Coghead's DIY approach could trample the software giants
The software's user-friendly tools take the programmer out of building custom business apps.
By Erick Schonfeld and Jeanette Borzo, Business 2.0

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) -- The Disruptor: Coghead

The Innovation: Easy-to-use tools for building customized business applications

The Disrupted: Initially, custom-software developers, but potentially almost all software-tool makers

What if the next time you longed for a piece of software to help you do your job, you didn't have to grovel before IT or shell out big bucks to outside consultants? What if you could simply create the software yourself, in a few easy steps? That's the promise of Coghead, an online tool due out this month that promises a hassle-free world of roll-your-own apps.

Using Coghead requires only basic computer literacy. The company says anyone who can code a simple Excel macro should have little trouble using Coghead to create even sophisticated enterprise apps like logistics trackers, CRM programs, or project management systems. A user logs on to Coghead's Web site and drags and drops a few buttons and labels onto a form, indicates relationships between the form's drop-down menus and text boxes, groups appropriate elements by drawing boxes around them -- and then launches the apps. "From my experience so far, the product is incredibly easy to use," says Liz Amaral, product management vice president at InsideTrack, a San Francisco firm that offers coaching services to college students and has been beta-testing Coghead.

Coghead boasts an impressive entrepreneurial pedigree. Chief executive Paul McNamara is a former exec at computer graphics pioneer SGI and at open-source software leader Red Hat; CTO Greg Olsen co-founded Extricity, a business-integration software firm that Peregrine Systems bought for $227 million in 2001. They believe that they'll initially take business from software consultants and outsourcing firms that specialize in small, customized-software projects. But ultimately, Coghead could undermine much bigger markets and much bigger names, including the likes of Microsoft (Charts) and Sun (Charts). "Any big software player is a potential target for their disruption," says VC Charles Beeler, whose firm, El Dorado Ventures, last year invested $3.2 million in Coghead.

More fundamentally, Coghead could completely upend the balance of power in the software game -- putting users, and not coders, in ascendancy. "Today, highly trained programmers are the gatekeepers for custom apps," McNamara says. "Coghead will enable nonprogrammers to rapidly create their own custom business software, allowing the people closest to the need to create the solution."


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