hot embers

Hortonworks, Dropbox, Microsoft, GE: Hot or Not?

4 minute read
Virginia Backaitis avatar

There's at least one elephant that isn't dancing in Silicon Valley this morning.

Tim Hall, vice president of product management at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Hortonworks, is parting ways with the company, CMSWire has learned. A source, who asked to remain anonymous, told CMSWire Hall and other members of the executive team had a difference of opinion on the company's strategy.

Hall, a former Oracle executive, played a principal role in bringing XA Secure into Hortonworks' product line; in championing the Data Governance Initiative (DGI) with Merck, Target, Aetna and SAS; in making it possible for enterprises to consume new releases of Hadoop at their own rate; and in delivering on its Connected Data Platforms strategy. He was also part of the leadership team that brought Hortonworks to its IPO.

Hortonworks told CMSWire it does not comment on personnel matters, adding "We remain extremely bullish on the growing market opportunity for all data and are continuing to invest for growth."

Dropbox: 500M Salespeople Strong?

Everyone who uses Dropbox is a Dropbox for business (Dropbox Pro, Dropbox for Business, Dropbox Enterprise) salesperson. At least that's what Dropbox COO Dennis Woodside wants the crowd that gathered at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. to believe.

Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston drove the point home during a center stage conversation at the gathering.

Some companies have a land and expand strategy, he told the audience. He was probably referring to the expensive tactic competitor Box uses in acquiring customers, which involves landing individual users and then working like heck to persuade them to get their colleagues to use your service, too. When enough of them do, you sell a corporate license to IT so that it can take control.

Houston said Dropbox's customer acquisition strategy is just the opposite. Expand and then land," he said, explaining that most people don't need to be sold on Dropbox because it is already there, organically in most companies. All he has to do is provide enterprise-grade features and services around it.

"Ninety percent of Dropbox's business is self-serve," said Woodside. Houston chimed in with the fact that Dropbox will have 200,000 paying business customers by August. Box, in contrast, has 62,000

But Fortune's Dan Primack, who interviewed Houston and Woodside, didn't let the Dropbox executives leave unchallenged. He quoted Box CEO Aaron Levie slamming Dropbox by suggesting, "Any time you ever want to see what Dropbox will do next, look for what we did three to five years ago."

Primack asked Houston to name one thing that Dropbox did before Box.

"Generating cash," said Houston, referring to the fact that his company is now cash flow positive and that Box is not.

Houston was also asked why Dropbox sometimes loses deals to Box and to Google. He noted that Dropbox buyers are progressive, "lean-forward" CIOs who are all about "empowering the business" versus those who work for heavily regulated, risk-averse companies.

Learning Opportunities

GE Gets Sweet on Microsoft

At Microsoft's Worldwide Partners Conference in Toronto yesterday, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt professed his love for Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's born-again technology powerhouse.

Standing before a sold out crowd, he announced that Predix, his company's industrial internet cloud platform, will now be available on Azure. It will also integrate with Microsoft's Azure Internet of Things suite and the Cortana Intelligence suite, and will tie Office 365, the newly announced Dynamics 365, and the Power BI digital dashboard and analytics tool.

Why such a deep integration? Digital transformation, said Nadella.

"Having this cloud infrastructure, this intelligent cloud makes it possible for us to help build out this world where every company going forward is going to be a digital company. Every company is going to build its own digital technology and these digital feedback loops. And the goal of having a cloud infrastructure is to be able to realize that potential," Nadella said.

Immelt was like-minded. He talked with Nadella about GE's decision to become a software company, saying:

"Increasingly, we saw the nature of our technology was changing. The jet engine was no longer a jet engine. A jet engine had 30 sensors [and] was taking a terabyte of data at each flight. And I would say in 2009, 2010, we basically said, 'This isn't a question of whether or not we're a software company or an industrial company.'

"Industrial companies are going to become software companies, and the nature of our customers were changing and the nature of our products were changing. We said to be a better industrial company, we can't allow our digital future to be created by others. And so we've invested massively to drive this digital transformation."

Title image by Luke Porter

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