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Interview with Lyle Ball, Bungee Labs

Orem, Utah-based Bungee Labs is a venture funded startup developing tools in the AJAX and Web Services space. The firm has received funding from Northbridge, Venrock Associates and Wasatch Venture Fund, and recently launched its product at the Web 2.0 conference. Techrockies spoke with Lyle Ball, the firm's Vice President of Marketing, to understand the company better and how it is tackling the Web 2.0 market.

Techrockies: Describe what your service and software is for our readers?

Lyle Ball: Bungee Labs has created a service, called Bungee Connect, which provides development and deployment of software-as-a-service. We took the software-as-a-service model, and extended that to software development as a service. It is an end-to-end, single environment for developers of rich Internet applications--either on the public web, or Internet enabled internal applications. It's a single, end-to-end environment where they can come into Bungee Connect and set up a developer account, invite developers to work on any number of projects. It's all web based, and your developers can be across the hallway, or across the world. This rich environment allows you to check in and check out code, collaborate on software, and import Web Services. It automates integration, interaction, and marshalling. The second thing we do is we automate the use of AJAX controls. It's an automated, desktop-based environment which completely eliminates the need for AJAX programming. That's a strong statement, but we've got a strong technical capability. The third thing we do is we significantly reduce the amount of programming for web state management. The fourth thing is instantaneous deployment. You can deploy without compiling and see how your application is doing, and also run your project on focus groups and through your beta program. You can develop your application, run your beta--and everything I've talked about to this point is no fee. From signing on, to creating a group to integrating web services and AJAX controls, through beta, there's no fee. Once you've deployed and the application is being used by end users, then you begin to pay Bungee a minimal and reasonable fee. That is based on computer network interaction and actual use--there's no minimum, or contract, or overage. If you have a wildly successful application, you'll pay accordingly per use. If you have a minimum use application, you'll pay us very little. Bungee takes the risk and reduces the cost of developing rich Internet applications, which is very attractive to small and medium businesses.

Techrockies: Where did the idea come from, and what's the background of the team?

Lyle Ball: The company has been in place for over three years. We've been in extreme stealth mode, and we've had 30 developers working for those three years. There's substantial technology, and we had not talked about it publicly until the Web 2.0 conference in April. The founder, David Mitchell, is a developer's developer, and has had several successful entrepreneurial projects that resulted in companies. He is able to see what the trends are that are coming, and three years ago he foresaw the need for on-demand, technical competent systems that would allow developers to create rich Internet applications, and reduce the complexity. In a traditional scenario, a developer of an Internet application specs his application on a white board, evaluates which of 150 to 175 AJAX toolkits they want to use, which language to associate with, and figures out which web services are important. They have to build a web site, and the application, and they have to provision for test and deployment. That provisioning usually includes substantial in-house servers, and extension to the grid, plus contracts for bandwidth and spike control. That might include Amazon EC2, or if you want to accelerate your application you might want to partner with Akamai. For an enterprise level developer, they have teams to address these issues. They have the intellectual knowledge of humans, a substantial financial budget, and time--market patience--due to the size of the company. Smaller companies are missing all three of those elements--no budget, no market patience, and most often are not surrounded by a full team of developers with specific knowledge of developing and deploying rich Internet applications. Dave Mitchell saw that three years ago, experienced it personally, and said let's solve that problem. That's where Bungee Labs came from, a developer who had the experience and wanted to fix it.

Techrockies: Can you talk about your venture capital backing and investors?

Lyle Ball: We have substantial venture capital investment. Our two primary investors are Northbridge and Venrock, both in Boston. They have a very substantial presence and a great history and pedigree. We also have Wasatch Venture Fund, in Salt Lake City. We don't discuss the amount they invested, it's been substantial.

Techrockies: We see you've launched recently, who is using your service now and how did your launch go?

Lyle Ball: There's two levels to that answer. In April 15th, at the Web 2.0 Expo, we debuted the company Bungee Labs and clarified Bungee Connect, our end to end service offering. We extended our beta program, which runs from the end of May through October. At the end of six months, we'll open up our services to general availability. Before our lead up to our debut in April at the Web 2.0 expo, we decided to have a laser focus on specific verticals--because we have a very horizontal marketplace, we could be used by anyone with rich Internet applications, which is 10's and 10's of millions of customers.

We are focused on web productivity in specific markets -- eCommerce, CRM, search, and geolocation. These are the four segments with the biggest success of companies, who are introducing public web services. There are eight companies that lead the pace in these four markets, all of whom are very significant to Bungee. They are Amazon, eBay/PayPal, Yahoo, Google, Salesforce, Real, and Microsoft. Those eight communities overlap those four market areas in multiple ways. They either tie in their current services, or are discussing and preparing for those markets. Collectively, those eight vendor companies represent about 300,000 registered independent developers in the community. That's our definition of our beta program, those 300,000 developers in those eight communities, and the services they incorporate in multi-service applications in those markets.

Addressing your question on how did our debut go, we worked with these eight companies in preparation of our debut. All eight had signage at the Web 2.0 conference, and our engineers were trained with tutorials, walkthroughs, and screencasts on the Web Services from each of these 8 companies. We had a phenomenal response at Web 2.0, which exceeded our goals, and which were already pretty audacious. We will have a significant number of professional developers from within these eight communities when we open up our private beta at the end of the month. One thing about the private beta, is it's not a numbers game. We're not going to open up faster than we can ensure a high quality experience. We are going to open up the door, 50 individuals as a time. That might be daily, then hourly, as soon as we can meet the needs of the fifty we released. The gating control of the beta is not based on our technology--our technology rocks--but also our responsiveness to human interaction, forums, and blog responses. We want to make sure there is a very good experience if a human asks a question.

Techrockies: What's your perspective on the maturity of Web Services--it seems like Web Services are still in their infancy and adoption in the market?

Lyle Ball: Two answers. I am in absolute agreement on the infancy of the Web Services market. Because of the infancy, major and moderate web service providers all have their own strategy, approach, and no standard on how they categorize or present web services. That creates great complexity for developers who want to incorporate Web Serviecs. Our key advantage is we automate and facilitate those web services. We resolve the large obstacle that developers face. Are we relying on the industry to convert? Absolutely! Back when there were just mini computers, and then the personal computer came out, people were hesitant to jump from the mini to the PC. They then started to see that the technology exists, features exist, stability exists, and that pricing is more beneficial. There's a natural hesitance to leave on-presence, albeit overpriced, software for an on-demand web based solution.

Techrockies: What's the financial impact of your service on a company if they adopt using your solution?

Lyle Ball: If you have created a complicated, multi-service applications--for example, if you've incorporated all of Microsoft Exchange, and Salesforce CRM, and Google mass search like capabilities, and added Citrix GoToMeeting and an online spell checker and services pertinent to a business, plus, you add office management software for all of their interaction on the desktop, including a calendar, appointments, email, search, blog, RSS feed, and all normal task specific job functions--and if you have power users using it 3-4 clock hours a day, every day of the week, every day of the business month, you'll only pay us $3-5 US dollars per employee per month. That includes all development, licensing, and deployment, including our partnerships with Akamai and Amazon. We are an Akamai edge computing customers, and Amazon EC2 customer, and every developer using us takes advantage of that for no fee. When they deploy Bungee Apps, they get our data centers--Bungee's corporate data center--but also get relationships with Akami and Amazon all for that fee. If you look at the costs for upfront licensing, provisioning, and deployment for a company, it's a very reasonable fee. It's more reasonable the smaller the company is.

Techrockies: Thanks!