Michael Gould, founder and CTO of Anaplan, a performance-management Cloud platform provider, visited Global Finance to discuss innovation in corporate software, the fast-growing need for data analysis, and how to turn an idea into a global company.
Global Finance: How did you turn your own idea into the global company you are part of now, valued at more than $1 billion?
Michael Gould: I had been working for about two years on building the platform for forward-looking decision-making within an organization. Following a venture investment and building a small team, we launched commercially in 2011. Since then we have gained our current customers, global companies across multiple functions and industries, using a single platform for various corporate functions from financial planning to forecasting and sales-performance management. We have tried to recruit a very high level of programmers and engineers; and we tap into new sources of talent, including the London market where the competition is not as fierce as in San Francisco.
GF: What challenges does Anaplan try to solve, and what makes its platform unique?
Gould: We found that most enterprise-performance-management products are very old: some were developed in the 1980s, such as IBM’s TM1. Also, most existing platforms do not serve as a single platform for all corporate functions. We do not do analysis of large-scale unstructured data, such as live feeds from vending machines. We focus on actionable data-based modeling and business scenarios for decision-making processes. Anaplan partners with big consulting firms that build applications on our platform, as we perceive ourselves more as a technology company and less as a consulting company.
GF: How do you approach innovation, and what are your relationships with your customers in this process?
Gould: We constantly get requests from clients for features they would like to add to the platform. We increase user engagement in the design process to improve our platform and products for decision-making processes, such as sales managers’ involvement for quota-planning purposes. There is also a lot of potential for machine learning and artificial intelligence in this area. More specifically, insurance and financial-services companies have to come up with new innovative products quicker than in the past, in order to respond to client demand and competitive events. Anaplan is part of this innovation. In the last five to 10 years, many companies became software organizations.
When we bring competitors together to provide input to the platform, the parties would like to share information to solve problems, avoid bad investments and improve their performance—with some limits to protect their intellectual property.
GF: Where do you operate, and who are your main competitors?
Gould: We are a global company. We target all industries, while most of our clients are in technology, consumer goods and manufacturing, and insurance and financial services. Most of our large competitors, such as IBM or SAP, provide various applications through their acquisitions, while we offer a single platform. There is integration with and competition against newer, more innovative companies, such as Salesforce.
GF: How do financial institutions bridge the gap between secrecy and joint software solutions?
Gould: Banks want to protect their intellectual property and customers’ data. They are less eager to share than other industries. Yet they need to share information to achieve cost efficiencies. We see initiatives where large banks join together for data-sharing purposes for better KYC (know your customer), including HSBC and BNP Paribas. This is a way for them to reduce the costs of customer acquisition. A Cloud platform can help in that regard.