Editor’s note: Amit Puri, founder and CEO of InBay Technology Solutions, says CIOs on the front lines of mobility are stating a clear need for a structured approach to taking their enterprise processes mobile in a way that integrates with the full stack of enterprise apps. Such a solution would help enterprises to mobilize faster by integrating all back-end elements of enterprise IT “plumbing” and middleware components while at the same time providing a more predictable growth path for mobilization of multiple enterprise processes. In this interview, he discusses how his company developed a next-generation Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP). He also shares product development, funding challenges and go-to-market advice for other tech startups.
SandHill.com: When did you launch your company, and what was your vision?
Amit Puri: We launched InBay in October 2011, in Palo Alto, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley technology innovation and the perfect launch pad for startups. We had been looking at the growing need for enterprises to leverage business process integration and new secure methods to connect multiple back-end computing systems to a wide array of mobile operating systems and devices in a cost-effective and scalable manner.
We are building a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) with an integrated business process management (BPM) engine that provides connection to disparate mobility systems such as MDM, MAM, UI, MCAP, Container/Hypervisor platforms. It’s somewhat akin to what TIBCO, Web Methods or BEA achieves for the corporate compute system. Our platform integrates vertical use cases and horizontal processes across the enterprise for rapid mobile deployments.
SandHill.com: How does it differ from other MEAP solutions in the market today?
Amit Puri: Today no MEAP can do what we are doing as others concentrate on point solutions. Although there are a host of MEAP players today, they focus on bespoke point solution deployment approaches that require extensive efforts to mobilize and integrate back-end components. What is worse is that this “just an app” mindset does not allow for a managed mobility approach for enterprise processes. They provide more of a cross-platform development environment.
Most current MEAP solutions are expensive, disjointed, complex combinations of legacy software that scale poorly and thus are unable to address all of the nuances and requirements of today’s fast-moving mobile landscape. For enterprises, this leads to a lot of redundancy, increased need for customizations and unwanted complexity. It also means that the cost of maintaining mobility solutions persists over time.
In contrast, we developed our solution with common enterprise business needs in mind in addition to consumer aspects of mobility. Activities that occur in an enterprise are business processes, and our approach is to treat them as such. This approach provides better predictability, thereby reducing risk for CIOs, as well as providing as a more manageable path to scaling up mobility in an enterprise.
Life cycle management is a key differentiator. Overall, our InBay Mobility in a Box Business Process Enabled MEAP (BP MEAP) solution delivers better management of the mobile application life cycle as well as all of the important enhancements afforded by the solution’s server-driven UI control capability. It effectively eliminates provisioning issues and removes the guesswork out of app revision problems that increasingly plague large mobile deployment environments due to device, operating system, and coding fragmentation exacerbated by BYOD (bring your own device) policies.
Our solution ensures that mobile apps designed to run on the platform are “process ready,” not just “app ready.” While an app-ready platform is useful for mobilizing a few use cases or applications, we see increasing enterprise demand for a process-ready platform capable of mobilizing multiple workflows or use cases.
SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name?
Amit Puri: InBay is an infusion of (In)dia and (Bay) area cultural themes and technology innovation, and our company logo blends the national colors.
SandHill.com: Please describe one of your company’s lessons learned and where it occurred in the time line of your product development.
Amit Puri: A practical learning was not to depend too much on offshore teams for the initial product development. This is so core in the initial stages of the development cycle to get closely aligned to the company’s vision, and we found it must be done with the local U.S. teams instead of outsourcing models. My advice to other startups is to keep product development efforts localized until the time of product maturity before outsourcing for cost reasons. Outsourcing really doesn’t work in the initial product development cycles and ends up burning up lot of valuable time, which can be detrimental to a startup’s success.
SandHill.com: Did you encounter any challenges in hiring the right development talent?
Amit Puri: For any startup, one of the hardest challenges is identifying and then retaining the best talent. This is even truer at a pre-funded stage when key members work on a sweat-equity model. Achieving scalability through bootstrapped efforts is always a challenge. The dichotomy to balance external expectations with internal constraints is always a real test for any new startup.
With funding limitations given InBay’s bootstrapped efforts, it was a challenge to find the right talent to align with the company’s long-term vision. Ours is an enterprise play, hence needs longer cycles for product and G2M maturity. Even if initially people commit, it is very difficult to motivate and retain them for the long haul, especially if funding and engagement cycles are stretched.
SandHill.com: If you could go back and do it all over again, from the time you first began planning for your company, what would you do differently the second time around?
Amit Puri: Get more aligned with the VC funding guidelines in terms of product development, go-to-market approach and other parameters so that overall it accelerates the funding cycle. It is always very difficult to convince investors if you take a different approach. This is especially so in a new sector where investments have been very few.
SandHill.com: What is the worst advice you received?
Amit Puri: Integrating third-party products without any validation points. This becomes too risky in the product development cycle. It took valuable time in our early stages to evaluate this path and see how it would integrate with our roadmap. We ultimately decided not to follow this course, as it possibly would have altered our direction in a path that was not right for us at the time.
SandHill.com: What do the next 12 months hold for your company?
Amit Puri: Our plans are to build and enhance the product development roadmap based on clear market validation. We’ll also establish a larger customer base with direct customers and through global SI partnerships. And we’ll scale up delivery and G2M efforts in the United States and India.
SandHill.com: Is there someone outside of a software company who influenced your business or personal approach to life?
Amit Puri: I admire Guy Kawasaki, venture capitalist, CEO of Garage Technology Ventures. One of my favorite statements that he has made is: “The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning; to create a product or service to make the world a better place.” This is really core to InBay’s philosophy and values.
SandHill.com: Who are the advisors behind your company?
Amit Puri: Arjun Malhortra, co-founder of HCL Technologies and past chairman of Headstrong, is on our advisory board. His close involvement with InBay has helped us to stay on the right track and take logical steps to achieve success and not lose focus. He is also my role model among software executives. He always motivates and inspires current and future generations of entrepreneurs to stay on course, no matter the odds and challenges. He instills values that are so fundamental for success.
Samir Agarwal, former head of MeeGo Operations at Nokia, is on InBay’s technology board. His inputs have been linchpin to our overall strategy, and he has provided technology thought leadership throughout our journey. Finally, Jeff Russakow, former EVP and chief customer officer at Yahoo!, is on our advisory board and has been closely involved in InBay’s growth strategy and evolution.
SandHill.com: What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of being a software executive?
Amit Puri: The critical ingredient is getting off your “corporate butt” and doing something different. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today! The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer. The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. I firmly believe that the greatest failure is to not try. Entrepreneurs need to go out there and do something different and live with the regret that they never tried!
SandHill.com: What have you found to be the most fulfilling aspect of being a software executive?
Amit Puri: Find your passion … then it is no longer work!
Amit Puri is Founder and CEO of InBay Technology Solutions. He has a strong background in outsourcing and technology domains and is recognized for a results-driven approach marked by demonstrated ability to incubate, build and manage technology-led ventures to achieve scale and success. Prior to InBay, Amit held various leadership roles at GE/Genpact, HCL Hewlett Packard, Oracle, iGATE and Solix Technologies as a P&L / business leader for managing Business Development, Sales & Marketing, Operations and Strategy to generate and expand businesses globally. He is based in the San Francisco Bay area.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor at SandHill.com.