WebEx founder backs Sharepoint killer Huddle

WebEx founder backs Sharepoint killer Huddle

Summary: UK based enterprise cloud collaboration vendor Huddle is taking over where collaboration pioneer WebEx left off after its ill-fated acquisition by Cisco, gaining market share at the expense of Sharepoint.

TOPICS: Tech Industry

To me, the most interesting aspect of the $24 million C round announced by cloud collaboration provider Huddle today is the participation of Subrah Iyar, the founding CEO of WebEx, one of the earliest cloud application companies to go public before its $3.2 billion acquisition by Cisco in 2007. UK-based Huddle may not be so well known as other vendors in the space, but Iyar's backing is an endorsement from one of the earliest pioneers of cloud collaboration, someone who has 'been there and done that' as the saying goes, and has the scars to prove it.

I was following WebEx closely at the time it bought another company I knew well, Intranets.com, which as its name implies was offering online enterprise collaboration in the cloud as early as 1999. That acquisition in turn became the foundation for the launch of WebEx Connect, an ambitious collaboration platform that was once viewed as a serious rival to Salesforce.com's AppExchange. The problem with Connect was that it took a peer-to-peer approach (similar to Ray Ozzie's Groove Networks at the time, which Microsoft had acquired in 2005) that left it fatally hardwired into individual enterprise networks. The engineering challenges that arose from this then got mired in the Cisco machine, where it ultimately died.

Fast forward five years and what Iyar sees in Huddle is a fulfilment of those original aspirations at WebEx. "He saw our business and immediately understood what we're trying to do," Huddle's CEO Alastair Mitchell told me in a briefing earlier this week. "In his words, 'You're following on from where we left off,' especially WebEx Connect." In particular, the Huddle Sync technology, announced in February, allows Huddle to deliver centrally managed access to local files in a loosely coupled model that avoids getting mired in behind-the-firewall infrastructure.

This is fundamental to Huddle's challenge to Microsoft's Sharepoint platform, which is its main competitive target in the market. "Cloud has matured to the point where it can deliver now on the original vision and it's why Sharepoint will never win in the long term," Mitchell told me. "[Sharepoint] is architected for the client-server generation of technology and that's fundamentally not the way the world works anymore."

In support of that contention, Mitchell cites the example of a Huddle customer that had 2,000 Sharepoint users but saw many other people in the organisation using cloud based tools to share documents. The choice was between embarking on a huge project to implement Sharepoint for 85,000 users across the organisation or signing up with Huddle to deliver that capability on demand. This is typical of the type of scenario that is helping Huddle grow its enterprise business by a factor of five to eight times annually, says Mitchell. "The CIO gets involved and says let's not upgrade Sharepoint next year. Let's actually switch people to Huddle."

With its headquarters offices overlooking London's Silicon Roundabout, Huddle isn't numbered among the Silicon Valley glitterati but should not be discounted on that score. It has now raised a total of $40 million in venture funding and, although it has not raised as much as more consumer-focused rivals such as Box and Dropbox, its C round is larger than Silicon Valley darling Box at an equivalent stage. What's more, Huddle's business is generating cashflow and, as Mitchell put it when we spoke on Monday, "We don't have to do this to survive." Huddle's business was already tripling annually and the funding allows it to invest in further growth, especially in the US and other international markets.

Maybe, as I've said before, as a Brit based in London I'm over enthusiastic to cheerlead for a home-grown cloud success story — Mitchell was the opening keynote at yesterday's EuroCloud Day London event, which focused on cloud growth success stories — but I have a certain track record on predictions and my forecast is that this company is one to reckon with.

Topic: Tech Industry

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What is this Sharepoint you speak of?

    SharePoint (notice the capitalized "P" in it's proper name) is much more than just a document repository. If people are purchasing it for that purpose, they are wasting their money. There are much cheaper options out there for such. SharePoint is a platform that can be used to collaborate, share information, provide robust workflow capabilities, and automate many business processes. Oh yeah, and it does a pretty good job with documents and content management too.
    • SharePoint is a POS that violates all laws of common sense

      Sluggish, ridiculously ugly, with one of the worth search engines in the planet.

      When our company forced a change to SharePoint (from multiple COTS), instead of improving, they cause more problems and the performance is now worst than before. It takes over 30 secs to just open the front page and once you are in, it takes longer to find anything.

      SharePoint is nothing more than a pointless waste of resources that NOBODY likes but we are forced to use.
      • Second that

        Are we working for the same company ;-) ?
      • sharepoint is slow

        yes had this problem but it turned one the antivirus software's" im not sure which version you have or firewall software installed , we have sophos crap" changes the network provider list priority as soon as i moved tcp ip to the top of the list followed by udp our sharepoint servers are now as fast as opening google.com. i used sp0rder.exe to fix that
      • wackoe


        I work as a support engineer for Microsoft and I am sorry to hear about your isues with SharePoint. Over 30 seconds of page loading time is horrendous and not something I would consider normal. Please contact me at nimmin at microsoft dot com, in order to see what we can do to help you with your issues.
        Warm regards,

      • Third That

        We've got it and it's a huge waste of money and resources.

        And now they are "planning" to port our well running Notes databases to Shrepoint sites.... Recipe for failure.
    • Yeah SharePoint is a POS

      It's a huge, bloated and complicated mess that has a huge cost. Even MS loves that you spend 7x of your licencing cost in SharePoint Deployment costs....
    • @ lekkertje

      New here huh? Wakoae, kirvos and itguy are resident anti-MS responders. I doubt they are really having any issues with SharePoint ... just a great opportunity to slam MS. I am a bit surprised we didn't get a dose of Apple and or FOSS xxx is far better ... but not surprised in the least that MS was slammed. It is afterall and article about an MS competitor.

      For the opposite side of the coin you can read an article about either Linux or Apple and the resident anti (pro MS) Apple or FOSS shills will also magically appear.
  • wrong about Connect

    It appears this article needs the following information added:

    CISCO WebEx Connect is not "dead" at CISCO. In fact, it is perhaps the LEADING enterprise instant messaging tool in business today, and is the MOST friendly when communicating with other users outside the firewall. This is achieved through the XMPP protocol, one of the main deciding factors in CISCO's acquisition of Jabber. So instead of having to invest in additional data center infrastructure such as an XMPP server to accomplish this, using CISCO's SaaS model for Connect sets any organization up for success at a fraction of the typical deployment/administration costs.

    It must be noted that if this article is simply speaking to the "file-sharing" aspects of Connect, then some of the statements are a bit closer to accurate. CISCO did take away the "file-sharing spaces" from Connect, but has shifted resources to making Connect THE personal communicator for business, including HD video chat, VoIP audio, file transfer, desktop sharing, and integration with other CISCO UC equipment (from what I understand, a LOT more to come here).

    Sooooo...Connect is far from dead at CISCO. And as far as file-sharing goes, has anyone heard of CISCO WebEx Social??? Stay tuned from the global leader in collaboration...
  • Yet Another SharePoint competitor

    Nuxeo promised so much.
    Documentum promised so much.
    Connect promised so much.
    Google Apps promised so much.
    And so many more...

    And, now we have one more promising to be the SharePoint killer.

    *Yawn* wake me up when the next SharePoint killer arrives.
  • I need to pipe in here..

    Can't help but pitch in....HyperOffice has been in the cloud based communication and collaboration business a lot longer than any of the current crop, and is one of the deepest, widest and most mature suites in the market.

  • Free SharePoint from http://www.cloudappsportal.com

    I have recently signed up for free SharePoint site with http://www.cloudappsportal.com and it is taking care of most of my needs such as document management, task management, calendar sharing and more.