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Dec 20, 2023

From Developer to CEO: The Inspiring Story of Kevin Moore And The Culture at Vooban

by Vooban


Because nothing beats first-hand information, we met Vooban's CEO and founder, Kevin Moore, to get the real story out of him. How did he make the leap from developer to CEO of a 130-strong company? How did he manage to instill a strong corporate culture and maintain it despite the company's growth? What is his strategic vision for the future? Does he think AI will destroy us all? Check out the article to learn all about it!

Training and beginnings

Did you know that as soon as Kevin finished his DEC in IT in 2001, he started an internship in Panama for the World Development Bank? It was after returning from this enriching experience, armed with his hard drives, that he launched his first company, Éclipse Technologies. Kevin now recognizes that his early attempt at entrepreneurship was bound to fail; he was young, undervalued his work, and didn't know how to sell. For instance, he once provided software solutions that took months to create for as little as $5,000! And that, of course, included post-delivery modifications...

At some point, he realized his business model was unsustainable and sold the company. He agreed to continue working with the new owner, who eventually sold to a larger company. Although he initially wanted to continue working for them, he ultimately quit because their offices were too far from his home. He then joined DMR (now Fujitsu) to work in research and development for Canada's defence industry, where he stayed for 7 years.

*Fun fact: At the time, the recruiter at DMR threw out Kevin Moore's CV because his name, combined with the fact that he had inadvertently written on his CV that he only spoke English, conjured up an old quibble between French and English speakers... Ah, the Quebec of the 2000s!

Then, life being what it is, Kevin was hired elsewhere. This was a place where he was to start a big project for which he had recruited developers from among his former DMR colleagues. However, contracts were taking a long time to be signed, and a spark finally lit up in Kevin.

If he had the resources, the employees and the contacts, why not try his luck at starting his own business again? It was around this time that the idea of Vooban began to develop among friends over many beers.



Let's start by addressing the unusual word that serves as the company's name. What was the reasoning behind this choice? Kevin, along with his friends and developers involved in creating Vooban, sought a word that would relate to defence, given their collective experience in this field. They also wanted a word that would represent Quebec City, where they all resided.

After much research, they finally stumbled upon a French historical figure, Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, whose work as a defence engineer inspired the plans for the current Citadel of Quebec. However, the name Vauban was already taken by an architectural firm. So, they slightly modified the appellation by adding two "O"s and the problem was solved!

Fun fact: According to Kevin, choosing a word that no one can pronounce as a company name isn't such a good idea! He recalls that once, when Vooban had just won a Company of the Year award, he was getting ready to go on stage to give a speech, only to realize that someone was already there! The person must have heard what he wanted to hear when the host butchered the word Vooban into the microphone...

Vooban started as an IT consultancy. As time went by, they started signing IT projects. Their success led to even bigger customers wanting to collaborate with them. In 2017, the consulting portion of the business ended to make way for IT development.

The company's focus isn't the only thing that's changed. In fact, the logo has been through quite an adventure, too! Initially, it was green and had a design that evoked the citadel of Quebec City. Over the years, it was simplified to only feature the "V"; its colour was changed to blue and eventually took the shape we recognize today.

Vooban is celebrating its 13th anniversary this year. What started as a small team of developers has grown into a company with 130 employees working across Quebec City and Montreal. Over the years, Vooban has evolved remarkably and now specializes in applying artificial intelligence to businesses.

Vooban has recently welcomed its first investor, and not the least, the CDPQ. What's the difference an investor makes? Firstly, it brings money into the company's treasury, thus propelling its growth. But above all, what makes Vooban's case unique is that, by opening the doors of their investment portfolio to them, the CDPQ has secured a reliable partner to help the other companies in which it has invested to automate and become more productive.

Vooban's unique corporate culture

Why is Vooban so cool? Employees from the early days still marvel at the fact that, when they arrived, the company culture was already strongly present and has been preserved over time. Where does it come from? What's the secret of its longevity?

While working at DMR, Kevin was surrounded by highly motivated developers who were passionate about their work. Despite the demanding nature of their jobs, no one ever walked into the office backward. Above all, they enjoyed working together. It was this relaxed yet performance-oriented atmosphere that Kevin wanted to recreate.

We can't talk about culture without mentioning the Vooban Principles book. While reading up on the subject, Kevin quickly came across a few books that resonated with him and captured his vision effectively, such as "Principles" by Ray Dalio.

The writer of this book, who is also a business owner, used to question himself every time something didn't work in his team. He then wrote down the lesson he learned in the form of a principle. Kevin later extracted the principles that suited the ways of operating he wanted to pursue at Vooban. As a result, he compiled a book that contains 169 principles. This book is systematically given to every new employee who joins Vooban.

Okay, but how do you keep the corporate culture intact when a company expands from 10 to 130 employees? Well, the answer is simple: we take care of our people. Not only does Vooban offer outstanding employment benefits, but it also invests a considerable amount in activities that promote employee bonding.

Interview processes to get into the company are long because recruiters are very careful about choosing people, not just skills. We're talking about 3 to 4 interviews and a technical test.

As a matter of fact, here's an interview tip from the CEO: "Come prepared, have fun and be yourself because, at Vooban, nobody pretends. We'll take you as you are, with all your quirks, as long as you're successful in your field and your values align with ours. Oh, and be prepared to answer questions like this: If I teleport you 400 years into the past and the only way to get back to the present is to convince people you're from the future, how do you handle that?"

After selecting the right candidates, Vooban makes every effort to retain them. A crucial aspect of this retention strategy is providing employees with constructive feedback. One of the company's core values is "we tell each other the truth". And it works both ways! Vooban believes in being receptive to employee feedback and acknowledging their concerns rather than burying their heads in the sand!

The burning question

As CEO of an artificial intelligence company, Kevin has a somewhat mixed view of AI's influence in the future. On one hand, he can't deny the productivity miracles AI has created. On the other hand, he recognizes that it will create societal challenges. Some people will become super-productive with AI, while others will be overwhelmed and eventually replaced because they won't be able to keep up.

He believes that over the next 5 to 10 years, we will witness an industrial revolution comparable in scale to the one that occurred in the 1900s. These changes may cause even more significant global inequalities and could even lead to conflicts. Some countries are investing heavily in artificial intelligence without proper regulation. This is risky in many respects, but it is also faster.

And if we go too fast, if there are no more jobs left and no one is working anymore, the very foundations of the economy will have to change. Is our society even prepared for that?

To sum up, Kevin acknowledges that Vooban will play a pivotal role in the coming years to impact its clients significantly. The company needs to act as a catalyst for the 4.0 shift that is vital for today's businesses.