BizTalk pain points turned into a successful commercial product
We started in 2010 as a one-man-shop and have been growing organically ever since. We’ve been extremely profitable and fiscally conservative. BizTalk360 was born purely out of frustration faced by Saravana Kumar, a well respected person within the BizTalk Server community. He has been a Microsoft Integration MVP since 2007 and was awarded “Integration MVP of the year 2013” by Microsoft.
Saravana has worked with some medium to large enterprise customers using BizTalk servers since 2002. Time and time again, he came across the same problem each customer was having administering, operating, and monitoring their BizTalk environments.
The default tooling (like BizTalk Admin Console) lacked some enterprise qualities like security, auditing, analytics, monitoring capabilities, and so on. It also demanded a high level of BizTalk knowledge to do the very basic things.
Majority of the customers (specifically those who could afford) ended up building their own custom management and monitoring solutions. That’s what triggered Saravana Kumar to build a generic management, monitoring, and analytics solution for BizTalk Server and make it affordable to each BizTalk Server customer.
Bootstrapping from 0 to 450+ Customers
The original idea for BizTalk360 was seeded at the Microsoft Global MVP Summit in Seattle in February 2010. Over a cup of coffee, a few BizTalk MVPs were discussing the current problems in operations and monitoring of BizTalk servers. Everyone came up with a plan to build an open-source solution. Like most open-source projects, the push was not there and eventually it went quiet. In the meantime, Saravana decided to take this project seriously. He went from being a full time employee at Fidelity Investments to working part time. He spent 2 full days a week plus weekends building the initial prototypes of BizTalk360.
At the end of 2010, just 2 days before Christmas, Saravana Kumar demonstrated the first version of BizTalk360 to fellow MVPs – Michael Stephenson and Yossi Dahan, at a pub in Richmond, London. They clearly saw the value proposition and suggested some important improvements. In Feb 2011, in the MVP Global Summit 2011, Saravana demonstrated the version 1.0 of BizTalk360 to all of his fellow BizTalk MVPs and the Microsoft product group. The response was very positive, and everyone pretty much wanted the tool for their own use. Saravana came back and wrapped all the missing pieces and bugs in 1.0 and finally launched the product out to public around July 2011.
The first customer for BizTalk360 came all the way from Hong Kong (a big Casino). Gradually, the sale started to pick-up and at end of 2011, there were 5 Enterprise Customers.
Saravana decided to take the plunge and go full time with BizTalk360. At one side, he was actively building newer version(s) of the product. He did all the core development and outsourced some of the dependent components like front-end web application, installer packages and testing to various third parties. On the other hand, he was travelling extensively both in Europe and US (Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Italy, UK, Portugal, Germany, New York, Dallas, Austin Charlotte, Seattle) presenting BizTalk360 in various user group presentations. Whenever there was an opportunity to present, he just jumped on the plane.
Saravana was running the business from one of the spare room in his house. He employed two part time staff to help with some administration side of things. The BizTalk MVP community played a huge role in helping Saravana & BizTalk360 to reach this stage, pretty much solo. The number of customers were gradually increasing at steady pace. At the end of the year, there were about 65 enterprise customers.
At this stage, BizTalk360 was nearly at version 5.0 and built using Microsoft Silverlight. Microsoft was showing signs of deprecating Silverlight and it became apparent something needs to be done to move out of Silverlight. Saravana hired two full time contractors with solid knowledge on Web/HTML5 development and designer. He also engaged with a Portugal based consulting company to help build the user interface screens due to the extensive work involved. It took about 10 months to convert Silverlight version into HTML5 version. In parallel, they released a temporary Silverlight version 6.0 to keep the momentum going. In November 2013, version 7.0 of BizTalk360 was announced with a major upgrade to the product — the first HTML5 version.
We organised lot of events this year including BizTalk Summit London, BizTalk Innovation Days in Italy, Portugal and Norway.
In 2013, the company also started to take shape. Ricardo Torre joined BizTalk360 around August time frame. He was with Microsoft for 6 years and was treated as one of the top Premier Field Engineers (PFE) in Europe when it comes to BizTalk. We also started our India office in December 2013 by hiring 2 people and a small 500 sq.ft office at Coimbatore.
We closed the year with around 145 customers. The company had grown to about 7 people. Still we were running the business from Saravana’s house and had converted one of the spare rooms into a proper office setup.
In the Global MVP Summit 2013, Microsoft awarded Saravana with the “Integration MVP of the year 2013”
This is an important year for all of us at BizTalk360, where the company transformed itself into a proper business. We moved into our first office here in London (about 500 sq.ft). The team size grew to about 6 people in UK, 14 people in India. We also expanded our India office. We organised some major events across the world starting from BizTalk Summit London in April, BizTalk Summit Australia (in 3 cities Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) in August and the major INTEGRATE 2014 event in Seattle along with Microsoft. All the events attracted about 200 to 300 people. We released three major versions of BizTalk360 this year.
We reached our 250th customer in mid November 2014.
In 2015, we took some big bets. The first thing, we invested in a 6000 sq.ft brand new office space in India that can accommodate about 50 people. In UK, we invested in a brand new office about 2000 sq.ft that can accommodate about 15 people. We organised for one of the biggest BizTalk server focused event (BizTalk Summit 2015 London) in the history at ExCeL London, bringing together close to 350 people from across the world. We ramped up our hiring process to withstand our growing customer base. We reached around 10 people in UK and 24 people in India. We crossed our milestone 360th customer mark during mid September 2015 and crossed over 400 customers by the end of 2015.
Keeping it small and real. Focus, Focus, Focus
We maintain a laser-focus on solving single problems, and solving it really well. That’s why we chose to build BizTalk360 — to solve the problems faced by every single BizTalk Server customer in managing, monitoring and analyzing their BizTalk environment.
We strongly believe it’s better to stick to what you know well and what you’re passionate about. Building a quality product requires lot of knowledge, dedication, commitment, and passion. Without these qualities, it’s impossible to build something that’s robust and reliable.
We would like to be as honest as possible. We are a small bunch of people, trying to address a common problem in the enterprise space.
Generally, being small and resolving an enterprise problem doesn’t go well! However, we proved this statement wrong by reaching 400+ customers. Being small gives us great flexibility and agility. We can respond to customer feedback much quicker. We don’t have any red tape, lengthy meetings, or approval meetings.
We want to grow slow and steady. We feel we’re the right size at the moment to tackle the problem that we’re trying to solve. We believe enterprise software neither requires a fortune nor a big team. Customer support is at the top of our list – we do whatever it takes to tackle their problems.