By Doreen Hemlock
Four years after launching 8base “to democratize software development,” Albert Santalo is ready to go big.
His Miami area startup already helps clients design and build applications, offering easy-to-use software tools and connecting users to tech professionals on a shared platform. It employs more than 50 people, about half in greater Miami plus software engineers in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Now, 8base plans to expand beyond its low-code modules for back-end functions to also offer modules for the “front-end” seen by consumers. That expansion will require lots more staff and funding, beyond the $4.5 million raised so far from such investors as Firebrand Ventures and H2O Capital Partners.
“We’re going to offer the full low-code development product, from soup to nuts,” making it easier to create user-facing segments without the need for a full team of tech professionals, says Santalo. “With our new AppBuilder, we’ll put the power in the hands of our customers. We’re democratizing software development for entrepreneurs and other digital creators, especially for non-technical founders.”
Santalo has plenty of experience growing companies. A computer engineer and former management consultant, he raised more than $130 million for two previous South Florida ventures he founded: Avisena and CareCloud. Both help medical practices handle their office tasks more efficiently.
With 8base, he initially aimed to bootstrap growth, relying largely on cash flow from sales and prioritizing ownership. But today, with capital markets hot on low-code software, he may opt to seize the moment and expand the venture faster.
“A $52 billion market opportunity warrants a $10 million or greater cash infusion,” says Santalo. “That investment scales up product development and marketing of 8base’s disruptive technologies, transforming the way digital creators bring their visions to life.”
Named for the “eight” bits in a byte and for “data” base, 8base now earns money in two ways. Clients pay to access its platform and back-end software modules, with pricing based on usage. Big subscribers include IBM Global Services and NATO. In addition, customers hire 8base’s in-house tech team for specific projects, often “front-facing” and delivered faster and less expensively than rivals, says Santalo.
By adding front-end software modules on the platform, Santalo expects 8base to attract more subscribers and larger ones. The company also will add “consulting” services, such as training on how best to use and tweak the modules. A smaller share of revenue will come from the in-house tech team, however, as clients build more on their own.
“The words low-code are thrown around these days as if they were a cliché,” says Santalo. “But low-code products today only serve internal applications in a business: human resources, legal, operations, these types of things. Startups aren’t building externally-facing products with low-code, with the exception of e-commerce providers that leverage tools like Shopify. We want to be more like those players.”
Scaling up likely will mean doubling staff, especially in marketing, sales and finance. The company was based at WeWork in Coral Gables and now operates remote. Still, recruiting the right people will take time, warns Santalo: “We can’t get in over our skis in terms of hiring too fast.”
The chance to add modules easily is one reason founder William Lopez chose 8base to build the platform for his real-estate tech startup Livo. His Coral Gables-based company is developing an app for apartment rentals that lets potential renters see bids and adjust their move-in date and other lease terms to better compete. Lopez recently completed the Techstars accelerator program in Austin, Texas to strengthen Livo’s commercial launch.
“With 8base, I have a team working with me. It’s like having a Chief Technology Officer,” says Lopez. “And if I do a version 2.0, I’ll evolve into a new platform and won’t have to start fresh to build a new app.”
Santalo expects the expansion also will mean hiring in Latin America. He’s keen on a “near-shore” presence, possibly in Argentina or Colombia.
8base built the platform for Coral Gables real-estate tech startup Livo.
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By Doreen Hemlock