BetterCloud announces a premium version of FlashPanel to help its 10M users manage Google Apps
Google is a traditionally consumer-centric business. Many of its products, from Gmail and Android to Google Now and Voice Search, are meant to help Google insert itself into every aspect of the average person's computing experience. The company has become an integral aspect of most people's lives, and now it's trying to become something similar to businesses with its Google Apps enterprise suite. BetterCloud is trying to help Google accomplish this goal, and is today announcing a paid version of FlashPanel, the dashboard it created to help businesses wrangle Google Apps into their workflows.
When I first covered BetterCloud and FlashPanel in July 2012, the company had 300,000 beta users and just enough features to qualify for "minimum viable product" status. Then, by October, it was used by 2.75 million people from 10,000 businesses and had added support for Google Drive. Today it has over 10 million users across 20,000 businesses and is ready to introduce a premium version of FlashPanel in order to become what BetterCloud CEO David Politis considers a successful enterprise business, which he defines as a business capable of operating off the revenues brought in from its product instead of the coffers along Sand Hill Road.
"We knew we were going to introduce paid plans for FlashPanel when it was released," Politis says. "For us it was just a question of when we should introduce those plans." He wanted the company to reach a certain scale and for FlashPanel to have a certain feature-set so that "the value of the product was clear to anyone who installed it." Now, after receiving a trio of security certifications that Politis says will help FlashPanel make its way into larger businesses, it's time for BetterCloud to start weaning itself off of venture capitalists' money and start to build the business off its own revenues.
BetterCloud has raised $7.2 million since its founding: $2.2 million in a seed round raised in May 2012, and $5 million in a Series A funding round raised in January 2013. That second funding round allowed BetterCloud to hold off on introducing the paid version of FlashPanel, which was initially expected to debut in January, until the product had reached the previously-mentioned milestones. Politis says that the round didn't directly affect the decision to hold off on introducing the premium version of FlashPanel -- investors didn't tell him not to introduce the feature, anyway -- but it did give BetterCloud enough time to scale and reach the point it's at today.
The BetterCloud team has grown alongside FlashPanel's user-base. What began as an eight-person company with a minimum viable product and backing from angel investors has expanded to a 38-person team with $7.2 million raised from institutional investors and, finally, a way for the company to draw revenues from a much more advanced product. Venture capitalists won't be -- or at least shouldn't be -- BetterCloud's main source of income for much longer.
"We do want to build a business," Politis says. "And I think that in order to build a successful enterprise technology business you have to have customers paying you." Offering a free, venture-backed product has allowed BetterCloud to reach over 10 million users in under a year; offering a premium product might allow the company to better serve each of those users and help BetterCloud become a core aspect of Google's push into the business realm.
FlashPanel Enterprise, the premium product mentioned above, will be available for $10 a user, billed annually, starting on Sep. 12 so existing customers can decide whether they would like to pay for the product or if they would prefer to downgrade to a free version with fewer features, which will remain available.