What Makes An Industry Cloud Leader?


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Gordon Ritter


Gordon Ritter is the co-founder and general partner of Emergence Capital.

Over the last several years at Emergence Capital we have seen an exciting new set of companies emerge that offer cloud solutions within a specific industry vertical — collectively known as “industry cloud” companies. The opportunity is enormous.

In fact, many people don’t realize that vertical-specific software represented the largest segment of the worldwide software market in 2014 with $114 billion in revenues (Gartner, March 2015).

These companies might not be well-known outside specific industries, but ask anyone within an industry vertical and they can tell you the cloud companies that are transforming how they do their jobs. For example, in the global life sciences industry, you would hear about Veeva Systems (an Emergence portfolio company), and in insurance, you would hear about Guidewire.

Industry Cloud Leadership Audit 

What distinguishes the leaders of this new class of industry-specific cloud companies? We set out to understand this question and distilled our learning into a set of 10 questions that industry cloud companies can ask themselves to see if they are on the right track. We call this the “Industry Cloud Leadership Audit.”

Are your customers (the industry buyers)…

  • Spending the majority of their day working in your products?
  • Buying your core product initially, and later purchasing your additional products that address multiple aspects of their business?
  • Recognizing your ROI case on multiple dimensions, including growth, cost savings and customer retention?
  • Discussing you positively at their board meetings?
  • Relying on you as the “source of truth” or “system of record” for their most critical data?
  • Considering you as a platform where other applications can be built and launched?
  • Leveraging your deep domain datasets and expertise to generate insights about their own customers?
  • Using your “last mile” solution to help them better reach and understand their customers?
  • Asking for your input on their own product development and rollout?
  • Inviting you to speak at their conferences, off-sites and other strategic events? And sending their C-level execs to your events?

Examples Of Industry Cloud Leadership

A “yes” answer to these questions would suggest that you are an important business partner to your customer, and that you are helping them connect to their end users.

For example, by offering products that touch many points of a customer life cycle, Veeva Systems has become an integral solution to life sciences companies. “At Veeva, we started with a CRM product, but have now expanded into master data management, enterprise content management, Key Opinion Leader profiling and reference data. We span an entire life sciences company from R&D to Manufacturing to Medical to Sales and Marketing,” said Matt Wallach, president and co-founder of Veeva Systems.

Similarly, Guidewire has become a key voice in the global insurance industry. “We’re frequently invited to speak to our customers’ boards, steering committees, internal all-hands meetings, and the like — in part to talk about our products, but more importantly to share our perspective on industry developments. While every insurer knows more about their business than we ever will, Guidewire has a global perspective on how the entire industry is approaching fundamental technology questions,” explained Marcus Ryu, Guidewire Software CEO.

There also are a number of early stage industry cloud companies that are building solutions that address the questions above:

Blend Labs. Enabling mortgage lenders by replacing the “green screen” technology, while also reinventing the customer experience of applying for a mortgage by integrating external data sources and abstracting away complexity.

ALICE App. Enabling hotels by providing a single platform to connect concierge, front desk and housekeeping, while also giving the end consumer an entirely new way to engage with their hotel through a mobile application.

Tulip Retail. Enabling retailers by integrating their legacy back-end systems with their e-commerce inventory, while also building an iPad application to help their retail associates interact with their customers.

Viewics. Helping hospitals and labs understand their patients through analytics, while also providing solutions that help Viewics customers share data with their key constituents: patients, payors and providers.

OpenGov. Enabling local governments by providing better budgeting software, while also providing constituent citizens with the ability to track and monitor government spending in real time.

When companies build solutions with these goals in mind, we believe that industry-focused solutions will not only outperform all-purpose horizontal solutions in the market, but they also can protect against disruptors who often start with an end-consumer-oriented solution.

Even though vertical software is already the biggest segment of the worldwide software market, we believe that the market will continue to expand as industry cloud companies become an increasingly important partner in their respective industries.

Emergence Industry Cloud Landscape 2015

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