Thursday, May 26, 2011

Disruptive Cloud Start-Ups - Part 2: AppDirect

Check out the first post of this series on NimbusDB, if you haven't already seen it. This post is about AppDirect. I met with Nicolas Desmarais, a co-founder and the CEO of AppDirect and had a long discussion regarding their current solutions and future strategy. AppDirect is an app store for small businesses. The developers can integrate their applications with AppDirect and AppDirect manages the experience of selling, provisioning, and billing with a 70-30 revenue split with the developers. They also have a white label app store solution that they sell to large customers such as ISPs who can sell these same applications to their customers.

Let's get the things out of the way that I didn't like about them.

The downside:

The target market that comprises of small businesses is extremely difficult to reach to and to market to. This gets even more difficult when the company trying to market is a young start-up and the customers are "S" in SMB. These customers have very different kind of requirements. They look for simple solutions that are not very expensive and have predictable SLA with a clear local support model and not the ones that come with enterprise grade features such as end-to-end integration, single sign on etc. Intuit has owned this channel for a while via Quickbooks and their SMB marketplace (the partner platform) is a great example of selling go-to-market services to other ISVs. AppDirect will have to work much harder if they want to work this channel.

So, why do I think they are disruptive?

The upside:

AppDirect is platform-agnostic. The developers can write applications in any language and run it on any platform as long as they integrate with AppDirect's end points (the APIs). The ISVs or PaaS providers have traditionally locked developers into their platform. That lock-in now goes away.

Even though the telcos are not the most innovative companies, they are laggards with a pile of cash, a ton of customers, and good margins. I believe that telcos can be great enterprise software vendors for SMB. Instead of spending money on the marketing efforts, if AppDirect can convince the Telcos and ISPs to bundle their white label solution, it's a win-win situation. This business alone can make them profitable. What you need is a small number of large customers. Long tail can always be an added bonus.

The team is talented and they have got a good product with some early customers. If they can execute on their vision and pivot as necessary, they're on to something,

Check out their slides and presentation:

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