Coghead, A New Web App Machine

The Enterprise is widely viewed as the next playground for collective technologies known as Web 2.0. While there has been a lot of talk, only a handful of companies have come up with Web 2.0 inspired offerings targeting the enterprise. EMail software provider, Zimbra is one such company that has impressed. Add Redwood City, California-based Coghead to the list of those companies.

The three-year-old company, has combined various technologies – Ajax, RSS, and what not – with open source platforms and has developed a “web based application development environment.” Initially known as Versai Technology, the company was started by Greg Olsen, co-founder of Extricity that was acquired by Peregrine Systems. His co-founder is Paul McNamara (now the CEO), formerly of Silicon Graphics and Red Hat Software. The company has received $3.2 million in funding from El Dorado Ventures.

Though the company is not going to launch its offering for a few months, it has lined up some large customers to do a private beta, and is going to go for a public beta later this summer.

Coghead in many ways is the encpasulation of some of the trends I have written about in the past. For starters the web 2.0 collective technologies are now able to give you a near-desktop like experience. (What’s missing is an offline connectivity option, but even that might be moot if some start-ups have their way, or ubiquitous broadband.. whatever comes first.) The other trend I have been a big believer in availablity of open source platforms married to industrial grade components and the complex infrastructure at very low costs.

Like Ning, Coghead is also a web application development environment. Those who are familiar with Ning know that the Palo Alto-based company has created an environment where almost anyone can clone-and-customize applications to create their own social networks, community sites or even bookmarking services. DabbleDB is another company that can be loosely placed in the same class of start-ups.

Coghead, on the other hand is targeting corporate work groups who need custom applications developed and have to outsource that work. “In this environment the the traditional customer software development model doesn’t make sense because it takes too long,” says McNamara. On-demand is the best option, since it doesn’t interfere with the existing IT infrastructure, says McNamara. “We are going for smaller groups, and not the IT department.”

“When we refer to cogheads, we are talking about problem solvers,” says McNamara, “They may not do java programming but they know how to solve their business problems. ”

Olsen, thinks we are a point where we will see a new category of creators. “We wanted to make the whole process of creating applications so simple, that anyone can write these custom apps,” he says. “In some ways we are trying to do what print press did for books, and helped the book publishing sky rocket. This is the similar for, Internet applications.”

Olsen makes a good point, though I won’t use the book publishing analogy. Coghead’s impact on web-app development for corporations could be similar to the early days of desktop databases. The emergence of those desktop databases led to a mushrooming of applications written on top of those desktop databases. Even today you can find thriving businesses that sell solutions on top of say, FileMaker. Coghead takes a similar approach. Olsen says while not everyone can write apps based on its platform, anyone who can write excel macros or write simple database-apps (on top of say Microsoft Access) and follows business logic can build custom applications that are available through the browser.

At Coghead, we’re developing a web-based platform that will allow people to create business applications without having to write code. And because its all web based, there’s never any software to worry about or hardware to install. Everything gets done with a browser and an Internet connection. [via]

There are many components already available to the app-creator who can drag and drop these components and put them together as lego building blocks. The company has done a good job thus far, but will their eventual users bite, and start writing web-apps? What do you think?