From Aprigo to CloudLock: Data Protection Startup Talks Strategy Shift, New Name

Do we really need another tech company with “cloud” in its name?

Apparently the answer is yes. But Waltham, MA-based CloudLock offers lessons far beyond the merits of its name. The company, formerly known as Aprigo, has officially changed its product focus as well as its moniker. All told, this is an interesting snapshot of a young tech startup navigating the turbulent field of data storage and security while making some tough decisions about its future.

Last July, CloudLock announced that its “Aprigo Ninja” software for managing Google Docs was available online in the Google Apps Marketplace. The product was aimed at business customers in a wide range of fields including education, government, manufacturing, retail, finance, insurance, and high-tech. What the company discovered from that move was the sheer number of businesses using the Internet cloud as their primary platform for computing—and how fast that market was growing. So CloudLock decided to drop its on-premise, subscription-based software and sell only a cloud-based version.

“It’s about building the right business model,” says Gil Zimmermann, CloudLock’s co-founder and CEO. “There’s a better market opportunity around cloud data protection.”

That sounds obvious enough. But the decision meant losing plenty of on-premise software customers—the company says that product had been selling well—and going through some changeover in employees. “This is what makes a true pivot difficult. It’s having to walk away from something good to pursue something great,” says Zimmermann, a veteran of EMC (NYSE: EMC), the Hopkinton, MA-based data storage giant.

CloudLock built its cloud-based software to run on Google App Engine (Google’s cloud computing platform). It currently works with Google Docs, but it’s slated also to work with Microsoft Office 365, the cloud-based version of Office, by late 2011. CloudLock has dozens of paying customers, with hundreds in the pipeline, says Zimmermann.

Some fundamental things haven’t changed. CloudLock’s focus is still on helping organizations identify, monitor, visualize, and protect exposed data, change security permissions, migrate data, and perform other kinds of gnarly (but business-critical) IT functions. CloudLock previously raised $3 million in Series A financing from Cedar Fund back in 2008. The company currently has 14 employees.

Asked to summarize the lessons he has learned so far, Zimmermann says, “It’s not easy to let go of something you’re doing that is working. It’s scary when something comes up that could be better. But be open-minded and try it out. See what works, and when it does work, double down in a way that can make sure it’s real.”

Another telling lesson: “Differentiate between ‘everyone wants to talk about it,’ and ‘are they willing to buy a product?’”

Lastly (and perhaps most importantly), he says, “When you’re pivoting, not everybody is going to be happy about it.”

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