Over the past ten years, the explosion of SaaS solutions has fully transformed the way we do business, to the extent there’s hardly an individual out there, business user or general consumer, who doesn’t rely on at least a few SaaS products.
And if your company is like most, it’s all SaaS all the time. The flexibility and scalability of SaaS has proven a huge benefit for growth and cost—but automating tasks between them, along with legacy apps, has become time consuming and expensive.
As a business consultant, Jan Arendtsz saw this problem developing years ago and knew where it was headed. That’s why he founded Celigo, an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) that connects thousands of SaaS products for both IT professionals and business users.
On this edition of UpTech Report, Jan talks about how he came to see foresee this problem, and he walks us through the complex technology involved in his solution.
More information: https://www.celigo.com/
Jan Arendtsz is a veteran of the software industry with more than 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, business development, product development, and customer success. He founded Celigo with the goal of simplifying how companies integrate business applications together for a connected enterprise. He is responsible for overseeing all company operations.show more
Celigo, the next-generation Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) built for both IT professionals and business users that easily connects and automates processes across thousands of applications. Named a G2 Best Software for 2021, Celigo allows users to quickly build, manage, and handoff complex integrations at scale, requiring fewer IT resources and lowering the total cost of ownership.
With Celigo, users can automate processes such as Lead-to-Cash, Subscription Management, Customer 360, Expense Management, Hire-to-Retire, Reporting, Marketing Automation, and so much more, across key applications such as via prebuilt or universal connectors.show less
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Jan Arendtsz 0:00
These are all examples of business processes. And ultimately, by and large for the most part, what companies are trying to do is they’re trying to automate business processes. If you break it down at that level, it’s a high level of abstraction.
Alexander Ferguson 0:20
Welcome to UpTech Report. UpTech Report is sponsored by TeraLeap. Learn how to leverage the power of video at teraleap.io. I’m very excited today to have my guest Jan Arendtsz, who is based in San Carlos, California, CEO and founder at Celigo. Welcome Jan, good to have you on.
Jan Arendtsz 0:37
Thanks for having me.
Alexander Ferguson 0:38
Absolutely. Now, your product, it’s an integration platform as a service or bypass solution. So for those out there, if you’re an IT or department leader in a mid market or enterprise business, you’re looking to connect all the different SaaS applications that you’re using together and automate your business more, this might be an intriguing platform you want to check out now on your site Yon you state quickly build and manage simple or complex integrations at scale. Help me understand what was the problem that you initially saw when you when you set out to found Sligo? And how has that changed over time?
Jan Arendtsz 1:13
Right. So the initial problem was created by the explosion of the fast business, as you can imagine, right? Lots and lots of new SaaS applications coming on the market. So if you go back to 2010, we just wrapped up a consulting company that I’d started, where we were doing some of this work back in the day from, let’s say, the mid 2000s, through about 2010. Ever. I don’t want to say a handful of SaaS applications. But there were a limited number, let’s say, and those companies that are really invested in SAS, are really trying to then connect some of these apps together and running into various different problems. So that was the the genesis of it. And by the way, also trying to connect these SaaS applications with other more legacy applications on prem databases, various file systems, writing partners, what had
Alexander Ferguson 2:17
come like it’s becoming bred of it’s everywhere, and it’s become integral to businesses, and to make them speak to each other and legacy systems sounds like it is a problem. That’s only growing,
Jan Arendtsz 2:29
right? And what’s interesting is if you take 2010 the the nature of the problem with a little bit different from 2020, or 2021, where now a whole bunch more has moved into the SAS world, there are 1000s of SaaS applications on the market.
Alexander Ferguson 2:48
And the legacy was the legacy issue of trying to integrate these new SAS things, he was more
Jan Arendtsz 2:53
prevalent, we really took a mindset. And it’s important to understand there were lots of other companies solving a lot of the legacy problems. So right from the start, we were more focused on how can we build a platform that is optimized to connect more cloud based apps. Now we also connected, let’s say, with an an on prem database, or legacy application as well. But we didn’t lead with that, right? So we were, we always knew that at some point that the equation was going to change, and it was going to be either predominantly or 100%. All SAS. So that’s the direction that we did
Alexander Ferguson 3:30
not originally mess with with on prem and having to build those that’s much more of a service mindset in business, creating custom solutions for that. But you’re moved into more of an overall platform that has a lot of built in connections, correct that you people just already
Jan Arendtsz 3:48
Yeah, and let me just explain that at a high level so that the audience has some context, right. So on last count, there are supposedly like 20,000 public API’s out there in the world and growing. And then the, as I said, there are 1000s of SaaS applications. And then there are all these legacy applications, there are trading partners bank, so on and so forth. So what we try to do, when we approach this through integration is at two levels. The first thing we do is we have universal connectivity. So any application that has an API, especially if it’s a rest based API, we have what’s known as a universal connector rest connector that can go connect with it. So if there are 10,000 apps that support a REST API, we can connect with all 10,000 so on and so forth, or if a given company is trading with someone else using flat file, CSV files, delimited files fixed with files, we can do all of that, right. So we have a number of these universal connectors, including four databases. And then on top of that, we have what we call named connectors. So think of all the major SaaS applications out there, we can connect to them. Not using that generic or universal connector, but through the name connected, because we can really dumb the complexity down and make it much easier, especially for a non technical user to be able to use it. And so ever get into this name Connect.
