Azuqua isn't just a company for CEO and co-founder Nikhil Hasija: It's a calling.
That may seem like an odd way to talk about something as esoteric as a cloud-based tool that integrates applications and data while orchestrating services. But maybe that's what happens when you're an MBA/electrical engineer with an entrepreneurial spirit and a resume that includes nearly five years with Microsoft.
His calling came after he'd spoken at a conference and decided to use some down time to brush up on the market. As he was touring the expo floor, he saw a sign that bothered him deeply.
"It said, 'Your cloud integration partner,'" he recalled. "There was no cloud on the banner, and I'd seen this banner before and it had said, 'Your enterprise integration partner.'"
Hasija found this unacceptable. At Microsoft, he'd spent three years educating partners about how cloud differed from on-premise in fundamental ways such as security, risk, residency laws, scale and access mechanisms.
"I just stood there and I said, 'This is fundamentally different. We can't apply the rules and path of boxed software in the cloud,'" he said. "It felt wrong to be able to buy a cloud service within five minutes and then spend a few months to connect it to other systems you had in your enterprise.
"And that day -- I remember crystal clear -- I had this feeling that this is my problem to solve and nobody's solving it the way I want to solve it, and I want a shot at it."
Re-imagining App Integration for the Cloud
This encounter pushed Hasija to contemplate how he would build for the cloud. He used a technique that may resonate with Sherlock Holmes fans -- the Mind Palace, or what ancient Romans and Greeks called the method of loci (places).
"I stood in a room visually in my head, with little doors opening and packets coming from each place and then realizing, even with my experience, I had to open each data packet up to send it to five other doors," he said. "In some cases I had to wait for decisions to come back and then forward it on. So it's a true orchestration platform."
For the next year, he worked on a prototype for a cloud-based platform that would allow businesses to quickly integrate, manage and -- most important, perhaps -- orchestrate popular cloud services such as Twitter feeds or Gmail with enterprise software like CRM and ERP. He then spent a year performing market analysis before asking Craig Unger, who had worked as the GM at Microsoft R&D, to join as CTO and help build Azuqua.
Nexus of BPM and Integration
The resulting cloud-based platform uses a drag-and-drop interface to connect services. If that sounds like integration, it is -- but like most solutions built ground-up for the cloud, Azuqua transcends any one traditional enterprise application category by also incorporating functions from business process management (BPM) and workflow management.
In fact, Gartner named Azuqua one of this year's "Cool Vendors in Business Process Management." Gigaom placed it in competition with Zapier, IFTTT, and SnapLogic, but Hasija describes it as "born in the nexus" of BPM, integration and workflow management.
"We built it from the ground-up to be a SaaS service, multi-tenant cloud scale. The old guys are moving three ends into the cloud, and we have a huge advantage in terms of scale, operability, cost, the fact that we are cloud-born," he said.
Simplifying Workflow Integration, Management
Azuqua offers pre-configured workflows it calls Flos to help customers create workflows and orchestrate events. So, for example, Flos can be used to monitor Twitter for comments related to your customers, perform a sentiment analysis to identify complaints, and then connect Twitter IDs with your customer list from Salesforce. It can then assign an automatic case number to a complaint and let the customer know a case has been created.
It sounds complex, but it's a common process that can be set up in about five minutes, or less than 30 seconds if you download existing Flos already developed by the company from the Flo Store, Hasija said.
Azuqua uses a flat pricing structure, with starting costs at $75 for individuals or $250 for enterprises.
"Our goal is simplification, through and through," Hasija said. "When it comes to pricing, et cetera, we want to make sure our product is highly approachable and very simple, both to consume and to buy."
Clients often come to Azuqua from the business side, rather than IT, since the product does not require coding and supports over 40 common SaaS applications such as FullContact, Gainsight, Marketo, Salesforce, Twitter, Gmail and Workfront. That ecosystem may grow quickly once the company moves its channel builder for SaaS developers out of beta.
Customers use Azuqua to move data from SaaS applications to Salesforce.com, as well as feeding additional customer information and the latest accounting data into ERP and CRM systems, Hasija said.
"The common use cases are around people that basically want to get more productive and are tired of doing the same thing over and over again," he said. "But I think the use case that we are starting to see now is people are coming out and saying 'I think I can do my job better if I combine these two things, because I can make decisions faster, I can get more insight by combining data from these two systems. Azuqua will help me do that.'"
That's why Hasija said Azuqua is his calling.
"I like to build platforms that, at the end of the day, solve problems around productivity for the maximum amounts of people," he said "To me, what gets me high is saving time, making things more efficient, et cetera. So basically this feels like it is my calling because that's the general theme of what Azuqua does."
Fast Facts About Azuqua
Founders: Nikhil Hasija (CEO), Craig Unger (CTO)
Product: Azuqua allows users to build business processes and integrate and manage workflows for 40 popular cloud services, without custom code
Customers: Chef, Smartsheet, EAT Club, Gainsight, Aramark, New Wave Communications, Dun & Bradstreet
Funding: $5.18 million total, with venture funding from Microsoft Ventures and Series A funds from Ignition Partners
Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, healthcare IT, cloud and Big Data.