It's a world of proliferating cloud services and applications out there right now, with dozens and dozens of useful cloud applications available to companies. However, with that proliferation, it's getting harder and harder to connect enterprise applications and other cloud apps with everything else. That's where Denver's Cloud Elements (www.cloud-elements.com) comes into the picture. The company recently raised $3.1M to bring its vision of connecting developers to all kinds of cloud services from Grotech Ventures and Icon Venture Partners. We spoke with Mark Geene, CEO of the company, about what the vision for Cloud Elements.
Explain what Cloud Elements does?
Mark Geene: Cloud Elements is a new breed of integration platform-as-a-service. Essentially, what we do is help developers make applications that cooperate with cloud services that their customers are using. Companies are buying applications, and want them to work with things like Salesforce, Workday, or Quickbooks, or maybe the have important data in Dropbox or Box. We help developers make their applications cooperate with a lot of those cloud services, very easily and cost effectively.
Why do they need your services, and why don't they just code directly to those apps?
Mark Geene: With the proliferation of cloud services at the application, SaaS, and platform service level, all of those services have their own APIs and data structures. Because of that mass proliferation of those applications, it's become difficult to keep up with all the things you need to do to integrate to those services. That's what we do. We allow developers to focus on building core application functionality, and give them a platform that integrates with an entire category of service provider, whether that's a CRM tool, document services, or whatever else they need to have their application connect to. We allow them to avoid doing every single one of those services as a one-off. Typically, an application as it matures has to integrate with a dozen or more other applications or services in the cloud. The other thing driving this, is as there has been a proliferation of services in the cloud, companies have users who want whatever they're buying to work together. So as new companies and new apps enter the market, they have to have a way to work with the entire existing ecosystem of services out there, otherwise companies won't buy their product.
Talk a little bit about your background?
Mark Geene: This is my third startup. The first one I was part of was Tenfold, which we took public. The last one, Channel Insight, grew to become the largest aggregator of point-of-sale and inventory data in the world. As part of that, we had to connect to thousands of different resellers, partners, and systems, and all of their accounting systems and CRM systems. So we experienced this problem ourselves as a SaaS applicatoin provider, and having to make it work with all these different things. We spent more time building integrations and mantaining them, than we did working on our core functionality. I decided there must be an opportunity here for a tool to fix that, and I founded Cloud Elements.
Where is the company now in terms of product availability?
Mark Geene: We launched eighteen months ago, and now we have customers in the hundreds. It's grown very rapidly. We actually already at 25 employees, and we've been self funded through that process. We've been focused on getting product out to market, and just cloud our Series A funding.
It seems like you actually grew to quite a few employees well before your first funding. Why is that?
Mark Geene: We have been experienced in building companies, and one of the things I wanted to do was self fund this until we really had a clear product market fit. We are really lean startup disciples. Once we had the market fit in place, we looked at that and decided we wanted to have more capital to accelerate our sales and marketing. It's not about figuring out our product, it's about working to get it deployed in the market. That's why we're a bit more advanced than the typical Series A investment.
Your product is a bit behind the scenes compared to the typical mobile and social apps popular with investors nowadays. How was raising money for you?
Mark Geene: It happens there are some areas in the enterprise which are particularly hot sectors right now. One of them is actually this, which is the integration platform-as-a-service sector. It's one of the fastest growing areas in the cloud, helping to make cloud stuff work together. That's really played in our favor. It's created interest in what we've been doing from early on. We're oneof the really early entrants into this new breed of the API economy that is developing. Everything now, from products to the internet of things, to applications, have an API, and we're creating tools that help developers rationalize and manage those more effectively when connecting things together.
Finally, what's next on your radar?
Mark Geene: The next thing we're going to add is a lot more connections and integrations. What our platform is about, is making things work together. We are going to more than double the size of our integration library between now and the end of the year, and will accelerate the process, and give our customers more and more options to help them keep up with all those things to connect to.