StrongBox is looking likely to change its name to StrongLink as it pivots away from the high-end cross-silo file and object management market to pursue the broader enterprise market.
This was the thrust of a briefing from new CEO Andrew Hall following the dismissal of the company’s former CEO Floyd Christofferson and some other executive leaders in the past month.
Hall, who has been a Portfolio Manager at StrongBox’s parent company PartnerOne Capital, told us: “I then had nothing to do with the last four years of StrongLink but I was aware in the last month that there was friction between the investors and the management team as it related to the focus of the product because Floyd [Christofferson] and Erik [Murrey, the CTO] … were very much biased towards the high-end supercomputing space.”
The investors were concerned that the company was not growing fast enough. It had accumulated some 30 or so high-end customers — such as NASA, the Library of Congress, Bosch, Canon, and Amadeus — but the software required detailed understanding and management, resulting in lengthy sales cycles, customer-specific customisations and proof-of-concept (POC) exercises.
Hall said: “The intention of the Partner One investors was to put it in a can and sell it to lots of people to do exactly the same thing, as opposed to rolling up our sleeves in every new project, having to develop one-off stuff. … That’s what led to the departure of Floyd and Erik, as well as some of the other engineering team, which in fairness was a short-term cost-based decision while we regrouped.”
PartnerOne is very well funded, which means the product re-development costs can be comfortably afforded. There is no plan for PartnerOne to cast StrongBox adrift, with Hall arguing: “There was never any intent to take our foot off the pedal and stop spending money. What there was an intent to do, was understand that we were putting the money in the direction that it had some better potential for higher levels of return.”
Hall is not new to StrongBox. He was CEO of PartnerOne-owned ETI-Net from 1996 to 2016 and then became an advisor to PartnerOne. ETI-Net bought the archiving, VTS and other assets of crashed CrossRoads Systems and set up StrongBox Data Solutions to develop and sell the StrongBox file management and archiving software.
“Specifically in the month that I’ve been here,” he says, “on a daily basis, we’ve looked at how we can extract some of the overall StrongLink functionality and bundle a … version that’s easier to deploy … as opposed to a nine-month sales cycle with a proof of concept in the tenth or twelfth month, we can put some code in the hands of the guys in the cubicles who are responsible for storage. They can get visibility that they haven’t had as to the dispersion of their various storage silos and open a conversation about where the economics are of layering in StrongLink with some second- and third-tier storage.”
This is going to involve “reformulating the visualisation in what we call our control panel”.
Hall sees this product, we might call it StrongLink Lite, being “brought to the table as part of a package of backend hardware, cloud services, pick an element”. Through channel partners, in other words. He’s also going to be recruiting new people to help in this effort.
Doing a Zuckerberg
He will probably change the company’s name to StrongLink, after its products. That would make life simple and, we suppose, mark a fresh beginning. The company’s website is also being refreshed.
The actual number of StrongBox customers is not, at the moment, well understood as some have come through reselling partner Fuji, but 30 plus/minus ten per cent was mentioned. Hall says that the willingness of StrongBox customers to reference the product after successful projects was something he valued.
That heritage is surely going to help provide impetus and credibility to StrongLink Lite or whatever the new product is called when it reaches the market — some time, we estimate, in 2022. We’ll look forward to that.