AppDirect Buys Y Combinator Grad Leftronic for Data Dashboards

AppDirect, whose technology helps run online marketplaces where companies such as Staples and Samsung sell Web-based services, said today it has acquired San Francisco-based data visualization company Leftronic.

No price was disclosed for the purchase of Leftronic, which provides data dashboards on which businesses can monitor their progress. A 2010 graduate of Y Combinator’s venture incubator program, Leftronic allows users to customize their own dashboard displays by arranging widgets across a page. Businesses can pull in data generated by the software they use, such as Google Analytics, Amazon Web Services, and Zendesk. Seeing key metrics side by side allows companies to spot relationships between their various activities, such as the way sales and marketing affect customer support, says Leftronic co-founder and CEO Rajiv Ghanta.

One of the first customers for Leftronic’s early prototypes was Y Combinator founder Paul Graham, who set up a dashboard at the accelerator program to display data derived from technology news site Hacker News, Ghanta says. That exposure helped the startup make a name, and attract customers, within the big network of Y Combinator grads, he says.

“We achieved profitability in two years, then focused on growth,” Ghanta says. Leftronic’s customers include Cisco, Nike, and Vodafone. “We were doing just fine when AppDirect knocked on our door.”

The deal they struck unites two San Francisco companies whose services piggyback on the growing market for cloud-based business apps such as Google Adwords, Dropbox, and Basecamp.

AppDirect’s co-CEO Daniel Saks says his company was hatched in a San Francisco apartment in 2009, at the height of the recession.

“Businesses were struggling to be more productive and effective,” Saks says. Cloud software such as Box and Microsoft’s office productivity products had not achieved mass adoption, so AppDirect developed a platform to help traditional resellers of boxed software, such as Staples, to become marketers of Web-based services bought by subscription.

AppDirect customers (like Staples) operate marketplaces where businesses can find and buy apps. Through the app marketplaces, buyers can use a single sign-on process to access all the apps they use. The marketplaces can also take over billing, sending buyers a single bill to cover multiple app subscriptions.

With the Leftronic acquisition, AppDirect can also offer businesses the option to collect the data produced by each of their apps, and display it on a custom dashboard to track performance and inform decision-making.

“I think this will be a huge differentiator for AppDirect,” Saks says. AppDirect is trying to offer a more comprehensive Web delivery platform than other companies managing app marketplaces. These include the Google Application Marketplace, Salesforce Appexchange, and the Apple App Store, as well as Santa Clara, CA-based Jamcracker and Renton, WA-based Parallels.

Leftronic and AppDirect are now incorporating each other’s features into their offerings to customers. Leftronic’s four-member team will join AppDirect’s staff of about 200, but Leftronic will also continue to serve customers independently under its own name.

Saks says AppDirect is paying for its new acquisition through a combination of cash, stock, and incentive payments. He wouldn’t say where the total price falls on the range of other Y Combinator exits, such as the $43 million paid by Green Dot for social mapping company Loopt in 2012, and the $970 million Amazon.com laid out in August to buy video-game broadcasting site Twitch.

But Saks gave a small hint about the payout Leftronic is receiving.

“It’s a significant enough acquisition to consider it a success,” Saks says.

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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