Alexander Ferguson 5:18
Gotcha. So for the REST API, that’s if you’re leading in an IT department, you’ll know how to use that and use your integrations for that. But if you’re just a department leader, not an IT professional, you don’t know too much. You can use those popular integrations without having to know too much of the technical side.
Jan Arendtsz 5:34
That is correct. And I’ll add one more thing, even for those it users, you may not know, all the apps out there, right? So even you will need help to take a complex API and make sense of it and make it more consumable. And that’s what we aim to do.
Alexander Ferguson 5:53
I want to ask, though, like this is only growing because the need of the amount of SaaS applications out there is only growing. There are solutions like Zapier and others. Another one, I can’t remember the name of it. And we talked about ahead of time of how is your and I want you to share here, how is your angle different than like why can’t they just use Zapier or?
Jan Arendtsz 6:12
Yeah, so so that pier is, I think, an interesting case a very successful company, but sets a little bit to the side and in general is not considered part of the the space when the iPad space. And here’s the reason why. So the in a nutshell, Zapier focuses more on task automation at an individual level. So let’s say you as a user has a particular task that you want automate, let’s say you did a survey, yeah, you use Survey Monkey, and you want to pull that data into Salesforce. That is something that is unique to you, right. It’s not like an integration that’s running at a company level where a sudden everyone event exactly, at least, that’s the way Zapier started. And that’s what they’re known for. Whereas what we do is integration that runs at the company level, it’s an enterprise level integration. So let’s let’s just use a typical CRM example, a given company is using Salesforce and account record is updated. And there might be further downstream effects, that’s going to hit a number of other systems. And that happens, not for one rep. But for anyone who touches or makes it update to the account. So I think that’s a fundamental difference.
Alexander Ferguson 7:36
Yeah. And traditionally, before your type of solution came along, and IT department or an external software development company probably have to build custom code to connect to different applications together, where this iPad solution is meant to be just a universal hub that takes less time to then automate all these different pieces together as a business as a whole. I get that right?
Jan Arendtsz 7:58
That is correct. So especially going back to when we got started, right in 2010, we’d hear this custom code custom solution, homegrown solution of fabric, less so today, because there’s got to be a really good reason why you would even consider that path. And especially given that a lot of the SAS vendors have built their own integration so that they can sell their product, right. So the the vendor build integrations arguably, is right up there. When a given company’s thinking about connecting the enterprise, automating certain business processes. The custom coding is still there getting the consultants to come in, but that’s on the wane at this point. Right?
Alexander Ferguson 8:44
So what before using your application would they be using what do you think an IT department is just manually building the using the REST API to do their own things? And if so, what’s the value then of using seleka?
Jan Arendtsz 8:58
Yeah, it’s all over the map set. It’s just based on the company, the space, they ain’t they have, how mature the IT department is, the number of business applications they have, so on and so forth. So the default option is you do nothing. And that’s manual data entry, right? And in certain cases, they can get by the same data needs to be entered in a different system, the counting team might go do it once a month, create a general ledger or what have you, right, and that can function, okay. I think by and large, the biggest alternative or before someone considers an iPad is what’s embedded is those vendor built integrations that I talked about. So think about and if you don’t mind, I’m just gonna take a quick step back to say, if you look at all the SAS apps out there, there is a there is a kind of a natural order Or hierarchy. And I want to introduce the concept of what we call a foundational SaaS application. The think of an SAS application such as a CRM, or an E RP, or an HCM. Why are these different, it’s because they are the system of record for well known business objects in the enterprise such as employee or the accountant or the sales order, or the vendor, or the purchase order. And all these other more specialized SaaS applications that are sprouting left and right and going deeper into one particular function ultimately have to connect to a system of record. If your time and expenses you need to connect to the employee record or to the GL, right. So as a result, when when you buy these off the shelf, SaaS applications, especially the specialized ones, they likely have some pre built integration, that that whether the user knows it or not, is is in play. And I’m happy to expand on this later on. But those two can work really well in certain cases, but have a shelf life. And clearly, if you have 100, SaaS applications, and at Vanderbilt integrations running, everyone doesn’t know about the existence of the other one, and it’s just mass chaos. And that’s when the best conversation becomes more and more prevalent.
