Our interview with Preston Garland of ENTREOS, a West Knoxville start-up, began in an atypical way when he answered our standard question about his background by saying, “I’ve had an interesting life and career.” As the discussion continued, Garland drove that point home on numerous occasions, eventually saying, “All of these things led up to today.”
Those “things” ranged from running a car dealership to sponsoring the car of NASCAR driver Trevor Bayne where individuals paid to have their photo adorn the car, operating his own software development firm, developing an industrial machine and writing its algorithms, and working for GRIDSMART, the highly successful Knoxville start-up acquired about 18 months ago.
“My motto (for a job) was, ‘What sounds fun, what can I learn,’” Garland explained.
Moving at a fast and ever-changing pace seems to be something that he knows well, having lived in 18 different homes before he was 18 years old, thanks to his car dealer father. By the time the younger Garland was in his early 20s, he was managing a local car dealership and learning programming in his spare time.
Then, three days before his daughter was born, Garland says he told us wife, “I’m going to go build software.” In retrospect, he now asks himself, “What was I thinking?” Yet, Garland was successful, bringing his experience as a manager to being able to more fully understand the problems his clients were trying to solve.
As if that’s not enough, he notes that developers are frequently just building another silo for a client with a different user interface that accesses different silos where the client’s data is stored. That’s not a great solution for the client and is problematic for the developer.
“That’s when things started clicking for me,” Garland says. “We can do this better with a simple paradigm shift.”
The simple paradigm shift Garland refers to is giving a user a single place for all of their data and all of their apps, as opposed to creating standalone software as a service (SaaS) applications users subscribe to, each of which separately store users’ data.
“The average small- to medium-sized business has upwards of 30 SaaS apps,” Garland says. “That’s 30 logins to remember, 30 different interfaces to learn and use, 30 subscriptions to manage, and 30 different places storing their own copy of your data!”
His emphasis on ‘your’ underscores his passion for the issue of data privacy and security. That is one of the driving forces behind his desire to enable developers to build apps that run inside of a user’s secure environment to work directly with their data.
This led Garland to invent the MicroSaaS Platform, the anchor behind ENTREOS’ stated mission of changing the way software is built, used and sold.
MicroSaaS, according to Garland, is just the small pieces of Software as a Service that add value to, and solve specific problems for, users. “As opposed to giant SaaS suites today that may have a few features you need, but then a lot you don’t, MicroSaaS allows you to pick and choose only those features that are important to you,” he explains.
The MicroSaaS Platform will allow users to install and use MicroSaaS apps and provide the infrastructure that makes it possible for developers to build and sell MicroSaaS apps.
For a user, whether an individual or business, there will be a single user interface (UI) for all apps, a single login, and one place where all their data is securely stored. For the developer, it will be a matter of simply writing the UI and the code. (NOTE: For those who are professional or even amateur coders, the concept is fully explained on the company’s webpage.)
Launched in a Beta version in March, the ENTREOS SDK (software development kit for all the non-coders out there) is what allows developers to write and publish MicroSaaS apps. Garland hopes to offer a full commercial version this fall.
“We are going to offer a marketplace that brings users and developers together,” he adds.
This marketplace will be familiar to smart phone users. Similar to the way we install apps from the App Store to our iPhones, anyone will be able to click and install a MicroSaaS app to their ENTREOS environment. “Because your data is already there, your MicroSaaS apps will just work, automatically,” Garland explains.
Initially a self-funded venture, Garland has grown ENTREOS to six full time employees, including himself, in the Upstart Knoxville co-working space off Cedar Bluff Road. This early success has come in the last year alone, and Garland says that demand is increasing with each conversation, adding, “The more people we speak to and the better we get at telling our story, the more we hear, ‘Hey, I could use that!’”
“People see that MicroSaaS has the ability to revolutionize the way we build and use software,” Garland says. “As soon as they understand what we’re building, they begin telling us how it would change their lives. It has global implications.”
Anchored by the belief that MicroSaaS is the future, Garland knows that fundraising is inevitable for ENTREOS to reach its potential. “We will eventually need outside investment to scale,” he admits.
“MicroSaaS is not bound by industry, profession, or sector,” Garland notes. “Its potential is truly limitless.”