Trendspotting: Platform Ecosystems
For big enterprise services companies, the hot new trend is having a cloud-hosted platform for third-party applications. These platforms give app developers the resources they need to build, launch, promote, and integrate their apps with other businesses. This not only creates a bundle of exceptional business tools but it also creates a hotbed of savvy entrepreneurs with working solutions looking for partners.
Two of the largest cloud-hosted platforms are Salesforce.com’s AppExchange and the Google Marketplace. These two platforms-as-a-service are prime examples of environments that provide developers the cloud space and necessary tools to build and release their apps rapidly. In turn customers—whether other entrepreneurs, or small or large businesses—can integrate these apps into their own operations simply through the cloud with no downloads required.
In 2007, I met Kirk Krappe, CEO of a small startup called Apttus. Kirk and his two cofounders, Neehar Giri and Nathan Krishnan, had earlier done a venture-funded startup called Nextance. Nextance was an enterprise software company providing contract management software. It raised $60 million in venture capital, and eventually failed. The team then decided to take their domain knowledge and start Apttus as a cloud-based contract management software company.
This time round, they decided to take no venture capital. They chose to build the company on Salesforce.com’s Force.com platform, which kept development costs low. The team was able to bootstrap the company, and within a couple of years, shot to $5 million in revenue.
A cloud-based contract management SaaS, Apttus has launched a thorough “quote-to-cash” offering on the AppExchange. It consists of numerous apps that work together such as Configure Price Quote, Contract Management and Revenue Management to name a few. Users can pick and choose.
Apttus’ CPQ, for example, allows users to complete the entire quote to order phase of their sales process within Salesforce.com. Starting with selecting products, then configuring and pricing them, leveraging up sell and cross sell opportunities, and ending with the generation of a contract that can be approved, negotiated, finalized and signed—it all takes place within the platform.
With over 130 employees, $50 million in revenue and customers such as Google and Delta Airlines, Apttus is now a leader in the quote-to-cash management market.
Another company that has successfully utilized Salesforce.com’s AppExchange to its full potential is San Francisco-based Mansa Systems, founded by Siva Devaki.
Mansa has launched numerous enterprise solutions within Salesforce, ranging from business data management to marketing to sales. Mansa has already reached over $2 million in revenue.
One of their apps, Cloud Drop, expands file storage space and size limits and enables folder hierarchies to better manage storage on Salesforce.com. The big players in the Cloud Storage space are Box and Dropbox and both have Salesforce.com integrations. Other storage apps within the Salesforce.com AppExchange include S-Drive and Appirio Cloud Storage. Mansa’s Cloud Drop differentiates with its unlimited file size capability and its substantially lower price point.
It is a native Salesforce app that leverages Rackspace Cloud Files to store content. With zero limitations, a user can upload a file of any size. Box’s file limit is 5GB and Dropbox’s limit is only 300MB. And whereas Appirio costs over $1,000 a year for 5GB of storage and S-Drive charges $600 yearly for the same capacity, with Cloud Drop that amount of storage would only cost around six bucks.
Cloud Drop also has other features that aren’t available to users of other AppExchange storage options. For example, it provides auto push e-mail attachments: the ability to … Next Page »