Versori’s Switchboard helps data flow
…without a developer in sight
Today’s startup wants to help big businesses make more of the online services they work with. Versori has a fresh take on the Zapier model that’s worth a look. Scroll down to read more.
As always, PreSeed Now members get the full story, including why Versori’s founders think the US will be a better venue for their seed round. If you’re new to the newsletter or are currently a free subscriber, you can grab a free trial to upgrade below.
Worth a mention:
If you’re a founder reading this newsletter as you prepare to fundraise, this piece of advice isn’t new but it’s certainly useful and well described here: remove that ‘exit strategy’ slide from your pitch deck. I’m always surprised when I see founders put one into their deck, unaware of the signals it sends.
Oh, and he’s outside this country, but I just want to give a shout out to the irrepressible Bogdan Iordache who has announced his Central and Eastern Europe-focused solo GP fund, Underline Ventures. It would be good to see more of this kind of thing across the UK.
💸 Recently raised
A look at a recently-completed deal
London-based WiseWorks AI has raised $1.2m for its business communication intelligence platform that captures, transcribes, and analyses the content of meetings.
Think Otter.ai, but pitched as something smarter, to automatically classify and contextualise conversations, monitor for legal compliance, and other useful enterprise use cases.
The press release tells me the “heavily oversubscribed” round was led by Veridian Ventures, with investment from funds including Silicon Valley-based R42, SyndicateRoom’s Super Angel fund, and Istcapital, alongside initial investors Founders Factory.
Hello operator, connect me to Versori
The first time I came across IFTTT’s ability to automate tasks involving multiple online platforms was in a 2011 email pitch when I worked at The Next Web. I instantly thought ‘this is incredible - we need to cover this right now’. I was about to finish work for the day, so I passed it on to my colleague Brad McCarty and that’s how IFTTT got its first ever media coverage.
Since then, the benefit of user-customisable automation has become clear. Zapier took the IFTTT concept and deployed it into the business market. Meanwhile, the success of companies like UiPath has shown how important automation is to businesses that want to make the most of services they already use.
Looking to enter this market with a fresh approach is Manchester’s Versori. While Zapier offers pre-baked connections between services and tools to allow app developers to build their own integrations, Versori’s Switchboard product lets its users create any link between any two services without developer involvement.
Just upload the OpenAPI schema for the services you want to connect, and Switchboard will automatically figure out how to make them work together.
Let the data flow
Versori co-founder Sean Brown explains: “If you take the analogy of what an actual switchboard is, you have data coming in, in one format, normally it was like a VHF radio or it was a telephone line. And then you'd speak to the the exchange and say, ‘hey, I want to speak to this number’. And at the exchange, they were relatively low-skilled people and they would just map the connections from input to output.
“That is the user using Switchboard now - they have enough knowledge of what the context is of what they need to do, but they have a big tool that allows them to map and do that integration between data source A and data source B.”
Brown says that making it incredibly simple to connect up any data source makes life easier and more flexible for businesses as they no longer require developers to build custom connections between platforms and services.
Versori’s technology machine-reads the API schemas and transposes them to a simple UI where the user can simply connect functions together to achieve their desired outcome.
Brown gives the example of an ecommerce company wanting to connect Shopify or Magento up to a legacy ERP system, or to push products through to third-party shopping marketplaces, and then pushing logs of orders back to the ERP.
He also says a manufacturing giant could build bespoke connections up and down its supply chain for a variety of use cases. Brown sees many similar uses in the healthcare space too.
But larger companies might be working with old systems that don’t conform to modern API standards. For these situations, Versori provides a custom service that builds Switchboard-compatible APIs for them. And larger companies is where Versori is initially targeting Switchboard, because the startup has opted to charge per data message, meaning high-volume customers provide the most revenue.
Chief competitor Zapier’s developer platform allows app developers to build an integration with its platform, which the company says can take longer than a month from start to finish. That’s a lot of time and resources to build what could be business critical functions, and some platforms might not see it as the priority some of their customers do.
Putting the power in the hands of users to automatically create the integrations they need —if it works as flawlessly as Brown suggests—could be transformative.
“We've [also] got off-the-shelf solutions–predefined connectors like Zapier–but how we create and add them is a community-sourced approach,” says Brown. If a lot of users have created the same link between two services, Versori might make it available as standard to all users.
Square pegs in round holes
Brown says he identified the problem that led to the launch of the Switchboard product when a client he had been working with earlier in his career needed to integrate a dataset of more than a billion cells into an ERP system and an ecommerce platform.
“We tried to do that integration ourselves manually. It took my best software developers around five months to try and do that because it was just a square peg, round hole and the dataset was just unwieldly. Then when we managed to do the integration, the data was wrong because the data in the XML file was just completely different to what we were trying to get into. So it needed human intervention to manually map and transform this data.”
To address this problem, Brown and co-founder Dan Jones created a data transformer to handle data at that scale. “It was purely a back-end service that we hacked together, but it worked. It provided a function.
So then we thought ‘that is a little bit of gold that we've created there… let's try and build a commercial proposition around that’... It was a real-world problem with a company that does well over a billion pounds per year in revenue. We thought, okay, there's a proper need for this.”
Destination USA - but why?
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