We talked to David Brown, Founder & CEO at TORO Cloud on how the firm is enabling enterprise digital transformation and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Brown: We are doing great, thanks for asking. We are very fortunate to be living in a part of the world in Sydney, Australia that has COVID-19 largely under control. Life is relatively normal here, Touch wood!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded TORO Cloud.
David Brown: I’ve always owned my own business. My first business after university was selling fundraising supplies to schools and charities. My next business venture was a software company selling eCommerce software to small businesses. That was in the mid-1990s when people were still learning to use email. I spent a lot of time educating people about the basics of the internet, let alone getting them selling online.
In 2002, I pivoted from eCommerce software to selling online myself. Our first online retail operation selling pet supplies was very successful. At our peak, were we shipping over 3,000 orders per day from over 100,000 product SKUs from 3 warehouses around the world.
It was in this business that we started to deploy enterprise-class software applications. One of the platforms we deployed was a middleware application for application integration. We found that this was the single best investment we made in our software platform. The productivity and efficiency gains were immediately noticeable.
Like most midsize enterprises, we had limited IT resources, but our experience was that deploying enterprise-class software was more complex than it needed to be. This drove me to create accessible enterprise-class solutions that were easier to learn, use, and deploy. TORO Cloud now provides low-code solutions for rapid application development, APIs, application integration, and workflow automation.
How does TORO Cloud innovate?
David Brown: Most enterprises are undergoing a digital transformation. This is both a cultural shift within an organization as well as a technical shift to create a seamless flow of data between systems, automate workflows, and create new digital products.
We enable the digital transformation of an enterprise with solutions that provide an API-centric approach to application development, integration, and workflow automation. Together, this enables an enterprise to create modern modular applications, integrate existing applications, databases or services, and automate business processes. And we do all this through a simple low-code framework that not only reduces the learning curve required but also supercharges productivity and results in applications that are more secure, scalable and easier to maintain.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
David Brown: Being a company that promotes digital transformation, we had some advantages when it came to working remotely. Our systems, processes, and workplace management systems are integrated and almost entirely online. We were able to transition to a 100% remote workforce when we were given just half an hour’s notice that the area was going into lockdown.
The major change we made to our processes, which are based on an agile development approach, was to change from a fortnightly sprint cycle to a weekly sprint cycle. To make everyone productive and accountable for what they were doing, we timeboxed a week. Monday morning kicked off with a sprint plan and ended Friday afternoon with a sprint review.
Understandably, many companies around us were laying off staff to save money in an effort to simply keep their businesses afloat. This presented an opportunity for us at TORO Cloud to recruit some new talent as we continued to grow despite the economic turmoil going on around us.
Our human resources expanded, notwithstanding the pandemic. Our recruitment processes for new employees were all done virtually – from the sending of resumes and doing background checks to performing final interviews. This ensured that everyone was safe and complied with the quarantine restrictions.
The experience has reinforced to us the value of having integrated cloud-based systems and procedures and makes us even more passionate about enabling digital transformation for our customers.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
David Brown: Like many cloud-based software companies, we have weathered the pandemic reasonably well. However, some of our customers have faced extreme financial difficulty as their business was turned upside down overnight. For some, it was about survival, not growth. We have done our best to support these customers through these trying times to help them come out the other side of the pandemic.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and TORO Cloud in the future?
David Brown: I’m probably not the best person to ask about how to manage stress as I tend to internalize stress so as not to affect those around me. However, I am very fortunate to live near the water and the favorite part of the day for my wife and me is to have a glass of wine and relax by the water at the end of each day.
Protecting the company is about planning and maintaining a conservative fiscal approach. We have always had a reasonable financial buffer to weather any short term storm. Investing in good systems and automating processes has ensured we can adapt quickly to the market.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
David Brown: The application integration market is worth around $10B p.a. Most of our major competitors are not necessarily household names, but they are all multi-billion dollar companies that have been around for a decade or more. These companies tend to have a traditional enterprise sales model that lacks transparency and has long sales cycles. We feel that we can disrupt the space with an API centric low-code framework at a price point that is accessible to any size enterprise.
Your final thoughts?
David Brown: The widespread adoption of APIs is driving application integration. Applications are becoming services in other applications via APIs. For example, your contact records in your CRM system can become the source of truth in your eCommerce systems. APIs are the cornerstone of most digital transformation efforts. Companies must take an API-first approach to application development, system integration, and workflow automation so that they can remain agile and relevant in the 21st century.