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Silicon Valley startups pitch to solve next-generation business IT problems

We visit Silicon Valley to meet some of the emerging tech companies focusing on enterprise IT

Silicon Valley is incubating young companies set up to solve some of the problems emerging in the wake of the cloud-based modernisation of enterprise IT.

One such supplier is Anaplan – which is set on breaking large companies from using Excel for financial planning and sales operations. The firm seems to be gathering momentum, with revenue growth of 134% for the first half of its fiscal year ending in January 2016.

Its chief executive officer, Frederic Laluyaux, said SAP, Oracle and IBM “have not delivered” a simplification of how IT enables business processes, specifically financial and sales planning. He said the advent and growth of cloud computing should have made this possible. He said the technology from these companies will not deliver in future either – despite statements to the contrary – because they are so wedded to their own on-premise enterprise software.

“They have all failed on their promise to deliver usable, scalable and affordable software. People want to be able to test on a small scale and deploy at their own pace. The days of having to spend tens of millions of dollars to fix something in enterprise software are over," said Laluyaux.

“The old suppliers want to monetise every aspect of their intellectual property. We don’t believe in that. Rather, we prefer people to get together and create their own models on our platform.

“The older suppliers fail from both a technology and a business perspective. There is a new generation of decision-makers sick of the old model.

“Any supplier following the old model is in trouble. The old companies are buying up companies who are in the cloud, true, but their basic approach is, ‘My database is bigger and faster than yours,’ and that is old thinking. They are trying to do everything in a closed model – and so they will not be able to cope.”

DataDog snaps at the heels of IBM, BMC and HP

DataDog is a New York software-as-a-service monitoring company. Founder and CEO Olivier Pomel said that, as companies move to cloud environments, the established services in the field – from companies such as IBM Tivoli, CA Nagios, HP OpenView and BMC Solar Winds – are no longer difficult to displace.

He said the scale and diversity of cloud applications is now generating management headaches for user organisations in relation to the “large collections of different databases” they have. He said his company has 1,500 corporate customers. It is backed by San Francisco and Europe-based venture capital firm Index Ventures, and the company is now looking at expading into the Emea region.

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It will soon open a research and development (R&D) office in France, taking advantage of the country’s strong higher education tradition in engineering. Pomel is himself a product of the Ecole Centrale Paris, as is chief technology officer Alexis Le-Quoc. The R&D lab will be located in Paris’s “Silicon Sentier” quarter.

“Paris is home to prestigious universities and engineering schools, which generate top-notch maths, sciences and software engineering talent”. He said the plan is to get to 50 people in the Paris centre as soon as possible.

Synata: Enterprise search built for the age of cloud

Patrick White, chief executive officer of five-person San Franciscan startup Synata, is building his company on an area which, he said, has only recently become fertile ground for a new venture – enterprise search. He said a resurgence of corporate IT interest in best-of-breed technologies, and the growing strength of cloud applications, had created favourable conditions for a technology category undermined – in the eyes of venture capital investors – by the controversy around HP’s ill-fated acquisition of Cambridge company Autonomy. He said the debacle had “poisoned the well of enterprise search”.

Synata’s technology – based on a proprietary graph-analysis algorithm – aims at the real-time integrative search of data sources, such as email and other documents, created with both Microsoft and Google applications. It runs against Box, Google Apps, Office 365, SharePoint, Atlassian products, Dropbox, Salesforce and Zendesk.

“We aim at being the Switzerland of enterprise software,” he said, referring to his company maintaining neutrality in the face of the competition between Microsoft, Google and other large technology companies.

“Our platform aggregates and indexes data from across enterprise services, both in the cloud and behind the firewall. Not only do we support traditional search features, we also promote collaboration by suggesting relevant content to people from around their organisation,” he said.

He said his company’s technology  promotes economic productivity by cutting time wasted by such workers as callcentre staff. One of fifty or so customers is a construction firm, which is using Synata’s software for mobility. Another is a technology company in the Bay Area using it in its service function, with ZenDesk, to provide callcentre staff with contextual information.

“It would have been hard to do what we do five years ago”, he added, pointing to a confluence of favourable technology developments, such as the rise of open source big data technologies and cloud. 

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