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Tuesday, July 24, 2012 by Angela Ashenden
This morning I had the opportunity to be briefed by blueKiwi CEO JL Valente on their strategy and roadmap following the company’s acquisition by Atos earlier in the year (which I blogged about here). I wasn’t sure what to expect; as an independent company, blueKiwi always had a great solution but lacked the ability to scale its business to any significant degree and break into markets outside France. However, many a small vendor such as blueKiwi has been acquired by a larger company only to disappear without a trace, losing momentum along with the innovative entrepreneurship that created the company in the first place.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find that, three months after the acquisition, the spirit of blueKiwi is alive and well, and thriving in the arms of Atos. Already there is a clear strategy which outlines the role of the former startup in Atos’ broader offerings – as I predicted in my earlier post, it is to be a central part of Atos’ ZeroEmail initiatve, the first blueKiwi outputs from which will enter public beta in August. However, it will also complement the company’s A3C offering, which is Atos’ rebranded Microsoft Office 365 solution, leveraging blueKiwi’s existing integration with SharePoint. blueKiwi is also already benefiting from Atos’ expertise to deliver a fully multi-tenant (and single tenant) hosted offering, and is exploring the advantage it can gain from Atos’ capabilities in consulting and systems integration to broaden its offering to a full software plus service solution. As a result of Atos’ backing and investment, blueKiwi has already doubled its development team (with plans to double once more over the next two and a half years), and is working to leverage Atos’ 1,000-people strong sales enablement team to help it broaden its reach into neighbouring European markets including the UK, Germany and Spain.
However, blueKiwi will not be completely subsumed into Atos – it will remain as a separate company (“blueKiwi, An Atos company”), and will continue to develop its solution as a standalone offering (albeit with significant input and steer from Atos). On the product roadmap front, the company is clearly relishing the broader horizons that being part of a large multinational brings, with investment priorities including mobile, social, integration and analytics, and there are some truly innovative ideas being explored, although I’m not at liberty to expand significantly at this stage. One thing I can mention though, is that blueKiwi plans to extend its social focus beyond the people/relationships aspect, adding in more process-oriented support for project-based collaboration – something that it will definitely need if it is to compete effectively with the market leaders in this space. It’s also looking at expanding its support for gamification – blueKiwi was one of the early trailblazers in the area of user promotion (i.e. surfacing information about which community members are the most active in a community), but it never quite managed to maintain a lead here as its competitors caught up, so I’m pleased to see this on their priority list.
There are many other plans that I can’t go into this post, but overall I was impressed with what the Atos/blueKiwi team have done so far – there’s a great vision combined with lots of enthusiasm, and a clear understanding of how it needs to differentiate itself in the market. Obviously it still has plenty to do in order to deliver on that vision, but on first impressions I’d say there’s enough drive there to make it happen. If you’re considering investing in a social collaboration platform, then blueKiwi is suddenly a much more viable proposition, and if the company can deliver on its ambitions, the social collaboration competition will certainly need to sit up and pay attention.