In 2011, we invested in Pneuron, impressed by a strong and proven leadership team behind Simon Moss and Elizabeth Elkins and a technology that was a bit mind-numbing in terms of its capabilities. While the team at Osage called it ”p”-Neuron for a while, we learned soon enough that the ”p” is silent and the company is simply pronounced Neuron (though Simon exacts his revenge by still pronouncing Osage incorrectly even four years later). Once we got the name right, the rest of the diligence process came together pretty smoothly.
Pneuron had a core product called the “Pneural Cortex” that managed a distributed network of “pneurons” – mini-applications that performed very specific and narrowly defined functions. By assembling pneurons into different logical sequences through a graphical design studio, Pneuron enabled enterprises to “wrap” an existing application or database or design entirely new products to perform functions ranging from focused actions such as selective data extraction in near-real time to complete application migration. At the time of our investment, this was already a working, though early stage, product that had been tested at enterprise scale inside two financial services leaders. If it hadn’t been enterprise tested, we probably would have thought what they were doing was more fiction than fact.
Pneuron was a new and early solution. People tried to categorize it incorrectly – ETL, BI, and Big Data, among others – and more than once Simon was accused of black magic or simply lying while presenting to some big brand CTOs. The company’s approach broke the paradigm of the last generation of data management and analysis because it did not require huge data warehouse solutions as a prerequisite for meaningful heterogeneous system analysis. Slowly, companies with seemingly unsolvable problems came to find Pneuron, such as banks with a need for comprehensive anti-money laundering solutions that they needed NOW not in five years and financial institutions looking to create full 360⁰ views of their customers for regulatory and account management reasons. It wasn’t clear what exactly the Pneuron technology should be called, but it worked to solve some of the biggest and most urgent challenges enterprise customers were facing. Much marketing angst existed as the company sought to find definitions for what it was versus what it was not.
Fast forward to today. There are now terms for what Pneuron does. The “Pneural Cortex” is a “Container” and a pretty advanced version of one at that. The ”Pneurons” are “Microservices”, which are combined together in different forms to rapidly build customer solutions at the point of implementation. Both “containers” and ‘”microservices” are terms best known to forward thinking analysts, bleeding edge CTOs, and of course to VCs. The poster boy for containers is Docker. The poster girl for microservices has yet to be found. Advanced technology teams are using both in places like Facebook and Netflix, but to date no one has demonstrated the ability to commercialize these technologies into products that are justifying enterprise investment. No one, that is, except for Pneuron, which has quietly been doing this for years and which is likely the best example of what is possible in this new product category. Pneuron has an e-book that discusses its perspectives on Microservices and Containers which is quite well done.
Simon and Elizabeth have been joined by an exceptional leadership team including Tom Fountain and Ken Lawrence, and will add another exciting executive in the next week. I am excited for Simon, Elizabeth, Tom, Ken and the Pneuron team, for they finally have the ability to define themselves by what they are versus what they are not. From thought leaders to category creators, to market leaders – what’s next?