Q&A with Apptivo founder and CEO Bastin Gerald

By Editor May 16, 2011

 Apptivo offers free online productivity apps for small businesses. The Silicon Valley-based company was founded in 2008.

SUB: Please briefly describe the services Apptivo offers.

Gerald: Apptivo is a platform that provides many small business apps for free. Apptivo has apps to manage your employees, ecommerce store, customers, projects, timesheets, invoices and many other functions of a small business.

SUB: What is the technology behind the services?

Gerald: We use Postgres SQL DB and JBoss. All our apps are written in Java.

SUB: What is your business model? How does Apptivo make money?

Gerald: Apptivo makes money by selling additional services like electronic fax, document storage, email campaigns, etc. All these services are provided by third party providers and Apptivo integrates these services seamlessly into relevant apps. We also develop custom ecommerce websites and host these websites. Most of the custom development happens through partners. And we are actively recruiting partners.

SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?

Gerald: There are several vendors in different spaces. In CRM, we see Salesforce.com, and Zoho as the 800 pound gorillas to take on. In invoicing, Freshbooks. In Project Management basecamphq.com and so on.

SUB: What differentiates Apptivo from the competition?

Gerald: Apptivo is a platform that provides many small business apps. And for free. These are the key differentiators at this point. There is no entry fee to use the platform. There are no monthly fees. The only investment you need to make is to spend some time to play around and get going.

SUB: What is your target market? Is it SMBs?

Gerald: We are targeting SMBs.

SUB: How are you marketing your services?

Gerald: The primary channel we are relying on is word of mouth. We are also working with partners in specific verticals to both build vertical specific apps and also promote the platform in that vertical. We are also engaged in conversations with special interest groups to promote Apptivo in their networks.

SUB: Where did the inspiration for Apptivo come from?

Gerald: My background is ERP, which meant big spending during the last decade. So, I’ve always wanted to build a business management platform for small businesses. The challenge was to do that in a way that will make the total cost of ownership near zero for a user. Recent technologies have made it possible to offer a small business management suite like Apptivo free for customers.

SUB: What were the first steps you took in starting the company?

Gerald: I bounced my idea with a couple of friends. Pitched it to a VC. The idea was thought to be “very difficult” to achieve. So, then I set out to build it myself. I researched some technologies, hired some engineers back in India and got going.

SUB: What have the biggest challenges been you’ve faced so far to building the business?

Gerald: So far, we’ve made pretty good progress. Other than the standard challenges of time and money, we’ve not faced anything out of the ordinary. And we are set out to take the company to the next level now.

SUB: Have you raised outside funding? Do you plan to raise some (or more) in the near future?

Gerald: We are in the process of raising an angel round now and expect to close towards the end of June.

SUB: Where do you see Apptivo in a year from now?

Gerald: We would like to see Apptivo having a few hundred thousand customers across the globe. We would like to see over 100 Apps on the platform and would like to have built about 20 percent of them for some verticals.

SUB: Finally, a question I always ask: as an entrepreneur who has guided his company though the economic downturn, what advice do you have for entrepreneurs just starting out now?

Gerald: Downturns actually provide interesting opportunities. So, I’d say it’s important to be nimble, and invest wisely so when the time is right you can accelerate and reap the rewards.

Apptivo – www.apptivo.com