Alexander Ferguson 11:23
Helping actually give concrete examples of in play really does help to see it in in use. I’m already looking at your site here, this one quote from David zoominfo, Georgia financial systems where you said you did an order to cash process automating from Salesforce to there, I guess, the cash process system, they reduced not leaving effectively, five full time employees, if you’re where you really see the power of here is where people are manually entering or managing transactions and being able to automate it using system like this. Is that a good use case? Do you have any other use?
Jan Arendtsz 11:57
That’s a great use case, right? Because the whole quote, to cash business process, the automation of that is kind of like arguably the backbone, one of the key business processes in the whole enterprise, right? It’s connecting, arguably, the front office, the sales teams, the marketing teams with the back office. And to be able to do that, in an automated fashion in real time, where you don’t have to go through manual entry is just absolute tea, especially also to get insights on on both sides as well.
Alexander Ferguson 12:34
I love this, this other quote here is that now we’re truly running a business that have a business running us. That’s why I love technology, I feel like really that should take on the heavy lifting of manual entry and things doing that are repetitive and people can focus on the problem solving. What can you speak to those though, folks that are in the IT department or leading a department overall in the business section? What can you speak to as far as advice when it comes to automating a business? Even apart from Sligo? Just what would you share as far as advice?
Jan Arendtsz 13:03
Yeah, so let’s take a step back. Well, quite and and there are various different terms that we use the industry users, and I want to make sure that we are on the same page. So let’s say that integration ultimately is a means to an end. And that end is do automate certain business processes. Integration is more than that. But just to take a key example. So if you have that, quote, the cash business process that we talked about, or another typical one that most users will understand is what we call hire to retire, right, you’re going to, you’re going to hire employees. So you might have an applicant tracking system. And once you hire that person, the data needs to move into your HR system, and then you need to onboard that person. And that data needs to be populated in multiple different systems. These are all examples of business processes. And ultimately, by and large, for the most part, what companies are trying to do is they’re trying to automate business processes. If you break it down at that level, it’s a high level of abstraction. And you as a company are saying, What are my key business processes? And are they splintered across multiple SaaS applications? And is that splintering, going to get even more prolific as time goes by? And then you’re going to think about how does the business process need to function? How does the data need to flow? What are some of what’s the system of record, so on and so forth? Right, you’re gonna start thinking about those types of things. And when you think about that, that’s the hardest thing to do. Then you’re gonna say, Okay, well, I’ve come up with a list of business processes that I absolutely need to do automate. We cannot continue business as is. And then you’re going to try and connect these various applications. Ultimately, the end is to be able to automate that In this process, so let me let me just stop there to see if that makes sense. And then I’m happy to dive into how companies should really start thinking about that prior prioritization and the roadmap.
Alexander Ferguson 15:13
I mean, it does, it does make sense to be able to take a step back of understanding of where what are your core competencies of focus that you’re redoing over and over in your business? And if you’re over multiple SaaS applications, how can you connect it to to make your life more simple? I do actually want to take a little different shift here in the conversation about, let’s say, someone is ready. Right, right, ready to look at this your business model? How does it work? Is it based on like the number of seats using the number of applications that are being utilized? How does that work?
Jan Arendtsz 15:45
Yeah, it’s not based on the number of seats, it’s ultimately based on what we call the number of endpoints, which is a rough proxy for the number of applications that they have. So the more applications that you have that need to be connected, then you will have to go ahead and get the higher level or a different edition.
Alexander Ferguson 16:10
For those out there that are looking at you guys. And what you do, is there a certain size of company that is best suited to use it? Like what what? Are they too small, a certain size? They too big? And what’s the best type of? Yeah,
Jan Arendtsz 16:24
so great question, right? So my, my quick answer is, the vision that we have is to be size agnostic. And if you’ve, you, as a company have invested in SAS, and you’ve reached a certain critical mass of SaaS applications, especially some of these foundational SaaS applications, then typically I say, if you have two or more foundational SaaS applications, the CRM, the RP, the HCM of the world, then you will very likely need and I pass. That said, our focus right now is really on the mid market, where we see the most adoption as you can imagine, sometimes larger companies are a little bit slower to truly embrace a new model. And especially given that we have fully optimized for the cloud. Again, we can connect with any on prem app, we have a whole system to be able to do that. The focus is more on that midmarket
Alexander Ferguson 17:30
got it Okay, now looking forward from here, what would you say is like the most exciting feature or release that you’ve that is either out there right now or is coming out that you can share?
