An Interview with Jaques Benkoski from US Venture Partners about SaaS & Cloud Computing

On the 20th of April, I went along to the Eurocloud Convention in Paris. As we've reported already, we were short listed for the SaaS Awards. In the aftermath of the award, I caught up with one of the members of the jury, Jacques Benkoski to discuss his take on the event. Mr Benkoski is responsible for the overseas investments of US Venture Partners, in particular in Isreal. He is also on the board of directors for BPT, KiloPass, Trusteer, Yoomba and is the executive chairman of Synfora.

Rachel Delacour: What were your motivations for joining the SaaS Awards jury? Are you interested by the cloud and its technology, passing your eye over some "Frenchie" start-ups or actually looking for potential investments?

Jacques Benkoski: I am really interested by the cloud here in France, in the USA and throughout the world. Through Henry-Michel [Rozenblum, board member of EuroCloud France] I was invited onto the jury and I saw the opportunity to understand the state of the market in France and in Europe. It is possible that the contacts I have made here will help me to identify future investments in the short or medium term, but that would be an indirect result.

RD: What's your point of view on the emergence of Cloud Computing and the related SaaS applications? Personally I believe that there is a radical change happening in the IT world. Do you see the potential already or are you here by pure curiosity? In this environment, do you see large companies adapting their software wholesale to the cloud, or only an increase of start-ups offering SaaS products built from scratch?

JB: The Cloud is a transformation in the delivery manner of information technology, but it's an evolution more than a revolution and it represents different things for each player. From our point of view, most of the opportunities result from the possibility to share information and the ability to create highly flexible modules. SaaS is a sub-branch of the Cloud - it is not completely alien as one can do SaaS without doing Cloud Computing, but it includes a new delivery model that responds to the shortcomings of traditional software. It should be noted that SaaS has existed for a long time now (previously known as ASP - Application Service Provider) and despite some big successes, it remains a difficult and capital intensive model.

The upper-hand from the point of view of Cloud Infrastructure lies clearly with the big players in the sector, simply because the requirements in terms of service, structure and global coverage make a start-up unlikely. However, tieing a lot of these elements together can certainly allow start-ups and we have invested heavily in this area, notably in the security domain with Trusteer and Threatmetrix. In the SaaS domain, we are more inclined towards projects with sharing features such as Box.net or Guidewire. It is interesting to see completely new sectors pass directly to the SaaS model without sampling the traditional software model (e.g. MAFERME, the winners of the 2010 SaaS trophy).

Again, thank you to Jacques Benkoski for the interview