+32 473 903091 info@xantopia.net

A New Year,
A New Website

Happy New Year!!

It’s been 6 and a half years now since I launched Xantopia—and since then, a lot has happened. On a personal level I made new best friends, some of them I now proudly call ‘family’. They are the contant beacon of life, warmth and love in my life. Some other friends are either just out of sight, not necessarily out of heart…others…no more. During these celebration days, my mind can’t help wandering a thought or two on these latter friends, whom I dearly and genuinely miss.

From a business point of view, a lot has changed as well. 9-10 years ago, I was an executive, uprising star in sales and sales/regional management, and would dream of one day becoming a C-E-O from a large enterprise. Funny how life spins you in all kinds of directions and finally gets you to your destination. At least for now.

When I started Xantopia, right after the 2008-crisis, the vision was that US-based companies that had seen some traction in their home markets would turn to Europe to seek additional revenues and thus would need a ‘first sales person’ to handle their local leads. Having had some experience in working in Silicon Valley, CA just a few years before, I knew the American mind-set quite well and — despite recognising some clear differences — could/can fairly well cope with their business attitude. Thus the mission was to find these US scale-ups and praise my experiences to them, highlighting my knowledge of the sales process, the EMEA market, and several spoken languages to support the local markets.

What I got back from my initial outbound calls was surprising at the time. First, there’s a lot of me-s out there. There are a lot of great people that are actively seeking a ‘first sales person’ role for US companies, and they have—some somewhat more than others—experience to back them up. Secondly, when US companies expand to Europe, they actually mostly expand to the United Kingdom, to a market they see as familiar. Being based in Belgium is clearly not an advantage. Thirdly, not knowing the specifics legislation from European markets, US tend to want to put that person on a pay-role, feeling the new employee would much more be committed to the company. Lastly, I still did not have any references as Xantopia.

Me 2000
me 2006
me, 2014
me, 2016

My ‘content/event’ pictures, from corporate to start-up, anno 2000, 2006, 2014, 2015.

Photographs property of Yves Delongie

Not surprisingly, I got my first assignment from a company, outside the US, from Utrecht, NL, where I was to head up business development worldwide. When that company was sold, I went back prospecting to the US…to get a next assignment in Ghent, BE (My home town) to head up sales in EMEA. As this was basically a start-up account executive role, and seeing things moving forwards scarily slow, I kept reaching out to US companies.

And in 2011, I got my first break: a company out of Atlanta, GA was seeking a managing director to head up customer-facing activities in EMEA. This role would allow me to put my hands around territory management, product, sales, marketing, support and foremost be able to handle all local business quite independently. Something that was rarely seen in US business, much to my CEO’s credit and experience on how to run very very large organisations world-wide. What he thought me—among many many many things—was that it was my responsibility, in my drive to bringing US business to Europe, to educate US leaders NOT to expand just sales, but to install a proper customer-facing process that will meet local customer journeys, from marketing to customer success. To even drop the assignment, if things could not be done the right way…

“Boy, you are old-fashion. Is this how you think you will run my business?”

In december 2012, something else happened that would change the course of Xantopia. I was invited to San Francisco to have a chat with the CEO from a then upcoming, yet already highly visible SaaS security company, to potentially head EMEA Enterprise operations. I had met with some of his regional European directors, and was asked to provide a go-to-maket presentation at HQ in California. With full confidence, and packing 10 years of experience in that presentation, I went ahead and gave it my best. The meeting lasted 2 hours, and was ended with the words “Boy, you are old-fashion. Is this how you think anno 2012 you will be running my business? You better get back up to your game…” and I was sent back home. Needless to say I was dumbfounded… Had I been doing all the wrong things in these past years? Might this France-born 15-years-older CEO be wrong about his assessment, although having himself been very successful in running and selling his previous companies? I had to find out for myself.

During the following 4 years, I would many times reflect back on that meeting and on how right he was. What I learned is that the view I had presented and that I had experienced to be true during the 90’s and 2000’s, with the market, sales, channel, and customer support processes that were true during that period, would not necessarily be the right thing to do in a new Internet age which allowed for a much directer and optimal customer facing approach. What I foremost learned, is that, while relying on past experience has some merits sometimes, it represents a diminished aspect of the task ahead in respect to the assessment requirements needed—each time again and again—to achieving a proper product/market fit, a suited go-to-market strategy, a well-understood customer journey, etc…

Left: A New Years party at Internet Security Systems, prior to IBM’s acquisition, 2004.
Right: Attending a vendor’s workgroup conference about the Internet of Things, hosted at Google Campus, 2011.

Photographs property of Yves Delongie

About the author

Yves Delongie, founder Xantopia

Yves loves to write about his passion in developing and leading start-up/scale-up businesses towards sustainable growth.

Since then, with each new assignment I was fortunate to be involved in, I made sure the whole go-to-market expansion process and organisational need was correctly understood, approved, mandated and budgeted by the client, prior to accepting the assignment. Additionally, I also made sure there was room to properly assess the customer journey, see if our educated assumptions were actually baring fruit, and would change course if I felt needed (and again — budgeted). Since then, I kindly declined assignment offers, if I didn’t feel the circumstances to be favourable for succes, or in particular if I wouldn’t find the client considerate in granting the correct mandate to make necessary changes.

In fact, I developed such passion for growing start-ups/scale-ups to sustainable growth—to a point where processes, investments and revenues are streamlined towards meeting agreed strategic objectives, resulting in profitability and/or increased shareholder value—that this has become the new mission for Xantopia. This is supported from a vision that with the uprise of new start-ups during the last 5 years, basically anywhere in the world, those seeing initial home-growth will soon seek hands-on guidance from those of us who have been [internationally] growing similar businesses before…

And strengthen by that believe, and obviously respecting signed confidentiality agreements, and people’s privacy and anonymity, I’ve also decided to maintain this blog of best practices and anecdotes, sharing my field experience to those willing to read. I hope I will find time and be perseverant enough to do a great job at it. Thanks for reading…and happy New Year!

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