We chat with serial entrepreneur Oren Ariel, CTO and co-founder of Capriza about how companies can increase productivity through technology and how creating a start-up is a humbling experience.
Please explain who you are, what Capriza is, and what it does/aims to achieve?
I’m Oren Ariel, CTO and Co-founder of Capriza, which is the fourth start-up I’ve been a part of, helps companies to simplify business applications for the mobile era by rapidly converting complex desktop applications into in-context, bite-sized, mobile-first experience which can be accessed securely from the cloud. Using our technology, companies can increase productivity by simplifying the user experience and by extending the reach of the applications that drive the business to an entirely new audience; namely, employees, partners and consumers who need to use these applications on-the-go or that have never used them before because they were too complex.
I’m involved in a lot of things in the company, but my main role is to make sure that our technology roadmap is aligned with the market needs to help look for opportunities for Capriza to solve new problems. An example of where I’ve made sure we’re aligned with the market needs, is the Financial Services sector: when we met the first prospects in this sector we soon realised we had to invest more in security, and especially in integration with Mobile Device Management (MDM) frameworks. Without adequate support we could not acquire those customers. The fact that I was close to the market allowed me to re-prioritise the R&D tasks and respond quickly to these requirements. Capriza now has several Financial Services customers and it’s the fastest growing vertical in our customer portfolio.
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
I’ll start with the least favourite part: A start-up is a rollercoaster or as Ben Horowitz, our investor, refers to it in his book “The Hard things about the Hard things”, a “struggle”. There are days when you feel like you’re on top of the world, and there are days, literally in the same week, when nothing seems to work and you ask yourself “why do I need this?”. But two things make the struggle worthwhile, which make up the best part of my job: Seeing technology I took part in creating solving real-world problems for customers and the amazing group of individuals who have joined Capriza to become part of this journey.
What inspired you to start your business?
As consumers, our lives have been completely transformed in the last few years by the use of smartphones and tablets; nowadays we all use software which is simple, smart and personal to manage all aspects of our lives: order food, pay for parking, transfer money etc. However, when it comes to work, the reality is very different. Companies spend billions on putting software in place to run the business, but unfortunately these solutions were never designed with mobility in mind nor to take into account what exactly the user is trying to accomplish. As a result, the adoption of these solutions is very limited, and they require a steep learning curve. The opportunity to bridge this gap and change the way people work at work by leveraging past experience in application testing and management gave us, as a team, a competitive edge over the more traditional solutions. This was particularly exciting at the time to my partners-in-crime & I.
How did you fund your business?
Andressen Horowitz were the first to fund us with an initial $10.5m. The next investment round of $13m came from Charles River Ventures (CRV). As founders, we have personal relationships with individuals in both firms, but personal relationships aside, the idea must be compelling from a business standpoint, with clear differentiation in order to attract funding. Our third round of funding came via the more conventional approach of going out to the VC’s and succeeded in raising a further $27m.
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
What I can say is that we’re a very experienced team but of course we’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. A start-up is a very humbling experience. Looking back over the various phases of building Capriza, I can see we took too long on the experimentation phase. Despite having enough proof that our product worked we decided to experiment a little bit more. In hindsight I wish we could have been faster in getting the product to market.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
I received a lot of advice when I first embarked on this journey (and others before), but at the end of it all you write your own book. Starting up Capriza has been very different from other ones I’ve previously been involved with, so the only advice I would give, is to assume you are going to face new situations and challenges that you’ve never had to deal with before. But fear not, the joy of seeing a customer use your creation, which was once a drawing on a whiteboard, and then seeing the value makes the journey very worthwhile.