CloudKPI helps SaaS businesses to see beyond the clouds

16 Jul 2018

From left: CloudKPI co-founders Maeve Kneafsey and Brenda Jordan. Image: CloudKPI

Our Start-up of the Week is CloudKPI, creator of a platform for cloud businesses to help them make more data-driven decisions.

“CloudKPI is an analytics software solution,” explained CloudKPI co-founder Maeve Kneafsey.

“It consolidates information from across a business’ existing software and turns it into insights that can’t be found otherwise.

‘CloudKPI Version 1 was released in June 2018. Within the first four weeks, CloudKPI had paying customers in two US states along with two proof-of-concept trials with large international service providers’

“Initially focused on software businesses that provide their services in the cloud (think Gmail) or SaaS (software as a service), CloudKPI helps them succeed by enabling them to accelerate their growth, by helping them make data-driven decisions.

“Unlike other analytics solutions, which require large amounts of customisation and professional services to deliver meaningful business insights, CloudKPI is designed for SaaS companies and is a plug-and-play solution, deployable in just 10 minutes.”

Dublin and Silicon Valley-based CloudKPI has been shortlisted for the semi-final of VentureClash 2018, a $5m cash prize global venture challenge for early-stage companies in digital health, financial technology, insurance technology and internet of things. The competition is managed by Connecticut Innovations.

The market

“Our target market is fast-growth, high-potential SaaS businesses,” Kneafsey said.

Kneafsey cited figures from IDC suggesting that SaaS is set to grow by 18.5pc year on year for the next three years.

Gartner estimates that the SaaS market will grow to $117bn by 2021.

“With SaaS companies spending an average of 6pc of annual revenues on analytics, it is a market set to grow to a $7bn value in three years.”

The founders

Co-founders Brenda Jordan and Kneafsey are entrepreneurs with experience in founding and building successful businesses.

CloudKPI is Kneafsey’s fourth start-up. She co-founded one of Ireland’s first dedicated digital strategy and marketing agencies in 2001, and has 15 years worth of expertise in capitalising on digital sales and marketing analytics to accelerate growth.

Jordan has vast expertise and experience in identifying and analysing financial metrics to deliver insight. Prior to co-founding CloudKPI, Jordan built and ran her own management accountancy practice for more than 20 years. She developed a cloud-based SME solution to provide visualised financial performance metrics to support decision-making and drive growth.

The founders met through the Enterprise Ireland Going for Growth programme.

The technology

The CloudKPI analytics solution sits on top of many popular accounting, CRM and marketing solutions.

The aggregated data is then analysed by the CloudKPI algorithm to automatically formulate and visualise complex SaaS metrics such as churn, renewals, customer acquisition costs and more.

“CloudKPI allows user-run dynamic reports using diverse datasets and time periods, to discover correlations, patterns and trends from dispersed cloud data,” Kneafsey explained.

“An early CloudKPI customer was recently able to show an investor his company’s metrics in real time while at a wedding, via his mobile phone.”

Breaking through the clouds

Kneafsey said that CloudKPI aims to be the world’s leading analytics solution servicing cloud-based businesses, and then to expand into new analogous sectors.

“CloudKPI Version 1 was released in June 2018. Within the first four weeks, CloudKPI had paying customers in two US states along with two proof-of-concept trials with large international service providers.”

She said that CloudKPI is currently raising a $1m seed round. It is negotiating with a number of investors and has firm commitments from follow-on US investors. The company aims to close the round by mid-August.

“CloudKPI made a decision from the outset to focus on the North American market where 48pc of the world’s SaaS businesses are located.

“The thinking was that by designing the solution to meet the needs of the world’s leading SaaS companies, it would ensure the product would be ahead of competitors.”

But launching a business into the US market was a big challenge, particularly on a relatively small amount of funding.

“CloudKPI was able to manage this challenge by building a network of trusted advisers. A key component was winning a place in the Plug and Play and the Women’s Startup Lab accelerators in Silicon Valley.”

Think fast, act decisively

Kneafsey said that the start-up communities in Silicon Valley as well as Dublin are incredibly supportive of one another, which is really vital when starting out.

“It’s always hard for any start-up to win customers and raise funds. However, Silicon Valley businesses are very willing to trying new things, which speeds up customer acquisition when compared to the slower decision-making we experienced in Ireland.

“There is a lot of investment for start-ups in Silicon Valley, but you are also competing with a large number of local entrepreneurs who often have a wider network of investor contacts, which, as a relative outsider, will take you time to nurture. So, don’t just concentrate on one market but spend time raising funds in Ireland and the US.”

Crucially, Kneafsey believes start-ups from Europe need to think big and be less conservative with their ambitions.

“It’s much easier to work in an environment with like-minded people, so find a hub or shared workspace in which to base yourself. Think big. Europe and the EU are big places, and organisations like Enterprise Ireland can really help you identify the best markets for your product and help you enter those markets through their European office network.

“The EU has numerous supports and funds for start-ups, so it’s worth doing your homework and applying for them.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years