Deal Radar swings back towards open source with Webtide, a company that provides open source server and communications components of the Internet: Jetty, an open source Java web container, and Cometd, a scalable HTTP-based event routing bus from the Dojo Foundation. Webtide provides customized packages of these components for form factor, subscription deployment support, and subscription development advice on retainer for development teams. The technology is ideally suited for application sites with a large number of users who stay connected for long durations, for phones, and for embedded network devices.
Usually, web servers assume users stay connected for a fraction of a second when first accessing a site or pressing “submit” on a form. The rest of the time, while reading a page, or filling out a form, the user is not connected to the server. With rich applications such as games, live updating consoles and trading platforms, a user might stay connected for hours at a time. Servers built on the old architecture break under that connection load, whereas Jetty thrives on it. They have also developed the Java reference implementation of a technology called Comet, or Ajax push, for live updates and smart and secured communications to devices. With the combination of Jetty and Comet, which can be run on anything from big iron servers down to phones, Jetty seems to be becoming the default container for running web applications.
The Webtide technical team behind Jetty is headed by Greg Wilkins, CTO, and Jan Bartel, chief engineer. Wilkins and Bartel are a husband and wife team who have been developing and distributing the technology for over a decade. CEO Adam Lieber was co-founder of Gluecode Software, a start-up focused on infrastructure open source that was acquired by IBM in 2005. At IBM, Lieber ran the worldwide sales force and developer outreach programs for Russia, India, and China. Before Gluecode, he was an analyst at San Diego-based VC firm Mission Ventures. Webtide is completely bootstrapped and has been running profitably for nearly two years.
Numerous products at other companies, including BEA and Sybase, use Jetty and its components. Open source has often been seen as a way to just cut costs, but Webtide believes that not only are its solutions economically superior alternatives but that its technology is better, too. Webtide claims it can handle more simultaneous users, and in more restricted form factors and devices, than anything else. While other servers often take the approach of “adapt your technology/application to our server,” Webtide says, “add our server components to your application.”
Webtide offers subscription development advice to help clients, who may sometimes need assistance. The company aims to quickly provide answers that are guaranteed by experts so that clients don’t spend weeks exploring various options and can instead focus on their domain expertise. This subscription support lets clients know about best practices available and provides fixes for the version of the software they are running rather than requiring a wholesale upgrade; it is a like commercial software support for open source platforms.
Webtide also provides custom development to optimize its technologies for a particular use or new platform. This is billed by the amount of their developers’ time which is used. Additionally, the company provides subscription advice and production support for development efforts and deployments. The subscriptions automatically renew annually and are indexed by development team size or deployment size for pricing.
The TAM is estimated to be greater than $500 million for the above business model, with about 60% in mobile and networked devices and 40% in SaaS and web application areas.
Webtide has a broad target audience including network equipment manufacturers/OEMs in routers, provisioning systems and access points. Other target groups are online service providers such as auctions, social sites, and financial services and enterprise software vendors, particularly in cloud, virtualization, management and specialized server spaces. Banks, media, gaming, and mobile providers as well as early stage companies can also benefit by using this technology.
When customers hear of Jetty and Cometd they come to Webtide, making nearly all the company’s sales inbound. Often, satisfied customers post their experiences on blogs and other networking sites. This approach has been successful, as Webtide’s sales cycles tend to be 45 days or less, with significant repeat business and referrals.
Webtide has been profitable for over two years. The net profitable revenue rate is greater than $1 million for 2009 and growing, even in the current climate. The company works with clients in North America, Asia, Australia, and Europe, with a team spread across these four continents. In the two years since its establishment, Webtide has brought on approximately 75 customers, spanning from one-person start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Customers include Cisco Systems, PaperCut, Polar Rose and Project Kangaroo. Webtide sells its services and subscriptions directly to the end customer, as part of a system integrator’s package, or on an OEM basis to provide support for units sold to the field with hardware manufacturers.
Webtide is heavy on engineering and light on the business and marketing side. Soon, the company expects to add partners to their current business mix but does not have a big enough team to develop these partnerships quite yet.
Good story of a husband-wife team’s bootstrapping success.
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2009