Power to the Business Division! Crowd Machine takes the developers out of app development.


Explaining the growing trend of  “low-code” and “no-code” development software back in March, Forbes’ Adrian Bridgwater explained that “tech analysts and industry vendors appear to agree on the suggestion that we don’t have enough software developers on the planet, so software that allows developers to build apps faster, and businesspeople to build apps for themselves, is seen as an important new development route.”

One of the fastest moving companies in this space is Crowd Machine, a Santa Cruz Works Tier Partner. We spoke with COO James Hanley, Content Manager Kimberley Whitfield, Application Engineer Rami Alrwais, and Marketing Manager Sarah Pierce on Wednesday.

Rami, Sarah and Kimberly will demo their product Crowd Machine GO next Wednesday, Sept. 18, at an event they’re calling “Digital Evolution of the Enterprise.” Details at bottom.

This is my first conference-call interview in some time … it feels a little bit like a party.

Sarah Pierce: Well, we’re called Crowd Machine, so our phone calls feature a crowd!

Tell me about your company.

James Hanley: Crowd Machine started out trying to accomplish a number of things. One: To be able to take advantage of distributed compute, because the company feels like that's one aspect of where the technology's going. Two: To be able to facilitate migration to the cloud. Three: to be able to create applications fast, and take advantage of the inherent repetitive processes associated with that. And four: To be able to bring together with integration a bunch of disparate compute activities, datasets, and build them into an application. So to summarize, I would say Crowd Machine is a cloud migration platform for fast, intuitive creation and integration of applications, miroservices, and AI.

And so there's a number of key components to the Crowd Machine offering. One of them is the App Studio, which is where all of our clients and ourselves—on their behalf—build the apps. There's Crowd Academy, which is where people learn how to build the apps.

And then—as we started building apps, and people were learning how to do it on Crowd Academy, we discovered that the objectives could be better accomplished when we automate the process of bringing together disparate applications, microservices, and AI. We wanted to be enable business users to do that as opposed to people in IT. We think that that accelerates the notion of creating new ways of manipulating data, running processes, looking at data in different ways, and enabling the business to respond to the changing world and the changing aspects of what they do.

What was the genesis of Crowd Machine GO?

James Hanley: Essentially, GO is a platform for importing and combining applications, microservices, and AI—making them aware of each other. It's a way that you can say, “If you're going to run this process, you need this other app or this other microservice,” and having it be highly automated, with a drag-and-drop capability. And then once you've done that, there's a very powerful visualization platform as well, so there's a lot of capacity to visualize the results, and present the results in different ways.

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I’m wondering about Crowd Machine’s key differentiation in the no-code app-building market.

Sarah Pierce: Our value proposition is acceleration and automation. First, there's speed—because we're no-code, our time to market is 3 to 10X faster than our competitors.  Secondly, because we've automated repetitive processes, the platform is more efficient and less expensive to use.  And we enable clients to easily integrate with their third-party legacy systems, extending the life of outdated software solutions that have become the backbone of the enterprise.

Can you give me an example of a company that is utilizing Crowd Machine GO?

James Hanley: GO's in Beta right now and hasn't been released, but probably the best example today is Pricewaterhouse Coopers, who is building, essentially a centralized platform for all of their consultants.

They've got about 25,000 consultants worldwide, and they want them to be able to build a proposal, and in the process of building the proposal integrate a bunch of different sources of information and processes for delivering the consultant's engagement. And then actually launch them once the engagement has begun, so that they're centralized and available to all the consultants. And then they want the person who's building the statement of work to be able to go out and look at the people that have the skillsets to be able to deliver it.

They’re building automation kits, if you will, for delivering consulting engagements, so they can essentially self-serve.

How did the relationship with Pricewaterhouse Coopers occur?

James Hanley: Serendipity, as much as grinding it out from a sales standpoint. We came across people from Price Waterhouse and had conversations, and it just built up from there. Finally, the person that we’d been communicating with the most was put in charge as CTO of this centralized repository and action area for the consulting team. So as a result of all the conversations that we’d had, he said “This seems like an ideal scenario.”

This is the first I’m hearing about no-code app development. Where did this come from?

James Hanley: Well, it’s been under development for about six years and longer. If you really traced back the history, it came from our founder, chief engineer and CEO [Craig Sproule]. He was doing system integration work, essentially writing complex applications, and built a business doing that. And over time he came to realize that there was so much repetitive process that could be simplified. So he started writing the platform so that essentially you can point and click write a few simple sentences integrate URLs, call AVIs.

Rami Alrwais: Let me give a little spiel about the platform. One of the things about app development is that it often requires a lot of third-party tools that you have to download and bring together. With App Studio, we have a cloud-based platform, where, because everything is in the cloud, you’re able to visualize the files from an overview that makes it easier to see how these tools interact with each other.

What can the Santa Cruz Works community expect to see at next Wednesday’s presentation?

James Hanley: Spinning plates. Hula hoops…

Kimberley Whitfield: Getting blown away. Blown away. Everyone’s always blown away.

Sarah Pierce: I’m planning to do an interpretive dance. And there may be some flags involved.

That is so Santa Cruz. Speaking of which: What are your thoughts about how the Santa Cruz tech community is evolving?

Sarah Pierce: From my perspective—I grew up here in Santa Cruz; James did too; so we’re both enjoying being back here. Working in the community and being part of the burgeoning tech scene.

 Kimberley Whitfield: I think what’s amazing about the Santa Cruz tech community is that for years, people involved in technology had to make the commute to the Bay Area. They had to drive to San Francisco. They had to drive to Mountain View. And go to the Googles and Apples. And now they’re able to stay home and avoid that.

 And this community is for real. It’s an expansion of Silicon Valley. And we’re proud of it.

 You recently entered a partnership agreement with Santa Cruz Works. How’s that going?

 Well, they're like new friends. We've met with Doug on several occasions, and find him and Matthew delightful. We admire their affinity for the tech community in Santa Cruz. We're pleased to be one of their Tier Partners.

 Crowd Machine GO: Digital Evolution of the Enterprise, takes place at Cruzio, 877 Cedar St., on Wednesday, Sept. 18, from noon ‘til 1pm. For tickets, follow this link.