Box, GitHub Prove Enterprise Software Is Cool Again

Box CEO Aaron Levie has been on a one-man crusade to make the enterprise sexy again. Based on the 2012 Crunchie Award winners, it worked. While a number of nominees and winners were consumer-facing startups that will likely be passé by next year, the enterprise startups on the ballot sheet have already proved their staying power.

Take GitHub, winner of Best Overall Startup. Back in 2011 the distributed version control company launched its enterprise product, with questions raised as to whether it could thrive in a market that saw peers like Sourceforge falter. But it didn't. GitHub co-founder PJ Hyett tells me that the company's "enterprise offering has been [his] primary focus for the last three years," and it shows. GitHub has done what consumer startups blanch at doing: embrace Microsoft. It's not sexy, but it's what gets business done in the enterprise.

Then there's the 2012 "Sexiest Enterprise Startup," Box. While at one time that distinction may have been synonymous with "Sexiest Nun in the Convent," Box's contenders for the Crunchies were Cloudera, Zendesk, Asana (Lower revenues but with big aspirations), and Plexxi. All companies that are hell-bent on revenue while significantly changing how the enterprise operates. 

It's a big task, which is perhaps why Box has raised $312 million as it guns for a 2014 IPO. Cloudera, Zendesk, and the other enterprise startups have been less voluble about their IPO plans, perhaps taking a page out of Workday's book, which let its S-1 do the talking. But from private conversations I've had with executives at these companies, I can say that these companies are churning out impressive revenues, and most of them are turning a profit.

Profit? That's sexy.

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It's very different from the consumer startup euphoria that ReadWrite's own Dan Lyons pilloried:

This is what the Valley has become these past few years:

It’s wannabe journalists writing about wannabe investors giving money to wannabe entrepreneurs and everyone [in this seriously conflicted crowd] believing that the whole thing makes perfect sense because, trust us. This. Will. Be. Huge.

Not that Silicon Valley has had some big epiphany and wants to grow up to be IBM all of a sudden. But something is changing. Startup founders are realizing that the best way to make money is to sell to customers that actually have money, and are happy to give it to you for fair value in return. Yes, there are consumer startups that grok this, but they are the exception, not the rule.

The Crunchies are just one indication that Silicon Valley, which for years has engrossed itself in mindless startups with silly names and sillier business plans, is getting serious again. Serious about revenue. Serious about profit. Serious about the enterprise. It's about time.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.