Alistair Handyside, CEO of Simplexo
"...the ability to search across the enterprise from your toolbar in Outlook (where many people spend much of their day and where requests for information are often received) has really caught people’s attention."
Headquartered in Watford, Simplexo Ltd is a privately owned company providing open source eneterprise search solutions founded on a solid history in Electronic Document Management and Retrieval to organisations in many industry sectors, including finance, healthcare and local government. Simplexo gathers fragmented information from across an enterprise and presents a single consolidated list of search results. Not limited to database queries, not restricted to local Office content, Simplexo simultaneously searches multiple and diverse information sources on the company’s behalf: unstructured data such as email, word processor documents, images, text files, spreadsheets, etc; and structured data including databases, payroll, HR systems, SAP and more. Recently, the organisation’s technology was used to run the UK government’s local election pilots for almost 700,000 concurrent users and also supplied one of the first applications to BSkyB for secure online voting. Alistair Handyside has an outstanding track record of success in the IT industry which he brings to Simplexo’s sales, marketing, support and operational activities. With valuable business development skills and a proven record of working with investors and building value, Alistair’s previous achievements include Software Ltd, a leading UK distributor of computer products, which he grew from a startup to £50m through venture capital investment, when it was sold to Ingram Micro.
More recently he was instrumental in forming Protégé, a vehicle to bring US internet software businesses to the UK, which grew to a staff of 250 people.
1) What is Simplexo’s business model?
Our business model is very similar to software vendors’ SAAS (Software as a Service) offerings. That is, people install and use our software and we charge them an annual fee, which covers upgrades, maintenance and telephone support.
We also charge a one-off installation and training fee. Where we differentiate from standard SAAS offerings is that Simplexo software is used in situ by an organisation rather than remotely.
2) The company only recently launched its Open Source software; has uptake matched expectations?
Our standalone Open Source enterprise search application is doing well, but we are also seeing real interest generated by our Outlook and SharePoint integrations – which are not Open Source, for obvious reasons.
Simplexo is easily integrated into many applications, but the ability to search across the enterprise from your toolbar in Outlook (where many people spend much of their day and where requests for information are often received) has really caught people’s attention.
3) How do you expect the economic downturn to impact on your business?
Corporate IT spending is clearly down and therefore we have to work much harder to move installations forward. However, the downturn may be working to Simplexo’s advantage, for a number of reasons: our open source application is very cost-effective to pilot, and our commercial offerings are far less expensive than those that require major investment in accompanying services.
Plus, the annual subscription model is considered an OPEX rather than a CAPEX, which is good news for any CFO or Procurement Manager trying to minimise corporate assets.
So, for organisations that need to make the most of their data, Simplexo is a low-cost no-risk solution with a fast ROI – even in these difficult economic times search remains a key priority, so proven projects can pretty much always gain funding.
4) You quote Gartner’s expectations for a worldwide enterprise search market generating in excess of $1.2 billion in software revenue by 2010. How much of the worldwide market are you aiming for?
Enough to have a sustainable business… the potential is huge but the market is still fragmented, with BI (Business Intelligence) offerings expanding to include search, and search offerings trying to do more of the BI.
But competition is always healthy and ultimately the customer will benefit from it. We’re just focusing on the slice of the market that prefers a simple approach rather than a whole new “platform”.
5) Is there not a huge mountain to overcome for companies competing in the enterprise search sector in the shape of Autonomy?
No, our focus is on simplicity – we offer an easy-to-use, easy-to-implement search option at an incredible price, out of the box. We sell a piece of software not services.
6) Who are your software’s most likely users?
Any customers with multiple databases, legacy systems, and huge amounts of unstructured data spread across the enterprise.
I think organisations are starting to realise that an automated approach to simultaneously searching all the disparate data sources across the enterprise is the only way to ensure fast, accurate, full and reliable retrieval of the information they need for corporate governance, regulatory compliance, and informed decision-making.
7) In what areas or segments do you envisage the biggest growth?
Certainly Government is very strong, but that could equally be an economic factor at the moment.
We believe that an enterprise search tool like Simplexo will be especially attractive to organisations in regulated industries that need to comply with legislation such as the Data Protection Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Financial Services Act, etc.; organisations that are specifically required to retain comprehensive historical data from many sources, and make it selectively and readily available for inspection.
8) There is a growing open source software cluster centring around the East of England. What is driving this?
Most likely it’s the influence of the Cambridge Science Park, the University of Cambridge and the East of England Development Agency which together are promoting technology and software companies.
Many of these are open source organisations, so the pool of expertise is growing organically.
9) What are your biggest challenges going forward?
Keeping the development team focused, same as with most start-ups – there are so many interesting features they would like to include, and it’s a constant battle to keep them working on those that will have most benefit for most customers. We need to build a secure footing so that we can continue to develop the product.
10) What three pieces of advice would you give any budding entrepreneurs thinking of starting their own business?
1. Raise as much money as you can 2. Be realistic in your forecasting 3. Trust your instincts