As co-founder and CTO of Central Desktop, Arnulf Hsu oversees all architecture and product development for the company. Arnulf combines agile technology experience with a business background that spans early-stage start-ups to acquisition.
Central Desktop helps people work together in ways they never imagined possible. Its social collaboration platform connects people and information in the cloud, making it possible to share files, combine knowledge, inspire ideas, manage projects and more. With its SocialBridge collaboration solution, Central Desktop centralizes the way people work, teams collaborate and managers lead.
MO: Can you talk about the inspiration behind Central Desktop and the development process behind it?
Arnulf: When my business partner, Isaac Garcia and I, started the company in 2005, cloud computing and software that runs in the cloud was starting to emerge as the new way to deliver software.
Open Source technology for running a cloud stack was maturing, browsers were getting more modern paving the path to be able to provide a desktop-like experience, the generic go-to-market economics were decreasing for startups and businesses started becoming more comfortable putting their personal or business data online.
As we looked at these trends we saw a clear inflection point for getting broad-based adoption for “Software as a Service” (SaaS), which is now a standard for software delivery. When I start a new business I always look for trends and waves you can latch onto that are going to be disruptive.
We both came out of the enterprise software space having previously sold two companies in the past, both to CNET Networks (now CBS Interactive), one a data aggregator for the PC/consumer electronics business, and another B2B marketplace back in 2002.
We looked at the landscape of applications a business would use, including customer relationship management, accounting, search, analytics, collaboration, file sharing, etc… We saw social project collaboration as an emerging space that nobody had a leadership position in, not to mention a huge market.
MO: How does Central Desktop work? How is it revolutionizing the ways that people connect and share information while encouraging collaboration?
Arnulf: Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter have completely changed the way we communicate, connect and share with our friends and other professionals. When you look at typical businesses today, they are still stuck in the Outlook/Office world emailing documents back and forth, asking for status updates and not providing much transparency to their customers.
Central Desktop unlocks this by providing a social project collaboration solution that allows employees to connect with each other, share/collaborate on files and projects, and bridge the firewall to provide the same level of transparency to its clients, vendors, and customers with the security you expect from a enterprise-class product.
MO: Can you talk about how the launch of the SocialBridge product was a pivotal moment for your company?
Arnulf: As I mentioned earlier, Central Desktop was/is serving a very, very large market. Microsoft Office has reported something like 600 million installations. There are hundreds of millions of office workers in the world that all need to collaborate or work on projects, and as such there are also lots of existing and new players trying to grab their share.
The space has become noisy and crowded. When you have companies like Google, Microsoft, IBM, Citrix, Cisco, etc… competing for market share in the “collaboration” space, as a startup it becomes harder to rise about the noise.
As a result you need to find your niche. As we looked at our customer base, we found that we had concentration of customers in various vertical markets, specific uses if you will. We continued with additional market research and decided to focus our efforts on the marketers ecosystem, specifically marketing agencies and departments.
So we built SocialBridge on top of the Central Desktop platform. It is a combination of core Central Desktop features in a certain configuration and some new capabilities that address this market, such as inline markup on graphic, video and audio files.
MO: Why do you think that market focus is so important when building a company? What are some key elements of the market focus process and how do you know when you’re on the right track?
Arnulf: As a startup you have limited resources, money, people, etc… You need to deploy these resources in a very focused way. In the early days we were just building a product that appealed to small/medium -sized companies. After a few years we figured out it was hard to rise above the noise. Lots of players in the space made it difficult for buyers to understand the differences, and there were many different types of customers pulling us in all kinds of directions, specifically from a product and pricing perspective.
So as a result we were somewhat diluted in our efforts. Focusing on a specific market – in our case marketing agencies – allows us to be the leader in that market, focus on those customers that all have similar pain points and deliver an end-to-end solution that meets their needs fully.
You know you are on track when you see more and more new revenue coming from your segment quarter over quarter. Today more than 50% of new revenue is coming from this single segment for us.
MO: Your clients have included CBS, Harvard University, Netflix along with many other notable companies and organizations. What marketing strategies have you employed to capture this level of clientele?
Arnulf: We attract customers via SEO and SEM, social media, events, public relations, and content and lead generation campaigns. Much of our business also comes word-of-mouth via happy customers and end users as a result of their usage of the product and contact with our top-notch services staff.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for Central Desktop?
Arnulf: The Central Desktop platform is very robust, flexible and versatile. We have configured and built SocialBridge for Agencies and are emerging as the leader in our segment. Central Desktop has the opportunity to capture other markets in the same way we have executed on marketing agencies and departments. We will continue to build our platform and focus on new markets in a focused, structured and methodical fashion so we deploy our resources the right way. The opportunities are large and real, and this is what drives me every day.
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