Founder and CEO
When Lucid sold to Swedish tech firm the Cint Group in late October for $1.1 billion, the event capped an extraordinary year for the New Orleans tech scene. Following on the heels of earlier high-dollar merger/acquisitions, Lucid became the city’s first “unicorn,” the popular term for companies that sell for $1 billion or more – and attract international attention in the process.
Founded by Patrick Comer in 2010, Lucid is fundamentally an online market data gathering firm. Its services enable customers in such diverse fields as major retailers, polling firms and academia to receive information from and about their constituencies, primarily via direct surveys. These surveys have now reached more than 437 million respondents, from 110 countries, who have collectively answered over 135 billion questions.
Lucid offers related services to help its clients analyze and understand the data they gather. This includes market insights and trends, understanding customers and their needs, and gauging media and advertising impacts.
Originally named Federated Sample, the company received an initial round of investment to the tune of $2.5 million in 2011. Participating in the Idea Village’s entrepreneur programs – despite losing the annual competition in 2012 – raised the profile and capacities of both Comer and the firm, and rapid growth ensued. By 2017, Lucid was the name and global expansion was the game, with offices distributed as far away as London, Delhi and Sydney. A new round of fundraising brought in $60 million, enabling the company to add 100 new employees.
At the time of the acquisition, Lucid had more than 550 employees around the world, including 130 in New Orleans. Revenues through the first three quarters of the year exceeded $80 million. Following the sale of the company, the present owners will have 17% ownership of the Cint Group, and Comer is expected to become chairman of the Cint board of directors.
His advice to a new tech start-up: Go ahead and do it! The biggest failure is failure to try. Make that first attempt, take that first at-bat. Get in the game.
His big thought for 2022: Since the merger, I get asked all the time if I’m staying. Why do people always assume that if you’re successful, you’re going to leave? We’re going to change that paradigm. I’m dug in like a tick. Because of these sales, we have $600 to $700 million in capital coming back into the economy. And it’s not just in the hands of a few people, there are probably 300 families on the receiving end. That’s transformative for them, they can pay off student loans, mortgages, get out of debt. Now we have the money and the means to do things locally that you couldn’t do before. New Orleans is special, let’s build it!
On what gives him optimism about New Orleans and the “Silicon Bayou:” I get excited about what’s possible. People and institutions have been working for 20 years to transform the innovation economy here, and this year validates that work. This will bring more jobs, more opportunities, more capital reinvestment.
It’s taken 20 years for this first turn of the flywheel, but I think the next companies to turn over were probably started five years ago, two years ago or even more recently. I think we are only a few years out from the next wave. We have proven to the world that we can grow these companies. The quality of the companies going into the accelerator programs is going up. I see companies raising hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s going to happen.
On the past year
It’s been an amazing growth year for the business, with new services and new customers. It’s been exciting because we were able to structure the merger.
On what he is most proud of
I’m really proud of our ability to navigate COVID-19. We all had to be more empathetic, more real about our mutual humanity. It was great to see the team come together, support each other and still deliver outstanding business results.
On the biggest challenges during the pandemic
Being truly remote was the biggest challenge. We have offices in Delhi, London, Prague, New York, Sydney. That’s a lot of time zones. None of those offices are yet truly full time. But it also became our biggest opportunity, we really became a global company overnight. Zoom made everything more democratic, more approachable. We could have conversations with more people globally, connect with more customers.
On what concerns him about New Orleans
People think that our challenges are too big, that no one else has them, but they exist everywhere. My biggest concern is that people will stop believing in an exceptional New Orleans. Wherever I go in the world, New Orleans is one of the few cities where people either want to visit or tell me about how much they loved it when they did visit. The rest of the world believes New Orleans is special, but do we? Are you going to denigrate New Orleans or dig in on how we can improve things?
On business leadership
Sometimes I think I know less and less every year. But all leaders have learned how hard leadership is since COVID-19. You will be second-guessed on every decision. I like the concept of servant leadership, serving the community, the employees. It’s less about me and more what can we do together, how can I support where you are going. The more employees you have, the more the success of the business is in their hands and the less in the CEO’s hands.
On what is behind the recent flurry of purchases of New Orleans tech firms
At this time, the market is hot for public companies globally, and capital is cheap. And all these things that we started working on about ten years ago are starting to come together. We started working with the Idea Village in 2011, I think Levelset joined in the next year. This created support for the companies, built their scale, attracted investment, generated other local support. And after 10 years, you have investors who want to realize their return, want to get out.