Jan Arendtsz 17:41
Yeah, so I’ll give you a couple and happy to dive into one if needed. So one is a feature that we recently introduced that is part one of a long term strategy and the premise it’s really about managing your integration so and taking a quick step back when we talk about integration there is the building part you have to go build these use cases and then you put it into production and you you want it to run and the model that all of our customers love is right you set it up and then can I forget about it, which you never should but that’s the mentality that they want. So how can we make that journey as as easy as possible. To that end, we’ve come up with a capability named autopilot as the name suggests, using AI and machine learning, we can understand what’s happening what’s the most the errors are in this particular use cases make sense compile them all together and get to a point where we can proactively suggest to the end user the administrator as to how to fix it remember how they do it and then try and auto fix it in the future so that that whole production running integration the management of it is as seamless as possible something that we’re really really excited about and and a first in the iPad space. And then yeah, so it’s mostly out there we are. We focused on more of the the compilation of these errors and making sense of it and then being able to auto correct. The auto pilot part is coming out very soon. Okay. I know you asked for one. Do you mind if I give you a second one real quick?
Alexander Ferguson 19:41
Give it to me give it What’s another. Okay. So
Jan Arendtsz 19:43
one key thing that we see is customers want suddenly integrations to be pre built, and we’ve had a reputation our brand is, is associated with pre built integrations, we make it as easy as possible. But the We build integrations, we call them integration app. So for example, say connecting Salesforce and NetSuite. We’ve built this with, but all the possible use cases, we productize that put the dials and knobs in front of the box to be able to configure it. And that works great. But now, in this new world, there, there’s more splintering, there might be a CPU in the mix, there might be a contract Lifecycle Management product in the mix, there might be an E signature, or a billing application. And so you go from two co apps to four or five apps. And and then, as you can imagine, right, there are lots of permutations and combinations. So I’m something that I’m super excited about is this concept of business process applications, where instead of just saying we want to connect app A and B together, we’re going to give you have the freedom to be able to pick some of those apps. And then with the frameworks that we have, we’ll try and put it all together and walk the user through a process so that they don’t have to build it. And more importantly, we give them some of the best practices built into that framework. So they can imagine that something deadly,
Alexander Ferguson 21:14
yeah, you’re automating the automating process.
Jan Arendtsz 21:18
Correct. Right. And, and also giving them a framework, but not to try and tightly coupled it to the way we think it should work. We want these companies to be able to decide how the data flows, what how that business process should work, but to try and do it in a way where they have to do the least amount of work.
Alexander Ferguson 21:40
I really intrigued with that, this, this future concept of where both AI assistants, as well as other tools are there to help us even simplify and streamline our own automation processes. And they can understand both the technical side but also can can comprehend what we’re trying to get them to do. So I’m intrigued that you guys are already implementing that type of solution. What, what would you say is is a good first step that folks can take with Selenium?
Jan Arendtsz 22:11
In terms of
Alexander Ferguson 22:13
the demo, is it like is it best thing to jump on a call? Do they start for free to download it?
Jan Arendtsz 22:20
Yeah, so we’re big fans of our product, and we stand by it. So as a result, we have both a trial and a freemium model available. So you can go implement one business process or one use case for free in perpetuity. And so we have confidence in the in the product, the usability, especially, we’ve spent a lot of time on this for both technical users and non technical users, that they can come in, sign up. And if you know what you want to do, start building it out. And so as I say, the proof is in the pudding. And we that’s a great way to get started. But then cost soon thereafter.
Alexander Ferguson 23:09
Got it, you believe in your product enough that as soon as people start using it, they’re going to be hooked. And that’s a good confidence in your own product that you don’t need to sell them on it on a sales call first, they can just use it for the more technical folks and be able to get in there. Absolutely. Thank you so much for sharing the the insights and where you guys are headed and how you’re helping people automate the automations as well in their in their business. For those that want to learn more, definitely go to their website celigo.com. And you will to try out there that your first integration for free.
Also stick around for part two of our discussion with Jan on the insights and the lessons learned over the last 10 years of building celigo. So stick around for part two. Thanks again, everyone for joining us, and we’ll see you next time. That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech report.com. Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.