Instabase Engineering Head Charts course on building modern business apps

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Instabase has developed a platform behind the scenes that enables developers to build complex business applications based on pre-built discrete building blocks that can, for example, break down a scanned document into a number of components that can be reused across multiple use cases.

VentureBeat recently named Yee Jiun Song as Senior Vice President of Engineering to gain a better understanding of how traditional business application development is evolving so that developers can more flexibly create modern business applications that run anywhere.

Previously, Song was Vice President of Engineering at Facebook.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

VentureBeat: What exactly does Instabase do?

Yee Jiun song: Instabase was trying to develop an operating system and I think it’s a little difficult to understand. It is a little easier when we explain the problem we are trying to solve. Typically, if you want to build an application for the consumer, build for iOS or Android, or if you’re trying to build a desktop app, build for Windows or macOS. However, if you want to build an application that will help businesses solve a problem, there is no platform that will allow you to do it. Our goal is to be the operating system that does this so that the application developer can focus on the application and the business problem and not worry as much about the environment the application is running in. In addition, we offer a base operating system that offers a range of services and toolkits that enable developers to quickly build applications together. Then we also offer a marketplace where developers can publish applications.

VentureBeat: That sounds like a universal platform for applications.

Song: If you want to automate the software development process, you can hire a team of software engineers to create a custom solution. However, this is expensive and takes a while and then the custom application needs maintenance and it would likely only work for a specific environment. Instabase enables our customers to build something very quickly by putting together state-of-the-art modules and writing very little or no code in the process. You also don’t have to worry about any of the infrastructure systems around it. What Instabase does is abstract away all of these challenges. There are a number of different technologies that are mature enough to make it possible to create something that works so well for developers that they can quickly build applications.

VentureBeat: Does this replace the need for the operating system?

Song: They certainly don’t replace Windows or Linux. The point here is that we don’t want customers to have to think about Windows or Linux. When we have to talk about Linux and Windows, the point has somehow been overlooked. The pieces Instabase built are high level abstractions. I don’t realize that people really understand what it takes to build applications that are widely spread across eight different platforms that they may need to deploy at any given time. Many of the customers we speak to want a solution up and running as quickly as possible and not have to invest too much in the underlying technology. Examples of companies that use [Instabase] include MetLife. The beauty of using something like Instabase is that customers don’t have to keep up with the latest in the underlying technology.

VentureBeat: How hard is it to set this up?

Song: To be honest, it still sounds a little bit more difficult than we’d like it to be. Usability is certainly something we are working on. At some point, we want to get to the point where customers can put applications together themselves without too much help on our part. We’re also trying to reduce the amount of code customers have to write to put together an application. But much of it is still in the works.

VentureBeat: What will be the biggest hurdle in the future?

Song: As with any fast growing company, I think one of the big challenges is growing our own teams. We are currently experiencing strong growth. One of the reasons Instabase brought me on board is to grow and scale our teams. On the product side, we want to ensure, among other things, that we can offer our customers a very stable product. We have to develop a product that is scalable and reliable.

VentureBeat: Why Leave Facebook for This?

Song: That’s a great question. I had a wild and phenomenal ride on Facebook; it was a lot of fun. But I have the feeling that there is a great team. I’m not sure if they need me anymore so I’m looking for something new and challenging. This is a completely different domain. It’s the right combination of an extremely ambitious goal. That’s exciting for me. In a way, this starts over.


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