Windows Azure Helps Startup sharpcloud Expand its Business

Most businesses today use static spreadsheets and presentations that don’t allow for effective collaboration during planning processes. Yet in their personal lives people communicate and collaborate constantly, using dynamic social-networking tools such as Facebook.


Collaboration and real-time communication is critical to business success in today’s dynamic environment. That’s why I co-founded sharpcloud, a startup based in Guildford, England: To apply the principles of social networking to long-term business planning.


Our service combines a highly visual look and feel with common social-networking components to develop, define, and communicate long-term business road maps and strategy. sharpcloud is the first service of its kind to include visualization and social-networking as central ideas in automating strategic planning and road-mapping.


For many reasons it makes sense for sharpcloud to be a cloud-computing application. In particular, a cloud application helps us support the global companies that are our prime target market. The cloud also offers us the ability to quickly and easily scale and deploy to meet the needs of our customers. Finally, the cloud allows us to think and focus on improving our service, without losing development time and effort in managing server infrastructure.


We initially started sharpcloud using Amazon Web Services, but that required us to focus time on maintaining the Amazon cloud-based servers. So to get the results we wanted, we switched to a solution built with Windows Azure. Windows Azure allows us to develop a cost-effective solution and go to market quickly because Microsoft manages the underlying infrastructure for us. We already were creating an application based on the Microsoft .NET Framework and the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in, so we only had to rewrite a small amount of code to ensure that our service and storage would communicate properly with the Azure API.


Through real-time dialog, the sharpcloud application enables users  to develop interactive presentations which define benefit, cost, and risks for their business plans. The solution also provides the ability for users to easily add and share comments and opinions in real-time to aid in efficient communication.


It’s still early days for us, but already Windows Azure has helped us establish strategic relationships. Fujitsu, for instance, is using sharpcloud today and wrapping it into a high-value, strategic consultancy solution called FutureScape. Fujitsu typically partners with large organizations, so the relationship with us was somewhat of a departure for them — but one that they’re comfortable with because, with Windows Azure, they know we can deliver.


We wanted to establish our reputation as the provider of a social-networking, road-mapping tool for strategic planning. Windows Azure is helping us achieve that goal as we have the ability to scale exponentially to support a large number of users which is absolutely critical to our success.


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CEO and Co-Founder of sharpcloud

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