Former i2 ace on IBM’s case
A Cambridge software specialist who spent 12 years at i2 before its acquisition by IBM has created competing technology to the Wall Street giant with a new visualisation platform.
Joe Parry has seen brisk progress since founding UK startup Cambridge Intelligence last May. The first customer was signed up in October and the inaugural product launched just before Christmas.
Now he tells Business Weekly that the current product could be adapted for a fresh market segment (visualising time information) and a new product launched later in 2012 – possibly as early as this summer.
One of the first customers is a major software corporation and early adoption by US and European clients suggests an increasingly international footprint. Parry is shortly to engage with his first UK customer.
Based at ideaSpace, Cambridge Intelligence believes it has a more advanced offering than i2. It makes innovative visualisation software that allows organisations to see the networks in their data.
Its software is browser-based and works on desktops, tablets and smartphones. The first product, KeyLines, is a flexible network visualisation toolkit designed for law enforcement, fraud detection, counter terrorism, CRM, sales and social network data. Its purpose is to uncover network structures behind an organisation’s data.
Parry, who has worked with the intelligence communities of the UK, US and other countries, said: “After many years serving the national security policing and military intelligence market, working on Analyst’s Notebook desktop software, we wanted to create a more modern visualisation platform that could be deployed entirely in the browser.
“Ironically it was Microsoft’s support of HTML5 standards which gave us the confidence that we were on the right track.”
KeyLines is said to be highly interactive and its capability across multiple devices could be seen to be raising the bar from the 1990s old tech that i2’s original offering was based on. It should certainly lighten the load for developers and Parry sees it as part of a new wave of investigation software.
He had left i2 by the time New York-based IBM came calling last August with a cheque reportedly worth $500m but takes heart from the focus and traction that deal brings to the broader marketplace.
Parry told me: “The first product we have developed is in direct competition to i2; while we have retained capability for older PC systems that might be traditional within police departments, for example, KeyLines works across multi-devices such as iPads and smartphones; it’s more versatile kit.
“Our first customer is in B2B and we are engaging with a lot of software vendors in the initial stages. Their objective is to incorporate our technology into white label products.
“We did well to get our first customer inside six months but now we have to prove that it is a repeatable business model across a larger client base.”
Parry, who currently works with one part-time former colleague from i2 and is about to bring another person on board, says the young company will remain self-funded for the foreseeable future and adds that he is in no mad rush to scale-up beyond the limit of the company’s resource.
“I am not looking for angel investment. We get a fair few coming through ideaSpace and have been asked to talk to the angels but for now we are biding our time.
“The IBM transaction changed the market and we believe it has left room for a smaller player; it is the perfect time for us to make our move.
“I am a big fan of the lean startup mantra as preached by Eric Ries; his approach is very much ‘feet on the ground.’ We have taken on board the need to eliminate waste wherever possible – and to engage with customers at the earliest opportunity and act on feedback. Our first customer has improved our product.”
Cambridge Intelligence is currently sharing offices in ideaSpace with a fellow tech hopeful – Fonleap.
Parry said: “It makes commercial sense and it is great to be around software specialists. I know we have only just started and there will be lots of twists and turns along the way, but I am really confident that Cambridge Intelligence is going to gain traction internationally. The barriers to market entry are very, very low.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Joe Parry