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May 24, 2017

MuleSoft founder: The application network, a lightning bolt moment, and a bit of luck

The founder of MuleSoft talks to CBR's Tom Ball about how a lightning bolt moment helped the company to become the thread that ties together the application network.

By Tom Ball

Sometimes a moment is required to step back and look across the recent decades that have gone before, and just take in the speed at which technology has been developing, and continues to develop at today.

Boundaries are constantly being broken down through innovation, and the integration of systems and services remains a common trend. Applications are now integral to many aspects of modern life, but now the power of harnessing many applications under an overarching network is being explored. 

CBR spoke to Ross Mason, the founder of the software company MuleSoft that focusses on connecting applications. Mr Mason reflected on the point at which he realised the critical need for a better, more usable system to revolutionise processes within the enterprise.

He said: “My lightning bolt I think at the time was I have got these teams doing roughly the same thing but they can’t share knowledge. I can’t move people between teams because they are using different software, they are using different nomenclature, and it just had to be simplified because it was incredibly painful.”

Giving insight and perspective on the rate of change, Mason gave us an example of the comparatively miniscule scale of connectivity, and the extremely high cost in terms of both time and funding.

“I will give you some idea, the project I was working on was connecting seven back office systems in an investment bank, seven, I mean that’s nothing compared to what we connect to today, it took eighteen months, teams and teams of people, on the data side, on the application side etcetera.” Mr Mason said.

After the eighteen month period, the task was complete, having required 30 million euros and constant work, “We delivered what we were supposed to deliver but it was so difficult and so convoluted that it sort of spurred me to think it shouldn’t be this broken.” Mason said.

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It was at this point that greater momentum began gather  towards the rise of MuleSoft and the application network more generally, and this began with a system that allowed a team to function more efficiently as a unit.

Read more: MuleSoft CEO: Surrender data centre ‘security blanket’ for cheaper, faster cloud

Mr Mason said: “So I started off with the premise that I was going to create a unified platform for doing all types of connectivity, and it’s funny, that continues to be one of our key value propositions, on the technology side at least, being able to have developers work on all different kinds of integration problems and share knowledge and move between different projects allows organisations to have a much more functional team of people that work with our platform in all types of scenarios.”

Subsequently MuleSoft have worked alongside success stories like that of the innovative challenger Atom Bank, the organisation that received a full banking license in record time, in no small part due to the capabilities they leveraged from the support of the company founded by Mr Mason.

“In the journey to MuleSoft we have had the advent of cloud and SaaS applications, and the way the platform is architected it is actually very well suited to cloud environments it scales very nicely, so we added SaaS integration about six or seven years ago when it first started bubbling up.”

Innovation was not the sole driver in the success of MuleSoft, Mr Mason graciously admits that being in the right place at the right time was a significant benefit for the company in the achievements it has experienced.

“We have just managed to be able to take advantage of all the new trends because the base capabilities that we build way back when, it is a bit of luck, honestly, there is always a bit of luck with these things. You have technology that has a pretty good market fit, but you can be really lucky if the market rotates and you become the best fit, we have had a bit of that and a good, solid focus on solving this problem.”

Mr Mason gave an example in which the services provided by MuleSoft can accelerate the processes of an organisation in handling information to achieve substantial business benefits through the use of APIs.

Read more: MuleSoft Founder: Changing the connected world with magical APIs

“If you think about a Salesforce or a Workday, those applications are very powerful, but if they don’t connect to all the other information that the enterprise cares about it, it has pretty limited value when it comes to siloing. So the value that we provide is to break down those silos in the organisations, and create what we call application networks, which are strong connections between applications to data devices through APIs.”

MuleSoft aims to erase the clutter that hinders the progress, innovation and productivity of the enterprise, while arming them with the capabilities accessible within the application network. This technology is intended to streamline business processes by removing boundaries between applications, and making them work in sync.

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