RealTime IT News

Can Caspio Penetrate the Enterprise On Demand?

According to Mark Hilderbrand, general partner of venture capital firm Onset Ventures, on-demand service providers have to stand on their heads in order to penetrate the enterprise market.

"The offering will have to do something that is new and novel, not just enhance something that the customer already has" through an on-premise solution, he told internetnews.com.

Caspio, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has been offering a Web-based application called Caspio Bridge to small and medium-sized enterprises since 2001. The solution lets non-technical users create form-driven database Web applications.

Founder and CEO Frank Zamani would not disclose the number of customers he has, but told internetnews.com that more than 40,000 applications have been built using Caspio Bridge.

Today, it is launching Caspio Bridge Corporate, an enterprise-level version that provides a guaranteed service level agreement, full-time live telephone and e-mail support, and unlimited users with no per-seat fees.

"We've developed it to meet the needs of enterprises' mission critical needs," said Zamani.

The product's main selling point is its ease of use, and to that extent, it might just meet the criteria suggested by Hilderbrand.

"Caspio Bridge was designed to be easy to use for the non-developer crowd," said Zamani.

Executives can create a form for customer orders or self-service forms on a company Web site by using a browser-based interface available on Caspio's Web site. They never have to download an executable program.

They can determine database fields and the layout of their form with a simple drag-and-drop without doing any coding themselves.

"We were using Ajax before it even had a name," noted Zamani.

Caspio Bridge creates code behind the scenes. Once users are satisfied with the design of their new application, they can preview it and then capture the code that the application has written for them.

They click on a "deploy" icon, copy the Caspio Bridge code, and paste it into the source code of a page on their own Web sites.

Caspio also stores the data captured by the forms.

"It's so easy," said Peter Kastner, vice president of enterprise integration research, "that it's two steps simpler than even Microsoft Access."

Caspio offers a range of pricing and service levels. The $20-per-month version allows users to create one or two applications, with e-mail based service and limited archiving of data and applications.

The $40 version allows up to five applications, phone and live chat support, and extended archiving.

Caspio Bridge Corporate is priced at an entirely different level.

Pricing starts at $500 per month, and offers an unlimited number of concurrent users, the creation of between 20 and 25 applications, and much more extensive archiving.

But Kastner told internetnews.com that Caspio will most likely find enterprise customers among department-level executives who can't get their projects prioritized, or whose needs are too specific to be deployable across an entire organization.

"They'll get power users who feel they can't go to the IT department," he said. "They say, 'I'll put it on my credit card and be done with it.'"

Zamani also founded pioneering e-commerce site Autoweb.com, which Kastner says gives him a lot of credibility.

But to succeed at the enterprise level, he will have to get himself noticed in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

"The challenge he has is getting his product enough visibility, so he can take a simple product and turn it into a mass-market phenomenon," said Kastner.