Austin’s ClearBlade Seeks to Better Connect Mobile and Enterprise

On TV commercials, the Geico insurance pig touts how easy it is to check on claims via an app on his tablet. But getting to that one-click functionality requires costly specialized software, says Eric Simone, a longtime Austin developer.

That’s because large companies like those in insurance or banking must develop mobile apps that can work behind firewalls installed to keep sensitive data—medical or financial records, or claims history—secure. “It takes a lot more than just building consumer apps that have data behind them,” says Simone, founder and CEO of ClearBlade in Austin. “There’s a lot of instrumentation to connect a mobile device to enterprise systems. Many of these enterprise customers end up building one-off solutions.”

ClearBlade sells mobile-app software that works behind firewalls and with existing enterprise technologies, some of which was first developed in the 1970s. He calls the startup’s product “mobile backend as a service.”

Today, ClearBlade is offering potential customers a month-long beta version of this service, with a plan to begin selling in early March. “This is so that enterprise developers can take a look at what we have and kick the tires and experiment with the tech in the cloud,” Simone says.

As mobile has exploded in the last five years, most vendors have concentrated on software for companies in retail and other consumer-facing industries. But Simone, a programmer who worked for IBM (NYSE: IBM) twice in his 26-year career, has made enterprise software, including programs that still run on mainframes, his specialty. “My world was always working with companies behind their firewall with PCs and mainframes,” he says.

He founded ClearBlade in 2007, which sold a bespoke software product but Simone says he realized there was an opportunity in developing a SAAS product for these companies instead. So, last year, ClearBlade changed gears to develop what is now being beta tested.

ClearBlade raised $750,000 in seed funding from angel investors last year and expects to close on a $1 million Series A round by the end of this month. The company, which currently sells to financial and insurance companies, currently has 11 employees and Simone says he expects to add on in sales and marketing.

Just as websites themselves evolved from being online “brochures” to portals where customers can bank and shop, mobile backends for enterprise are becoming more sophisticated. Others are in the market as well, including Kinvey in Boston, AnyPresence in Reston, VA, and San Francisco-based Parse, which was bought last year by Facebook for $85 million.

Simone says his background, along with the skill sets of younger engineers, give ClearBlade an advantage. “Every half decade, you’re dealing with a new generation of technology, so I knew we needed to come at this from two perspectives,” he says.

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