Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Interview with Phillipe Lewicki, SQLFusion
My interview this morning is with Phillipe Lewicki, CEO of SQLFusion (www.sqlfusion.com), a company in the open source software market. I thought it would be interesting to hear about his company.
BK: What is SQLFusion about, and how do you fit into the open source market?
PL: SQLFusion develops and distributes a web based software which unlocks the value of open source for SMBs (small and medium businesses). Even nontechnical users can now find, install, customize and integrate their web applications (blogs, wikis, groupware, etc) and business solutions (human resource management systems, accounting systems, enterprise resource planning systems, etc), using SQLFusion's drag and drop interface.
The web application software platform - Open Source Fusion - that we have developed is packaged and distributed for three categories of customers: web hosting companies, VARs (value added resellers) and SMBs. Web hosting firms resell our software to SMBs. VARs - business solution providers - use our software to build custom web-based business solutions for their customers (SMBs), taking advantage of the platform's support for real-time collaboration. SMBs ultimately use our software to either build or regularly update their web based business solutions, depending on their specific business needs.
We plan to quickly expand our offering and provide a subscription service to every end-user of the software. This fee-based update service will give them access to a growing library of packaged open source offerings with automatic installation of patches and security updates. These hundreds of ready-to-use open source packages may be installed with a single click and can be easily integrated into a single web site using Open Source Fusion.
We are in the Open Source software update subscription market and the web development software market. We want to do for web applications in the small and medium business market what RedHat did for Linux in the enterprise market.
BK: How receptive do you think users will be to a subscription-based open source model, and how big do you estimate the market to be?
PL: Extremely receptive. We fulfill a clear need.
Open Source applications have security flaws. They are fixed quickly, but there is no simple way to patch or upgrade an Open Source Web Application (like those based on PHP/MySQL). Users are often required to download the latest changes, modify the source code manually, sometimes it's even necessary to reinstall everything from scratch with a new version. But this maintenance is necessary. If you want to keep your web site, intranet or extranet secure from hackers you need to update or patch the applications you use each time a security flaw is discovered.
Our subscription service comes with an automated installer which allows a one-click update / patch for the open source applications you are using, via a very easy-to-use user interface.
For example, instead of using Salesforce.com at $350/month for 5 users you can install, for free - with Open Source Fusion - an open source alternative called SugarCRM, which has the same features and quality. Then - to get the same level of updates and maintenance that you would get on a hosted service like salesforce.com - you merely subscribe to our software update subscription service for only $45/month with no limit on the number of supported users.
If you consider the cumulative revenues of Novell and RedHat for the subscription services that they bundle with their Linux operating system distributions, they total $250M with 45% growth in the last quarter. I suspect that the current total market for such a service is around $500M.
BK: What is the history of the company, and how did you come up with the idea for your products?
PL: The origin of these products began in 1998. We were heavily involved in Open Source based web application development, so we began to build a library to speed up our work.
Over time that library became a full application server, and we called it PAS: an Application Server for PHP.
We initially implemented our application server in development projects for Medium size businesses and Fortune 500 customers. In 2002 we came up with the idea of what we today call Open Source Fusion. Next, we began to develop tools built on top of the application server to make the development faster, more cost effective and to give our customers easy ways to modify and customize their applications.
An early Beta of the software was presented at the Comdex in 2003, where we shared a booth with MySQL AB. We received exciting and inspiring feedback, and more often than not people stopped by our booth to simply say "Wow". We understood that we were on the right track. We decided to improve the software and make it market-ready.
The development of Open Source Fusion was completed by the end of 2004. Since that time, SQLFusion transform it self in a 100% software company, our early customers helped us improve the reliability, usability and marketability of our software.
SQLFusion began marketing a version of our software which targets web hosting companies. So far, the feedback from web host customers and end users is excellent, and the sales are increasing rapidly.
BK: Where are you in your company launch?
PL: SQLFusion has been in operation for two years and we are generating revenue from our software. We are prospecting for a first round of Series A funding with Tech Coast Angels and the Pasadena Angels, in order to fuel our growth by increasing our sales and development teams. We have started to meet with some Venture Capital firms as well and plan on raising Series B funding with a Venture Capital firm involved in the Open Source space within a year.
BK: Who is involved with your company, and what are their backgrounds?
PL: Myself, Philippe Lewicki, founder and CEO of SQLFusion. I was a CTO of a web development firm called EBAgency in France during the 90s. I created my first company in 1998. Then I moved to Los Angeles and took the position of COO for Readysetnet in 2000. I started SQLFusion in 2003.
Our talented sales vice president, Zoltan Erdos, has 15 years of Sales & Business Development experience. He has been the interim President at Data2Knowledge, as well as VP at Softline, a $100M IT Integrator where he built and ran a $13M new business unit. He created and grew a "virtual startup" within IBM Global Services, tripling revenue to $9M in a year. He now helps us move forward with major web hosts.
We also have Michael Frappier as our marketing director. He recently completed his MBA from Pepperdine. He has directed the market research, product development, go-to market strategy and public relations for SQLFusion's nascent software department. He moved the product from proof of concept to a commercial product praised by customers and press alike.
BK: What is the most difficult thing you've had to face in raising capital for your company?
PL: Learning a new market.
We are experts in selling to web hosts, developers, web designers, and small and medium businesses. To present our company to Angels and VCs we needed to understand a whole new world.
BK: Finally, what has been the most exciting thing for you about starting up SQL Fusion?
PL: Seeing a vision come to life.
It all started with an idea that could make people's lives easier. With a concrete plan and anticipation of future success, that idea became a vision. Now we are sharing that vision with the people who will make it a reality (developers, marketers, salespeople, investors, managers). The truly exciting part is watching this evolution, bringing about this orchestra of contributors, and seeing all the pieces come together and the business move forward as a whole.