There's no doubt that cloud services have been a huge revolution since their creation in the early stages of the 21st century. Not only do they save us storage space and keep our data accessible everywhere, but they are also one of the standardized solutions for physical and remote teams all over the world.
However, the growing amount of cloud services in the market can sometimes overwhelm us, and that's where products like Invantive Cloud, a high-performance European SQL engine that enables data exchange between dozens of platforms, can come in handy to visualize and access the information stored by companies. Today we meet Guido Leenders, Managing Director at Invantive, to take an in-depth look into these types of services and discuss how the cloud is evolving.
🍰 Data access: a piece of cake 🔗
Hi, Guido! Nice to meet you. Can you introduce us to Invantive?
Hello! 👋 Well, Invantive enables data exchange between 75+ cloud platforms and data sources. Our goal is to provide a virtual database spanning all company's data, and this has various business purposes. The most popular in volume is just downloading data 📥 for reporting uses or further processing in a data warehouse. Most new users use Power BI, but small groups run Tableau, Qlik, Power Query for Excel, and Azure Data Factory.
Less popular (but more business-critical) is synchronizing data 🔄 between systems. Think of scenarios like informing a warehouse management system about orders to be picked from an ERP system and vice versa: informing of completion. But also scenarios in which, say, 5 systems are synchronized for customer name/address and purchase behavior are quite common in this group.
What are the benefits of implementing this system into the business chain?
Typically, less labor is needed, as the output is higher per human hour. Turnaround times are faster as well, being it for logistics or onboarding on SaaS software.
Sounds pretty convenient! So, what are your customers looking for when they approach you?
We usually deal with entrepreneurs, accounting firms, and IT consultants. Most companies find accessing and maintaining data stored in cloud platforms troublesome. Almost all subscribers have at least one cloud platform in use, typically an accounting or sales product. The Invantive products all share the use of Invantive's SQL, which is, put quite simply, just a strong and fast way to access data stored anywhere globally using a common language: SQL. It runs online but also on-premises (Windows, Mac, Linux).
🔎 Application and learning curve 🔗
Let’s dive into the platforms you integrate. There are more than 70!
Yes! You can see an overview here. The most popular are Exact Online and other European accounting packages like Twinfield, commercial packages like ActiveCampaign, and project management packages like Simplicate or Teamleader. Our focus is on European products, as our main competitor, CData, seems to be focusing on the US.
Which ones were the first you implemented and why?
Exact Online. It was a coincidence. When we started adding the SQL engine, we needed some cloud platform to connect to and test with, and Exact Online just happened to be present. In hindsight, it was actually an incredibly bad choice since their target audience was a lot smaller in terms of yearly revenues than our focus group, but it just happened to be that their target audience grew over the years grew over the years in typical yearly revenues to meet our focus.
One of the advantages of your product is that no extra software is needed to collect data. Can you elaborate on this a little bit?
Most users prefer Invantive Cloud, which is our online version. Most competitors in the market of Power BI require custom connectors to be installed on-premises and installing a gateway. This is sensitive to errors, expensive with today’s energy prices, and labor-intensive.
Other competitors don’t offer real-time data: they copy data into a SQL Server database. Invantive Cloud combines real-time data with the most simple onboarding and setup but still provides 10x more as many tables as competitors. This combination seems to work commercially.
How’s the learning curve with Invantive? Can people with no previous data education be able to understand and use your tools?
Unfortunately, no. 😕 Invantive Cloud requires some understanding of your business and the data it processes. For less data-oriented users, there is either an extensive partner channel or a few easy online products that use the same Invantive SQL engine, which provides shrink-wrapped prepared business functions.
How’s the pricing structure? What can you do with a free plan?
Most users are in the range of 3-150 €M for their yearly group revenues. They run the Invantive Office for Entrepreneurs plan (€59/month). It is a mostly fixed fee, allowing access to up to 100 different cloud platforms and accessibility from multiple products. Accountants have a similar structure, but large accountants have a more expensive form: Premium Finance (€499/month) for at most 500 companies.
There are also free plans available. For instance, ANBI (nonprofit) organizations get 4 years for free. In our case, they are typically large health foundations. This also applies to small companies with a yearly revenue lower than 3 €M and some limitations in the quantity of data being processed. We hope to help them by making the first digital transformation steps free. ✌️
👐 Keeping solutions flexible 🔗
What does success look like for your company?
Authorities considering our SQL-engine world-class.
What are the biggest risks & challenges to achieving this?
To be honest, our advantages can be hard to understand for most business professionals. Some are not yet aware of the benefits of a data-centered approach. They are very apt to solve issues in their own business and with their own customers but find it hard to grasp the actual problems and solutions for data at their company.
There are various approaches to solve this:
- Innovating yourself 📈
- Getting something shrink-wrapped 🎁
- Choosing a flexible solution 🌀
Our vision aligns with the third option. We want to provide something flexible since we think that companies must be able to adapt to changing circumstances. Using some shrink-wrapped package can create industrial inertia if you're frustrated at the outcome but are not able to invest in a replacement.
