During last week and at the beginning of this week I had three personal interactions with 3 different companies and studied partnership opportunity for another. In alphabetical order the companies were Microsoft, Qlik, SAP, Zoomdata. The experience was different.
We considered big data analytical tools of Qlik, SAP and Zoomdata, and Microsoft for another stealth-mode story. The context is that one month ago we started Software-as-a-Service business – GPS monitoring for business and families. GPS monitoring is highly competitive in Ukraine. Just try google, https://www.google.com.ua/search?q=gps+мониторинг+киев. On the other hand, our estimate is that the need is covered not more than by 10%. In addition, I talked to my friends in Finland and they described how insurance companies use GPS data for personalized deals and how the government considers to tax vehicles based on the real use of transportation infrastructure using GPS trackers.
To make story short, we want to build innovative solutions in this promising area, but we have lack of expertise and knowledge in this area. We could not come up with a better idea than just starting GPS monitoring business only for learning purpose – I am big fan of learning by doing approach. The economics of pure GPS monitoring service is that we have to serve thousands of objects of monitoring just to generate revenue that is equivalent to our salaries. Yes, salaries for IT specialists are incomparable to the standards of life of other professions in Ukraine. Good thing that we managed to structure the business to be profitable from first customer if not to count our time (you already know the problem with our salaries).
On Tuesday evening I got awaited phone call. Short pleasant conversation with a lady from Microsoft Ukraine and our enrollment period is completed and Syndicode is successfully approved to join Microsoft BizSpark program. I applied on 19th of February. Despite the fact they say it takes up to 5 business days, my application took 13 though lady said she tried to reach me by phone earlier with no luck. For those who did not heard about this program, in essence Microsoft offers very good perks for startups.
We are interested in Microsoft’s cloud solution – Azure. For every individual developer we register in our BizSpark account we get 150$ for servers per month with a maximum of 5 developers ($750 respectively). To talk in servers, you can get linux virtual machine on Azure with 2 cores, 7 GB RAM, and 100 GB SSD for $127 per month, http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/calculator/?scenario=virtual-machines. With 5 developers and $750 you can build up production cluster for first customers or MVP demo, for example.
During the call I also got to know that when you graduate after 3 years or you start to consume more computing resources there is BizSpark Plus Program with $5K per month for servers. That sounds even more attractive if our stealth-mode SaaS takes off. I am impressed.
This was the funniest communication. On Thursday last week I had to provide my email address and phone number in order to download new innovative product from Qlik called QlikSense. You can download desktop version and use it for free. On the website I also checked that they do have program for OEM partners.
Next day on Friday I got a call from sales rep of Qlik. I said I had not tried the product (and still had not), but explained the use case, asked questions about OEM licensing conditions and my concerns about pricing their technology for mass-market service. It appears they are flexible as they do not have any strict limits for pricing and it is decided case-by-case. I asked about conditions to become OEM partner for startup in order to start development. The guy said that there should be some funds that can be spent then for licenses, technical consulting, et cetera.
I become excited as with Microsoft BizSpark offerings, but during the conversation I started to realize that we as a startup had to pay upfront in order to show our commitment to this partnership. UPFRONT payment for licenses and technical consulting! UPFRONT? To show our commitment? I could not resist laughing and gave couple of examples of partnership programs, including Microsoft BizSpark, SAP Hana and my experience with Zoomdata. Qlik sales rep argued that those programs instead of money deposit require commitment in terms of sales, which is not true! The only contribution to our possible future partnership we can afford at the moment is the following photo I have to borrow.
I have not tried SAP Hana yet, only studied the website and marketplace. At the moment I judge about this analytical platform and partnership arrangements by the information I got from my professional network.
One piece came from sales reps in CIS area through my partner Dima Romanchenko. The message was that SAP is eager to fully support initiatives for innovative big data analytical solutions from startups. They are ready to help not only in technological part of the deal but also with marketing and sales through SAP channels. Marketing and sales through SAP channels is a big deal!
Another one is a feedback from the guy I know who established startup in EU country to develop SAP related products. In order to port their products to SAP Hana they asked support from SAP. SAP created development environment for free on SAP servers and provides technology consulting for them.
This kind of supportive and cooperative attitude forces me to keep SAP Hana platform on the very top of my list.
This is a pure startup, leader in its space, tens of millions of funding, not a well-established corporation like 3 described above. I am biased here. 7 years ago I worked at Epam for US-based client – Clarabridge. Zoomdata is leaded and founded by the co-founder of Clarabridge. Moreover, there are my former colleagues in the development team which is in Ukraine. Sure I had a talk with them about the product before starting evaluation.
However, I went through the official channel filling in the form on the website to get the Zoomdata server. After conversation with sales rep, I got a link to download the product. I installed the server within 20 minutes, spent couple of hours to prepare the data in CSV format, imported, played couple of hours to create visualizations and to assemble sample dashboard with vehicles mileage charts. The product has limited calculation and data manipulation capabilities. Simple, elegant, responsive visualizations with drill-down and filtering. Thumbs up, Zoomdata!
We are very glad to get free access to Microsoft Azure computing resources. Zoomdata rocks, keep on rolling! I hope to find time to try SAP Hana soon. Qlik OEM partnership program fails short.