Built in Austin

How ClearBlade’s Eric Simone is Building Technology

January 21, 2015

Not everything on the Internet is new. Eric Simone knows that. In fact, he’s built his business around it. Simone is the founder and CEO of ClearBlade, a company that connects the latest mobile apps to old technology. Despite being the industry of new things, the Internet is often a hodgepodge of old and new technologies struggling to communicate. Clearblade has found a successful niche standing right in the middle.

Your GEICO insurance app for example: the one that allows you to carry your insurance information on your cell phone, instead of on a paper card, and lets you file accident claims remotely. That app was not easy for GEICO to make.

“Those are really hard to build because those apps have to communicate with mainframes that have been running for years to tell you all your policy updates,” said Simone. “Most people think mainframes no longer exist. The reality is they do, and they are not going away.”

Instead of transferring mass amounts of data every few years to newer and newer hardware, corporations have found it easier to leave it on the classic mainframe.

“There’s a lot of time and money that goes into these systems. They’re hard to get rid of and they work,” said Simone.

However, this means corporations are struggling to connect the information on their old hardware with advancing technology like mobile phones and tablets.

“It’s like my brand-new Macbook Pro running Windows 95. The hardware is really advanced but the software is old,” said Simone. “They have to find ways to open up these systems.”

This is where ClearBlade has staked its claim: right in-between corporations and their consumers.

“It’s middleware. People call it mobile backend as a service,” said Simone. “We sell it as an on premise software.”

ClearBlade’s platform allows corporations to keep their data on old mainframes, where they are most comfortable with it, while helping them keep up with the advancing world around them.

“We build middleware to help companies build mobile apps faster,” said Simone.

Today ClearBlade’s middleware expertise has extended beyond the mainframe world to help companies with their mobile app backend, no matter what the setup.

Michael Dell’s son, Zachary Dell, for example, just launched an on-campus dating app called Thread using the ClearBlade platform. Even though Dell’s app is new, it still has to connect to a diverse set of backend data, primarily from Facebook’s Social Integration. The ClearBlade platform helps Thread do that quickly, while also setting up a coherent API for future connections, the database, real time chat and the matching algorithms.

“ClearBlade is the backend to the entire thing,” said Simone.

ClearBlade’s ability to help young Austin startups like Thread build and scale quickly is something that Simone takes pride in. Simone started his first company, Complete Inc., in Illinois during the 1990s, then eventually moved to Austin after the company was purchased by Proficient. Now he is also a mentor at Capital Factory and an angel investor in Austin and is seeing the city accelerate with the help of his software and advice.

“It’s pretty easy to give advice a few times a week to an entrepreneur,” said Simone. “It fuels the fire, keeps you young and fuels opportunity.”

Companies started by 18-years-olds like Zachary Dell are drawing upon ClearBlade’s platform and Simone’s startup expertise to build more quickly. The multiplying effect of that support makes Austin an even more viable startup ecosystem.

“Austin has become just as exciting as San Francisco was back in the day,” said Simone. “There’s a lot of same exuberance that existed, with a bit more reality with building real businesses.”

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