Laurent Couillard, CEO, Dassault Exalead: Exclusive Interview

June 28, 2011

Exalead caught my attention many years ago. Exalead’s Cloudview approach allowed licensees to tap into Exalead’s traditional Web and enterprise functions via on premises installations, a cloud implementation, or a hybrid approach. Today, a number of companies are working to offer these options. Exalead’s approach is stable and provides a licensee with platform flexibility as well as mobile search, mash ups, and inclusion of Exalead technology into existing enterprise applications. For organizations fed up with seven figure licensing fees for content processing systems that “never seem to arrive”, Exalead has provided a fresh approach.

Exalead provides high-performance search and semantic processing to organizations worldwide. Exalead specializes in taking a company’s data “from virtually any source, in any format” and transforming it into a search-enabled application. The firm’s technology, Exalead CloudView, represents the implementation of next-generation computing technology available for on-premises installation and from hosted or cloud services. Petascale content volume and mobile support are two CloudView capabilities. Exalead’s architecture makes integration and customization almost friction-free. The reason for the firm’s surge in the last two years has been its push into the enterprise with its search-based applications.

The idea of an enterprise application built upon a framework that can seamlessly integrate structured and unstructured data is one of the most important innovations in enterprise search. Only Google, Microsoft, and Exalead can boast commercial books about their search and content processing technology.

In 2010, Exalead’s market success triggered action on the part of one of the world’s leading engineering firms, Dassault Systèmes. Instead of licensing Exalead’s technology, the firm acquired Exalead and aggressively expanded the firm’s research, development, and marketing activities. Exalead’s approach enables more than 300 organizations to break the chains of the “key word search box” and has provided Dassault with a competitive advantage in next-generation information processing. In addition to mobile and rich media processing, Exalead is working to present integrated displays of real time information that add value to a wide range of business functions. These include traditional engineering to finding a restaurant on an iPhone.

Couillard Exalead

Laurent Couillard, Chief Dassault Exalead

With the purchase of Exalead, Dassault appointed Laurent Couillard as Exalead’s chief executive officer. Mr. Couillard joined Dassault Systèmes as an application engineer in 1996, most recently serving as Vice-President Sales and Distribution for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In that post, he played a central role in the sales transformation of 3DS, establishing a powerful reseller channel for all PLM brands and contracting with more than 140 companies. As CEO of EXALEAD, his mission is to accelerate the market penetration of applications based on search technologies. Mr. Couillard holds an M.S. from Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace, a preeminent institution  in Toulouse, France.

I asked him what was capturing his attention. He told me:

We are devoting more energy to developing packaged business applications or SBAs built on this foundation. That’s a mission right up my alley. And I intend to apply all my experience in sales and partner network development to this mission as well. That’s my charge from Dassault: To use my dual technology/sales background to develop Exalead and to penetrate new markets with SBAs, while preserving all the qualities that make Exalead so unique in this market. I’m fortunate to be in a position to leverage the full knowledge, resources, geographical coverage and expertise of the Dassault group to make this happen.

I probed for the reasons behind Dassault’s purchase of Exalead in 2010, a move which caught many analysts by surprise. He said:

Dassault saw first-hand how search-based applications based on Exalead’s systems and methods solved some of its clients’ long-standing, mission-critical business challenges quickly, painlessly and inexpensively. Dassault’s management understood–based on technical, financial, and performance facts—that Exalead’s search-based applications were a prime reason why search was, and is forecast to remain, an exceptional performer in the information technology software market. Because Dassault was seeking to diversify its content processing offerings, search in general and search based applications technology in particular were obviously an appealing choice. Dassault is, therefore, developing SBAs as one of its three core activities.

We discussed the challenges facing most of the traditional key word search and content processing systems. He noted:

You have to remember Exalead’s always understood search is sometimes something you do, and other times something you consume. In other words, sometimes it’s a search text box, and sometimes it’s the silent enabler beneath a business application, or even an entire information ecosystem.

You can read the full text of my interview with Mr. Couillard in the Search Wizards Speak collection. The interview is located at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, June 28, 2011

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