So one of our advantages is that it is unthinkable that a company outgrows the Invantive products due to their flexible and extensive nature, even when revenues grow by a factor of 10 or the business moves to a different industry.
Another advantage is that our focus is on providing this flexibility using standard software, requiring little to no consulting to solve issues. Many competitors focus on providing a small cheap shrink-wrapped solution that typically requires a lot of consulting once deployed seriously and involves a consulting lock-in. We instead focus on providing a strong standard product that can solve most relevant business issues within one hour.
Do you think the drive for entrepreneurship is something people are either born with or not, or is it something that can be taught?
Both nature and nurture. For me, it was actually never a question that popped up. 🤔 It just came naturally. I am not a tough businessman focused all on money: running a business helps me to help other people and support changes in society to strengthen it as a safe space for our children.
What do you think – how will your industry look about 10 years from now? What challenges do you anticipate?
It will be a more complicated landscape. Data integration will become more complex, despite more tools becoming available. There will be a shift from technical issues (“how do I connect these”) to functional (“what are the conceptual differences”).
This will make it more human: you'll need to be able to understand a business before doing some work. There will also probably be new technical challenges in areas such as security and IoT, but I don’t have a clear picture of those.
What do you predict will be the biggest upgrades for cloud solutions?
Industrial inertia and slowly-changing requirements will keep most things as they are. I am a little bit worried about the ongoing reduced focus on labor productivity, at least in the Netherlands. Being known for cheap labor and its products in a high-tech and rich country is quite stupid.
Most innovations will come from other countries; Germany is still in a great position and has a more structured approach, but further away, countries that invest in education 📚, the ecosystem ♻️ and offer a cheaper cost of life 💸 will probably be leading the next wave in cloud solutions. The areas where I expect the most improvements are AI and integrations between the cloud and the real world for the production of basic products like food, energy, and security.
Do you think the world is gonna be even more data-driven in a decade? What role are companies like yours going to be playing in that?
Yes. The current trend of implementing more software to reduce human dependence will continue. We are happy to be somewhere in the eye of that storm, but most changes will probably be more of the same: faster processing, reduced lead times, and more connection combinations.
Risks and benefits make me a little sad. Our company was involved in the banking and real estate industry with software for processing financial data before and after the last crash. The risks of just a small glitch became apparent but seem to have been forgotten without all too many new controls in place. For data-driven societies, the situation is similar to the financial industry. A lot of dependencies (banks, for instance, have enormous obligations back and forth by far exceeding their balance total) introduce risks of various kinds, with little to no oversight or supervising authorities. So we will probably see some large failures in the future from which we will learn and grow slowly.
There is probably little to do against it other than bringing awareness, either by talk or negative events. My favorite article on such risks is The Dragons of Inaction, as it seems to summarize human nature and expectations. And I am happy to see very smart people like an old university friend being on a personal mission to work and invest heavily in the future of securing AI 💪 instead of just letting the market get a grip on it.
What are the next steps and future plans for Invantive?
Extend our number of drivers and our number of data integration extensions. By adding more drivers, we can help an increasingly larger group of users since most companies have some software cloud solution designed for a geographical or industrial niche.
Data integration is becoming more customary, but the original SQL standard does not provide a lot of standard features for it. Given the expected market needs and a lead time of several years, we are extending our own SQL language with new features to reduce the amount of labor needed to achieve data integration and increase the quality of the actual process.
💬 Choosing Localazy 🔗
Would you like to highlight some services or products you really like to use on your own?
What is your motivation for localization? Why did you choose Localazy?
We are located in Western Europe, where many business professionals still have difficulty grasping the meaning of English texts. We thought Localazy had a great API and fast turnaround times. Before that, we had mostly resorted to OmegaT using git/svn.
How did you find us, and how was the integration process?
Via Google! 🤓 Just searched around and tried some competitors. Localazy made integration easy, as we could use our own SQL engine out-of-the-box. It only took two days. The hardest part was the rate limits and key limits, given the size of our platform, but we made it work.
What was your "aha moment"?
Discovering that adding a new language and getting the first results takes only a few days, instead of hunting down people + money, instructing them, etc.
What is the workflow now? What are you translating?
Our dev creates resources. Then we load them to Localazy and translate them using TM. Unfinished parts are done externally using DeepL or Google Translate, but these sections have been decreasing over time.
What is your favorite feature of Localazy?
I really like the UI. 👩💻 And the API is the most valuable part for us.
Do you have people dedicated to localization in-house? Do you have experience with Localazy Translation Services?
No, i18n is a sidejob for us. As for the translation services: yes, we order professional translations from Localazy regularly, and we never had remarks from our customers, so we must be doing something right!
I am happy to hear that you are satisfied with the services. Finally, what is your experience with Localazy's support?
Good. Short turnaround times. Localazy has a comparatively small team with knowledge of their current state. Innovation means bugs are sometimes getting released, but they’re typically fixed quickly and without long-lasting issues. It matches our company culture in the support aspect.
Thank you for your time, Guido! We hope that you keep using and enjoying Localazy over at Invantive HQ! 😊
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