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French start-up bringing open-source BPM to U.S.

All of the sudden France is exporting open source start-ups to the US. BonitaSoft offers a BPM suite to take on SAP, Oracle, and IBM.

Bonita BPM in action
Bonita BPM in action

A relatively new French open-source start-up is set to soon make landfall in the U.S.--BonitaSoft, a maker of open-source business process management (BPM) software. BonitaSoft aims to provide an open-source alternative to proprietary suites from the likes of IBM, Oracle, and SAP that dominate the BPM market. (Other French open-source start-ups in the U.S. market include Talend and eXo.)

The company is built around the open-source Bonita project, first developed in 2001 at the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA). The development team was then hired by French software giant Bull to help develop business process applications, but was eventually spun off to develop its own specialized BPM offering.

BonitaSoft was founded in June 2009 and is led by CEO and Bonita co-creator Miguel Valdés Faura. Soon after its founding, BonitaSoft raised $3 million in Series A funding from France-based VC firms Ventech and Auriga Partners.

Given the maturity of the BPM market and the dominant players, I question whether there is room for a young BPM upstart in this space. I also wondered if companies care enough about BPM to make changes in their existing product selections.

According to Valdés, the BPM market has become so over-consolidated that customers are left with very few choices. BPM is a critical technology for application development, yet it is inaccessible for many IT organizations, leaving the incumbents ripe for disruption.

As an indicator of the level of interest in a commercial offering, Valdés points to the surge in downloads it has seen since its first commercial release at the beginning of the year, averaging 80,000 downloads per month (as a comparison, it took eight years for the Bonita project to reach 100,000 downloads).

According to Valdés, even before the company kicked off sales operations, users were asking for support and services. Among these is a major pharmaceutical company, now its first official U.S. customer. With this customer and 20+ percent of downloads coming from the U.S., it made sense for the Bonita team to open their first North American office, which they plan to do next month.