time, amazing!)? The only thing they have in common is the age at which they started writing code. Other than that, there is no comparison.

Jul 28, 2019 18:01