The BizSpark startup of the day is Userware, based in France. You will find below an interview with Giovanni Albani, founder and CEO of Userware. All the best to them and congrats for being the startup of the day!
Interview with Giovanni Albani, founder and CEO of Userware
Who are you?
We are two partners: founder and CEO Giovanni Albani, an entrepreneur from an early age, and CTO Alain Zanchetta, a software architect with 18 years of industry experience including 13 at Microsoft France. Our company Userware develops Wiki-OS.org (the “Wikipedia of software”), and provides professional solutions to enable users of an application to very easily contribute to its improvement.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘company of the day’ per Microsoft?
It is an honor. We will do our best to live up to expectations.
What did you do before creating your company?
I started to develop and market software since the age of 13, in parallel with my studies (graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, and Supelec, France). One of the applications I wrote, Adventure Maker, has become the leading toolkit for creating point-and-click adventure games without programming. Other applications that I wrote include 3D Picture Browser. I started working on the Userware/Wiki-OS project in 2007.
My partner Alain Zanchetta has spent 13 years at Microsoft France as a Software Architect Consultant, after having spent 5 years at Capgemini. A graduate of Ecole Polytechnique and Telecom Paris, he is the author of several popular applications available on the Internet.
How did you get the idea? What s the genesis?
After developing software for years, I realized that no one better than the users themselves know how software can be improved. Developers sometimes think that a feature is important although it is not, and vice versa. So I thought to myself: why not apply the principles of Web 2.0 to software applications? Why not allow users to contribute to their application as easily as they contribute to a wiki? Why not allow them to vote the best features, post their questions and suggestions directly from the application interface, and most importantly develop new features that would be instantly accessible to all users?
What do you sell? What is your company’s mission?
We provide the following solutions:
- Wiki-OS.org : the “Wikipedia of software”, an online operating system in which applications are developed directly by users, like a wiki. For example, to modify a window, simply press its Edit button. The source code of the window appears instantly in a built-in code editor. It is possible to make changes right away. The changes are automatically reflected in the application of all the users who want to stay updated with the latest version.
- Userware API: intended for software developers, this tool can take existing proprietary applications and make them “improvable” by users. The developer can choose which parts of the source code should be open and which parts should remain proprietary. Then, users can add features and make comments directly from the interface of the application. The original developer only has to wait for his application to grow by itself. He may designate moderators, but the built-in popularity systems automatically ensure that the best contributions are promoted and that the worse contributions are discarded.
- Userware for Office: It is an Add-In for Microsoft Office that solves all the problems of deploying new Add-Ins and their updates. It ensures that the deployment of Add-Ins and their updates is instantaneous, automated and entirely transparent to users.
- Wiki-OS Enterprise: It is a web OS that companies can install on their servers to add their own applications (for use on the intranet or externally). Applications can be built using the standard .NET framework (WPF or Silverlight) and therefore developers do not need to learn any additional API. It can host rich applications and execute them inside the browser so that no installation is ever required by the user. The deployment of applications and their updates is instantaneous, automated and entirely transparent to users.
What is your market?
We focus on three distinct markets:
- The general public (“Wiki-OS.org” product)
- Software makers (“Userware API” product)
- Companies (“Userware for Office” and “Wiki-OS Enterprise” products).
Any clients? References? Partners?
Wiki-OS.org already has over 1,000 registered users and is growing fast. Our other products have just been released, and several companies are already interested in them.
Funding history? VCs? BA?
The company is bootstrapped.
The phases of technology development and finalization of the products offering are completed. We are now in a phase of commercialization and we expect strong growth in the months ahead. Our market is both regional (France) and international. Our products are available globally.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
Userware currently has 2 developers (1 employee). We are working to expand the team in the near feature.
Are you hiring? If yes, what? Where?
Yes, we are looking for both developers and sales/marketing people. Profit-sharing and even distribution of shares may be considered. Userware is based in France but we are interested in working with people in other countries as well.
Which platform are you building on? Why?
Today we primarily use Microsoft technologies: Windows Server, SQL Server 2008, Visual Studio, .NET , ASP.NET, Silverlight, etc. We chose to use those technologies because they enabled us to rapidly develop our solutions and meet the requirements that we had set. This does not prevent us from trying to be as compatible as possible with other technologies. We hope for closer collaboration with Microsoft but we are also open to other opportunities that might arise.
Do you have any Software IP? Is there something that you’re the only one to do on the market?
Yes, our “user-generated software” technology is patent-pending. We are currently the only ones on the market to offer solutions to enable users of an application to easily and collaboratively improve it.
Who’s your role model?
There are many, but all share a determination to achieve ambitious goals, and a willingness to go beyond their own boundaries.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/internet areas?
The software world today resembles the information world thirty years ago: each author was writing his book on his own, and to find information one needed to consult dozens of different books. The same thing is happening today with software: each developer is writing an application on his own, similar to the thousands of other existing applications but slightly different, and the user is required to test dozens of applications to find the features he needs. As Wikipedia has managed to gather a large amount of knowledge in one place, Wiki-OS has the ambition to gather a large amount of software know-how and functionality in one place, so that everyone can access it and so that developers can easily build on top of existing applications rather than constantly reinventing the wheel.
Looking for funding? If yes, how much?
Yes, we are looking right now for funding to grow faster. We are seeking between 150k and 500k Euros.
What about the BizSpark Program? What do you think? Are you going to join? Why?
We are already enrolled in the BizSpark Program and we appreciate its benefits such as the ability to obtain licenses for Microsoft products for 3 years.
Any advice to young Software entrepreneurs?
Keep in mind that hard work always ends up paying off. Tell yourself that you have enough skills to achieve your goal, and never feel overwhelmed by the difficulty of a task.