Placing its bet on Windows Azure is cloud product/services startup Icertis; will it pay off?

Technology trends play out much like running races. In the beginning, all racers begin at level pegging. As the race progresses, some racers begin to pull away from the pack and the gap icbetween them and others becomes more and more apparent. In the end, there is one winner. After celebrations and being acknowledged as a leader by accepting the medal, the racers have to concentrate on the next race. Technology companies are the racers here, and the technology platforms that they’re working on are the races.

We’re in the middle of the cloud technology (More specifically, IaaS) race and Amazon Web Services (AWS) is pulling away from the rest of the crowd. Hot on its heels is Microsoft’s IaaS offering, Azure. Much like how these players have vested interests rooting for them, there are many cloud services companies backing these respective leaders.

Icertis, a Pune based startup with offices in the US, is one such company. They make cloud products and offer cloud based services for the Windows Azure platform. I spoke with the company’s CEO, Samir Bodas, to know more about Icertis and its offerings.

A right blend of corporate and startup experience

Sameer Bodas
Sameer Bodas

Samir is at an enviable disposition by having successful stints at corporates as well as successful exits while working with startups. After starting his career at McKinsey and Co. and then spending many years at Microsoft, Samir developed an interest in the startup space. He said, “Apart from Icertis, I’ve worked on 3 startups, of which 2 never went anywhere. My third startup, Disha Technologies got acquired by Aztecsoft, with which I had worked for a few years and went on to become the CEO of the company as well.” Samir’s co-founder at Icertis led the India and R and D operations of BladeLogic, which was one of the 2007’s biggest IPOs ($800 million). The company later got acquired by EMC2.

Essentially, at the end of 2008, there were two successful guys, with nothing to do. Upon being connected by one of Samir’s friends, the duo noticed favorable trends in the cloud space and decided to startup in the same. Samir says, “Now I was in Seattle, which was home to the biggest cloud service providers – Microsoft and AWS. Seeing the kind of investment going into cloud technology and the kind of players committing to it made it a very exciting space to start up in.”

You either make a wave or ride a wave

Samir has an interesting take on technology. He says, “If you take a look back at history, technology goes through a transformation period every 7 years or so. I think we’re in the beginning of the 7 year period of cloud technology.” Samir believes that during this transformational period there are companies that cause the change and there are others which were going to ride and capitalize on the advancements.

“You either make the wave or you ride it. And in cloud technology, AWS and Microsoft were the wave makers and a lot of players like us chose to ride it.” Samir further added that the company Azurechose to build on the Windows Azure because of Microsoft’s experience of working with partners. He says, “Microsoft is a very pro partner company and if you ask me, I think no one gets enterprise sales like they do. They’re a great company to partner with. Incidentally, Microsoft is one of our biggest customers as well.” Microsoft uses Icertis’ contract management application – “Microsoft manages 200,000 NDAs, signs 25000 NDAs a year used in 90 countries and in 40 languages. Our contract management application manages this for Microsoft.”

Since its launch in 2009, Icertis has over 50 employees, is cash flow positive and has recorded 100% YOY growth.

Trends – what does it look like for India

Samir believes that there cannot be a pure product company in the cloud technology space. He says, “I think product and services in the cloud technology go hand in hand. A lot of the services that we do will be productized and will thereon become a standalone product. So product and service together is a good way to go in this space at least.”

Samir also believes that India will be a big market for cloud services. He says, “While our main target base is in the US, I believe that the use of cloud services will see the kind of growth that mobile phones have seen in India. The average amount of money spent on infrastructure in India is a fraction of that of the US’s. India is definitely not going to be averse to a non hardware, cheaper solution. That’s why I think India is going to be a very exciting market.”

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When asked if Icertis would build for other cloud platforms, Samir says, “You know there are some interesting propositions out there. For example, Rackspace is really interesting. However, I don’t think it will get much market share; it will be a niche thing. The lion’s share of the IaaS market is going to be contested between Microsoft and AWS. Our money is behind Microsoft, because of their experience in working with enterprises.”

In the coming months, Icertis will add to their product portfolio and will look to acquire more customers. But will their bet on Microsoft pay off?

Well, only time will tell. Until then, check out Icertis

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