About Robin Vasan

Robin Vasan is a seasoned venture capitalist and former entrepreneur and executive. He invests in companies that leverage the drivers of cloud/Saas and big data such as Alfresco and Marketo.

Artisanal Cheese, Cocktails … Now the Artisanal VC?

Reno Martin/Shutterstock

Reno Martin/Shutterstock

Most venture investors say they are hands-on, but now some are taking it a step further and calling themselves “artisanal” VCs. What does this term really mean? Is it just a pretentious moniker that fits into today’s world of “handcrafted” $5 coffee and $4 toast? Or is there actually a new movement happening in the venture community?

While the term “artisanal” may be a bit overhyped, I would argue there is a real change afoot in the early-stage venture industry. There is a curiosity on the part of some VCs to focus on being a part of fewer, higher-quality, handcrafted companies. Investors like myself are now applying the same type of “craftsman” passion and care to help nurture companies from their earliest stages.Continue Reading

The ‘Smart apps’ explosion is happening
right now

app-explosionThere are over a billion smartphones being used around the world today, but most apps running on them are still quite dumb, in that they throw away a lot of valuable information that could be harnessed to serve users better and to provide a better overall experience.

Don’t believe us? Just look at the highly popular apps from Yelp and Amazon. Yelp’s app search ignores your implicit cuisine preferences, which it could easily extract from your prior queries and navigation. Yelp also overlooks contextual factors like weather and time of day, showing “Bars” and “Nightlife” prominently in its Nearby feature, even at seven in the morning!

Ditto for Amazon’s PriceCheck app, which seems to not only ignore your purchase history but also whether you’re searching for that toaster oven from your home or at your local Target.Continue Reading

Business process API-ification: The LEGO promise fulfilled

Lego to WorkMy previous post on the API-ification of software focused on the ecosystem of infrastructure-level APIs. Today, I want to discuss companies providing APIs that operate at the business process or application layer, which brings a whole new level of productivity and revenue potential to businesses.

Amazon has clearly been leading the way in API-fication by providing a broad range of fundamental software services packaged as APIs. From the basic EC2 compute and S3 storage capabilities, they have expanded to now offer more than 30 services across infrastructure categories of compute, storage, networking, database, deployment/management and messaging. All of these components are incredibly valuable and important, but an application developer still has to construct higher level business processes from these fundamental building blocks. In addition, they have launched the AWS Marketplace, which is a catalog of hundreds of software packages that cover everything from application development to traditional business software. However, this marketplace has only taken the first step in making it easy to install and deploy software applications or stacks as machine images. They haven’t yet enabled third-party companies to provide application components packaged purely as APIs.Continue Reading

The API-ificiation of software – and LEGOs

LegosToday everything has an API. Facebook has hundreds of APIs across such social areas as friends, photos, likes and events. Google has thousands of APIs across search/AdWords, Web analytics, YouTube, maps, email and many more. Amazon has APIs that cover the spectrum from Alexa Web traffic rankings to e-commerce product and pricing information and even the ability to start and stop individual machines. I spent a decade architecting and building component and services based software, and another decade after that evaluating and investing in infrastructure software, I believe this mobile and cloud influenced wave of RESTful service-oriented software may finally live up to its initial promise.

Although the majority of API attention has centered on consumer Web services, an emerging cadre of startups are focused on infrastructure and business processes. These newcomers are providing a broad range of critical services neatly packaged as frameworks or APIs. Some of these companies, such as Salesforce and Google Maps, are next generation SaaS providers that have built solutions to serve both end users and developers. Others, including Mailchimp and Twilio, are pure play offerings that solely target developers as customers.

Open source helped to reignite the open systems movement in the late 1990s, which popularized the idea of creating public projects and actively soliciting community feedback and involvement. Tens of thousands of open source projects have been created, but only those projects that built sizable communities have thrived. Most of the large infrastructure software categories were eventually filled by strong open source projects and some spawned successful commercial software companies, including RedHat, XenSource, Sourcefire, MySQL, JBoss, Talend and Alfresco. These companies span a broad range — from operating systems/hypervisors to security to middleware and database/content management.Continue Reading

The Big Deal On Big Data

In tech circles, the new paradigm of handling massive volumes of information has dominated the discussion about the future of enterprise for a while now. Two years ago, a cover story in The Economist offered tips on how to prepare for the “new world” of Big Data. As recently as February 12, the New York Times reported that data measurement could be the 21st century equivalent of the invention of the microscope.

So, what’s the big deal about Big Data?

Until recently, Big Data has been the darling of the largest companies – Facebook mines 845 million users’ constant stream of comments, links and photo postings to understand user motivation and optimize services; Google analyzes billions of search results to tailor high-value advertising programs. Even outside of the tech world, American Express and Visa have spent billions creating data banks capable of managing immense volumes. Storage and analytics are not an issue for these well-capitalized giants, but most organizations have lacked the technologies and specialized skills needed to harness complex data and extract useful insights.Continue Reading