Yes there are profitable, self-funded SaaS product companies out there. They’re the ones we’re celebrating in our Gritty Entrepreneur series. To that end, we recently interviewed Timothy Young, CEO of Socialcast, which is in the “enterprise social messaging” market – otherwise known as enterprise microblogging. The consumer champions are Twitter and FriendFeed. The best known enterprise play (at least known within the Blogosphere) is Yammer, a company we panned. Socialcast not only has a revenue model, it also has profits, so that seemed worth investigating.
More Friendfeed Than Twitter
When I asked him about Yammer, Timothy positioned Socialcast as “more Friendfeed than Twitter”. He means that Socialcast takes a wider scope and can connect to outside web feeds such as Delicious, RSS feeds, LinkedIn profiles – aggregating all of them and surfacing them to other employees.
That makes sense for enterprises. Data integration is usually a winning formula.
What About Basecamp?
Outside the Blogosphere, the one product that seems to breaking into enterprise mainstream – possibly in the “early majority” phase – is Basecamp. So we had to ask Socialcast: “how do you position yourself related to Basecamp?”
Timothy said he is a big admirer of 37 Signals and Basecamp (as many of us are), but that the difference is that Basecamp is project centric, whereas Socialcast is more ad hoc.
By adding categories and groups, you can make Socialcast “project like”, but its core is simply unstructured messaging enabling serendipity.
Reducing Organizational Spam
This was a phrase Timothy used in connection with email. He did not claim it as a phrase he invented and Google does not show it in common use, but it resonated with my experience. What these new messaging tools enable is a more fine-grained subscribe/unsubscribe process.
Enterprises look at email, IM, blogging, microblogging as all messaging. As such they have to worry about things like Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) compliance and other control issues. You know, all those emails from bankers saying privately “this stock is worthless” while pumping it publicly to investors. To be in the enterprise space, you have to live and breath this control stuff. Socialcast understands it.
Socialcast can be deployed in two ways:
b) Behind a firewall appliance
This pragmatism is now common amongst winning SaaS vendors. They don’t turn away clients who want it deployed in their own data centers, but the appliance avoids all the implementation and version control hassles.
A simple, low cost subscription model is good enough for Zoho, 37 Signals and it also works for Socialcast. They give the first 5 users free, enabling pilot trials. But there is no fancy “free but then we hook you with a paid version” model (which enterprises tend to be suspicious about).
Socialcast is 3 years young, San Diego based, has 11 employees, has been profitable since their second quarter, and is growing 100% year on year. They raised a small convertible round with private investors in December 2007, after they were already profitable.
Big cheer to another Gritty Entrepreneur!