Wednesday, November 5, 2014
How Lagrange Systems Is Speeding The World of Web Apps
In today's always-on, instant world, having a slow web site or web application means you lose customers, and money. Boulder-based Lagrange Systems (www.lagrangesystems.com) believes it has the solution to that probelm, with CloudMaestro, its product for delivering applications to users, increasing site speed, and eliminating downtime. We spoke with CEO Ed Roberto, who is an active angel investor here and a TechStars mentor, both about the company and his experience with startups.
What is Lagrange Systems?
Ed Roberto: Lagrange Systems has built, and will continue to build and enhance software that really brings the full promise of the cloud to enterprise customers. What that means, is we allow the enterprise user to host an application in the cloud, and we can create very intelligent traffic management to that application to ensure that the end user gets the best experience they can. As the traffic volume continues to build because of that success, we can dynamically scale the performance of that application in real time, so that users continue to get the best experience they can.
How does this fit into the world of Amazon Web Services and other cloud services providers?
Ed Roberto: Amazon, as a cloud service provider, is representative of a number of public cloud ventures. Google Cloud is one, Microsoft Azure is a third. Those cloud providers offer virtual machines in which you can develop your application. Frankly, they're not very different than what a traditional, data center or hosting company might do. If you look at the use case that is most relevant to us, is the experience of buying products online. If you go to a website to purchase a particular product for Christmas, people will typically disengage from a site if the performance on that site is not adequate, and it takes longer than four seconds for them to see a page. There have been studies done by numerous consulting groups such as Aberdeen, which shows the attention span of consumers is very brief. For every second of additional delay at a website, you run the risk of losing seven percent worth of your conversion rate on the site. You can probably relate to that, because when a site runs slowly, unless you are desperate, you usually just move on, and go to a competitor or change your mind.
What's the market and opportunity here, and who are your customers?
Ed Roberto: Lagrange Systems targets any, web-based application which is absolutely demanding of high availability and high performance. Those are characteristic and critical for any web application, wherever revenue is at risk, and brand reputation is at risk. The first vertical we have focused on as a new company is the e-commerce space. Very specificially in eCommerce, we have focused on the Magento e-commerce platform from eBay. Magento is a very interesting platform, because it has nearly 200,000 customer worldwide. Magento accounts for over 20 billion dollars of e-commerce. Our product is very competitive with solutions from very large companies, like Websphere or ATG from Oracle or Hybris from SAP. We have now closed business with over two dozen customers, who are betting their organization's success on the Magento platform. We're now supporting in excess of sixty websites across the United States, providing high availability and high performance for those websites.
How long have your solutions been available?
Ed Roberto: Lagrange has officially been in business since January of 2012, although we actually first came out of stealth in the second quarter of 2013. We have only been actively selling this product for little less than a year.
As a longtime angel and mentor here, why did you decide to get involved with Lagrange?
Ed Roberto: I have always look at technology as an exciting space to actually go put all of your time and energy into it. It can change the world, if you align yourself with the right kind of technology. Lagrange's business model can be very disruptive, in a positive way. I became very intrigued by the business after I had been part of the team that sold Collective Intelligence to Oracle in 2012. When that transaction came to a conclusion, I was approached by the founders of Lagrange Systems, and we spent about six months talking to each other. I was really struck by the enthusiasm, intellect, and quite frankly the grounded-ness of the founders of Lagrange. They are consummate computer scientists and engineers, with backgrounds from IBM, Cisco, and Wall Street Online. They were very clear in their mind about what they wanted to build, and that they wanted to build a great management team. They wanted to focs on their technology and their intellectual property. I was struck by that, because it's unusual to find technology-based founders who are willing to bring in an outside executive from the get-go. That was a good indicator that they had a great idea and a mature team, and going after a huge market.
What's the biggest lesson you have learned as an angel investor and entrepreneur, and how are you using that here?
Ed Roberto: The people and the culture are paramount. It goes without saying. You have to have great idea that solves a significant opportunity, solves a pain in the market with significant opportunity. And, you can't do that singularly. You must have a team to collaborate with, and you must have the ability to have discourse without rancor. You have to be passionate, and driven, and believe in what you are doing. If you have that kind of team, that kind of culture that permeates startup, you can do great things. It's very important to hire right, and very important to mentor each and every day to improve on fundamental skill sets. It's imperative to communicate, because there is so much noise in the marketplace, and the buyer is more informed these days. You must be on top of your game.
You've been both an investor and operational side, which one do you like more?
Ed Roberto: I love that question. They are both exciting. If I have to pick one, I love the operating side. The operating side is a daily adventure. There are things you can do to shape and impact the direction of the organization. In the investment side, you have a lot of heavy work upfront to decide whether or not you believe in the team, idea, and opportunity, then you write a first check. Then, you're just along for the ride. You mentor, voice your opinion, but you are really relying entirely on a team that has to go and execute. You get the next opportunity to impact things some time down the line to when you decide whether or not to write another check. It's a little more unnerving being on the investor side, especially if you've gone through times when you're written check against great ideas and great groups of people, and for whatever reason it didn't work out.
What's the biggest on the horizon for Lagrange?Ed Roberto: I think the biggest challenge is we're still early on in the adoption of the cloud as a mainstay computing environment. It's not just Lagrange, but any company tackling the cloud computing space. Our greatest challenge is being able to communicate every effectively to our customer base, to help them embrace the idea of the power of the cloud and the kinds of software solutions out there. It's early on in the cloud adoption story, and sometimes folks are a little disbelieving of what you can do.