Cloud Computing

Syncplicity CEO syncs plans to beat sync/share leaders

Ask any of the many companies currently embattled in the highly competitive sector for file synchronisation, sharing and collaboration and you will hear a subtly different story. They all want to store your data and talk a good game about letting you do something great with it in terms of inspiring wonderful new ideas and working as a global ant colony. But they all think they have the best formula for doing so, and a lot of them like to talk down the opposition.

For example, you might think that enemy number-one could be Dropbox for Jon Huberman, CEO of Santa Clara, California-based Syncplicity. After all, Dropbox is a neighbour that’s fuelled by well over $1bn in funding and is currently attempting to convert more of its vast consumer base to paying and business accounts. But no.

“We don’t compete with Dropbox, it’s a consumer app,” says Syncplicity CEO Jon Huberman when we speak by phone. Huberman, a former CEO of erstwhile storage giant Iomega, says his company is focused on companies with 1,000 users and up.

“Everything you have gets synced and you have access to it,” he adds. “It might be a petabyte of data but we will fundamentally lower your cost. It’s a way to drop your environment to the cloud.”

Syncplicity’s name might not be as well-known as that of Dropbox or Box but it has a real business and a recent banner win in the form of Siemens which offers the service to 330,000 staff. Other customers include Major League Baseball.


Hybrid offspring

One USP is its “bimodal” approach that sees it offer both on-premises and cloud platforms so companies can mix and match depending on the profile of workloads. As for security, in Syncplicty’s model all the vendor sees is customer metadata and even that can be kept within a country or region – Germany in the case of Siemens.

Like many American tech CEOs, Huberman is a fluent and fearless talker, saying that Syncplicity was previously hobbled by a “terrible sales force” when it was part of EMC, “a hardware company that had a software company they ignored”. After just three years under EMC the company has since 2015 been in the hands of private investment group Skyview Capital.

Huberman acknowledges that the market is intensely competitive and his company is “trying to chase a company willing to lose $100m a year”. He’s presumably talking about Box, the enterprise-focused segment leader that is only now closing in on profitability. But he plays down the notion that there was some brilliant insight that by taking Syncplicity out of EMC some torrent of value would be unleashed.

“I didn’t realise how big an opportunity we had,” he says. “For vertical apps workflow Box is really good but we are helping big companies redefine how they store their data.” Pushed, he adds that the company Syncplicity most resembles is probably Citrix-owned ShareFile.

Syncplicity also adds to a growing realisation that the sync/share market is more than a way to burn money by giving away freebies or throwing money at infrastructure. The company has been cash-flow positive for one-and-a-half years, Huberman says, and is “growing like a weed” with bookings quadrupling year on year. Dropbox also claims to be cashflow-positive.

Future growth might be helped by deal making; as we speak he is evaluating several acquisition opportunities. He sees growth as necessary in a field that will likely shrink from many to relatively few – from about 40 to about 12 is his estimation.

Does the way forward have an IPO beacon at the end? “My favourite path would be that,” he says.

Then he’s back to those competitors – or should that be non-competitors? – and his view that one company could, however, reconfigure the sector.

“Honestly, we never see Dropbox. They’re very large obviously. Which major company has standardised on Dropbox? Box? We used to see them everywhere. I worry more about Microsoft trashing the whole industry.”


Also read:
Dropbox CEO relies on mass appeal
Dropbox trades blows with Box in a fight to the end
Box CEO zones into safe sharing
Dropbox bets on scale, speed and UXP to sync for success
Egnyte CEO bets on hybrid platform to vie with Box, Dropbox


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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