Employease: A SaaS Pioneer

Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity  to spend a few minutes with John Alberg and Michael Seckler, two of the co-founders of Employease. Employease, for those who grew up as part of the web-from-day-one generation, was the poster child for delivering enterprise applications over the web. What we now know as software-as-a-service has gone through several naming cycles, with application service provider (ASP) being one of the most well known during the dot com bubble.

Employease was sold to ADP for $160 million several years ago and John and Mike are now working on their second venture called Euclidean Technologies — a hedge fund that uses advanced machine learning to do value investing in the public markets. John gave me an interesting account of just how difficult it was to do SaaS fourteen years. Here are some of the takeaways from the conversation:

  • Scripting languages like PHP didn’t even exist and their product was originally written in C and server-side JavaScript on the Netscape web server product
  • Load balancers weren’t available and had to be written from scratch
  • Internet access was spotty and would periodically go out for no reason, causing serious consternation from their customers
  • They made a big gamble, which paid off, in porting all their code to server-side Java
  • Being close to the client (a.k.a. customer-driven development) was their unique differentiator, and helped them win in the marketplace

It was great fun listening to stories of the early days of the web, and I appreciate John and Mike sharing them with me.

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