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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Interview with Jason Blessing, CEO of Plex Systems (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, May 28th 2013

Sramana Mitra: I have heard of them.

Jason Blessing: Francisco Partners is slightly different in terms of private equity firms. They have classic leverage buyouts in their investment portfolio, but they also like to selectively look for growth equity opportunities – companies like Plex that look a bit more like a late-stage venture company and just need additional funding, boost, and leadership to go to the next level.

Francisco Partners bought Apex out 100% in July of last year. Then they sold a $30 million equity stake to Accel Partners. This was announced in December of last year. So, we are owned now by those two firms. As I mentioned before, I started at the company in January – they wanted a different profile of leader at the helm for the next phase of growth. In my case that was someone with Silicon Valley experience who had been at companies that had successfully scaled and had good outcomes for customers, employees and investors.

SM: That gives us very good context to get to the next level of discussion. Help us understand the manufacturing software or the MRP/ERP around manufacturing as it stands today, both cloud and non-cloud, so that we have a sense of what the ecosystem looks like and can fully grasp the differentiation. I know you have touched upon differentiation a bit, but I would like to double click down and get to that. That has to be the ecosystem map, which we don’t understand as well as you do.

JB: If you take a look at the landscape, there are lots of interesting players. There are some of the bigger names that you would know well – Oracle and SAP, for example, which are on-premise offerings in the space. A lot of our business is the replacement business of companies that Infor, QAD or Epicor have bought and rolled up.

Most of those companies are on-premise, and that is why I keep going back to the cloud as a differentiator for us, because most of our competitors – if not all of them – are legacy vendors that are on premise. There are some growing and smaller startup companies that are focused on manufacturing ERP as well. But this is the most complex process of enterprise software to build. It is not something that is built overnight. In our case, having been founded in the late 1990s/early 2000s, we have a significant lead on those companies.

To talk more specifically about the solution and how we define the Plex manufacturing cloud, it is very different from how some of the other ERP providers out there today define it. Those companies tend to start with financials and build out from there. There again it goes back to our history of being founded by software engineers that knew manufacturing. We started from the shop floor and built manufacturing executions – the software that allows manufacturers to plan their manufacturing schedule, plan what they are going to build, procure all of the raw materials that go into that product, order it, and then schedule it on the line, manage quality all around those products that are being built. More specifically, traceability: who built what product on what day? In the event there is a recall or a quality issue that has to be addressed – supply chain, financials, HR, or CRM – we are a one-stop shop for manufacturers for exactly the bundle of functionality they need.

SM: Is your target audience small and medium manufacturing shops?

JB: Those are our sweet spot – companies that are between $100 million and $500 million in manufacturing. But we have several companies that are between $1 billion and $2 billion as well.

SM: You said you have 300 customers. Is the bulk of that in the SME space?

JB: The bulk of our business are mid-sized manufacturers.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Interview with Jason Blessing, CEO of Plex Systems
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