Github, Box, and other enterprise startups offer their 2013 predictions

Next year, the disruption of the enterprise software market will accelerate.

At least, that's what the startups doing the disrupting would have us believe.

This morning in San Francisco, Andreessen-Horowitz partner Peter Levine and the CEOs of five of the firm's enterprise startup investments convened with reporters to give their take on where the enterprise software industry is going.

These startups are all hoping to become multibillion-dollar companies, and the only way to get there is by replacing some of the current enterprise software spend, or finding unfilled holes to plug. So there was lots of talk about how users will no longer accept ugly and ill-performing software forced upon them by the CIO, and how enterprises don't necessarily value their relationships with the big vendors who've been selling to them for 20 years. 

Whether you believe this spiel or not, these startups are well-poised to take advantage of some very real trends, like the widespread acceptance of public cloud services (unheard of a decade ago), the fact that CIOs no longer control the entire technology budget (paving the way for line-of-business sales and "freemium" adoption models driven by end-users), and the expectation from users and IT departments alike that new software and services will work on multiple clients (a huge switch from the all-Windows shops of a decade ago).

Plus, a couple of the companies -- Github and Box -- are getting widespread traction, which makes their viewpoints interesting to consider.

At any rate, here's who spoke and what they predicted:

Tom Preston-Warner, CEO of social coding platform Github, said that Marc Andreessen's prediction that "software will eat the world" has already come true. In 2013, the question will become "whose software is best?" The companies who can hire the best coders and designers, and give them the best tools, will end up writing the best software and winning the market away from the old vendors with bigger market share.  

Github is a combination social network and coding platform for developers. Andreessen-Horowitz brought the five-year-old startup into the spotlight with a $100 million investment earlier this year, but the firm was already massively popular among coders with 1.7 million individual subscriptions (it's now close to 2.5 million). As Preston-Warner told InfoWorld editor-in-chief Eric Knorr last month, Github eventually wants to expand beyond collaborative coding into other areas of collaboration.

Aaron Levie, CEO of file-sharing and collaboration service Box, said that the trend of 2013 would be the rise of the "enterprise app economy," where new-breed enterprise services start evolving into platforms, providing opportunities for other vendors to gain traction quickly, similar to how the iPhone paved the way for a whole new mobile app economy. For instance, a five-person development team might have a sudden hit because their app plugs well into Box -- as a big company buys thousands of Box seats, it could drag this app along with it. 

Levie also predicted that the most innovative CIOs would figure out that the IT spend has fragmented, and find ways to change their jobs and remain relevant. "It's not about managing big iron technology any more," he said. "There's a reinvention of the IT model driven by the end user."

Box is probably the most prominent of several companies competing to offer file-sharing and collaboration services for the enterprise, but lags behind more consumer-oriented services Dropbox and YouSendIt in sheer user numbers. Levie is a frequent and entertaining public speaker -- he also does magic tricks -- and is bent on turning Box into the cloud-based, user-friendly replacement for Microsoft SharePoint.

Suhail Doshi, CEO of mobile analytics provider MixPanel, believes that businesses will demand more robust analytics tools that can give them real information about what users are doing on their sites and services as they move to mobile devices. "The concept of pageviews is completely dying. In mobile, there's not even the concept of pageviews. Engagement is the new metric of success." 

MixPanel provides mobile analytics to a wide range of mobile app makers, including Silicon Valley darlings like Path and Socialcam, and claims to monitor more than 7 billion individual actions per day. It emerged from the Y Combinator startup incubator in 2010, and Levine joined the board this year after Andreessen-Horowitz invested about $10 million into the company.

Christian Gheorge, CEO of performance management startup Tidemark, believes that 2013 will be the year where business analytics and BI finally succeeds among the masses. "BI failed in the past something like 80% of the time," he said. 

Gheorge has long experience in the space: he previously sold his performance management company OutlookSoft to SAP, then stuck around to lead product during the integration of business intelligence company Business Objects. He grew up in communist Romania, where, he explained, citizens were encouraged to report to the Department for the Betterment of the People to be told their path in life -- just as many employees were previously forced to use the technology their CIOs choose for them.

Patrick Collison, CEO of online payment enabler Stripe, predicted that the enterprise startup space would start to stratify, with more established companies building insurmountable ecosystems and very young companies having a harder time getting traction. "The corollary of enterprise companies becoming more consumer-like, is that the outcomes are more consumer-like. You'll see more powerful network effects, big brands will become important and harder to dislodge." He joked, "I fear for the startup that tries to compete with GitHub."

Stripe offers a set of APIs that makes it easy for developers to build apps that accept online payments. Collison told us that one of his biggest and most surprising successes was when the developers at Wal-Mart Labs started using Stripe to power a new online food-delivery service, rather than the many established payment systems that Wal-Mart was already plugged into.

Peter Levine predicted that 2013 would be the year when enterprise adoption of these new startup technologies accelerated, moving from endpoint customers and departments throughout entire organizations. A lot of these startups already offer great technology -- in 2013, they'll refine their go-to-market and sales strategies to fill demand.

Levine was the CEO of open-source virtualization technology XenSource, which sold to Citrix in 2007. He joined the firm last year.

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