December 5, 2019 | 4:39am

Instabase Welcomes Barry Sowerwine as CRO

Barry Sowerwine

A few words from Barry:

Today, I am super excited to announce that I am joining Instabase as the CRO.  To be honest, I’m having a hard time containing my energy and excitement about this “once in a lifetime” opportunity.  

The majority of my career has been spent working for emerging growth startups – I guess you could say I love building companies.  I have been fortunate enough in my career to help four companies go public. The most recent was Tableau Software. I remember talking to various people in the industry before joining Tableau – many of them didn’t understand why I would want to join a startup trying to gain a foothold in the noisy Business Intelligence space where the market was dominated by Business Objects, Cognos and Microstrategy, with Qlik starting to make waves.  From their perspective, it was going to be an uphill battle at best and likely another flameout. I remember thinking to myself – why can’t they see what I see? What I saw was technology that made all of us better. I saw a future where people could see and understand data, where the power of data unleashed creativity, provided insight and helped us solve problems in ways that had historically alluded us. Although it might seem trivial and obvious, I learned that every now and then a technology advancement comes along that makes us better and improves the human experience.  When it does, it shatters existing paradigms and forever changes how we see the world. My 7 years with Tableau were challenging, but magical – it was the most rewarding journey of my career. I had more or less accepted the idea that no other experience would ever come close. I just couldn’t envision another technology advancement that would have the market-defining characteristics and overall impact of Tableau. Well, I now believe I was wrong. 

I believe Instabase is that company. Instabase will create a new category and help define computing in the Enterprise for many years to come. We have technology that will improve the human work experience.

Instabase can help organizations save 20% – 60% of their operating expenses.  Much like the Apple App Store or Google Play for consumer applications, the Instabase platform will become the Marketplace of choice for business applications.  Instabase can help solve problems that haven’t been solvable. While most of the industry doesn’t yet know Instabase, I promise you that will change. After about 3.5 years of operating in stealth mode, Instabase recently announced a series B round of funding ($105M) with a unicorn valuation led by Index Ventures, NEA, A16z and Greylock.  It’s early, but the opportunity is enormous and more people are starting to see it.

Why am I so excited about this amazing opportunity?  Why do I believe what I believe about Instabase? Because we are solving problems that haven’t historically been solvable – one of the last remaining frontiers of automation.

For the past decade, most of the focus in the world of information technology has been on making existing digital workflows more usable and efficient.  Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a great recent example. In the world of RPA, if repetitive tasks exist in a digital workflow, a “bot” can be created to provide automation and make the process more efficient.  In some cases, RPA adds significant value. In others, the ROI is dubious questionable and organizations are increasingly questioning the validity of the workflows that are being automated. The only thing worse than a bad process is an automated bad process – bad things happen faster.  

When we look at the most labor intensive workflows that exist in business, where are we spending most of our time?  Why is it so labor intensive?

Where can automation have the biggest impact?

I would suggest we spend most of our time in what I’m calling the “analog to digital” time suck.  In short, we spend a significant amount of our working time dealing with offline and unstructured data. Data that lives in books, articles and a myriad of documents (invoices, claims, bills of lading, financial statements, drivers licenses and passports, contracts and many more).  We spend entirely too much time reading this data, understanding it, analyzing it, verifying it, determining what to do with it and taking action. Many times, the resulting action is simply entering data into a digital workflow.  

What if 70% – 90% of these situations no longer required human involvement?  What if we could leverage technology to read thousands of documents and only surface what is important?  What if we could spend significantly more of our working time focused on activities that required a higher level of thinking and creativity?  Even if you find a company and profession that you love, a significant percentage of your time will feel like a grind. Why? Because it is a grind.  Mind-numbing tasks and minutiae that are required just so you can get to the part that you love and inspires you. 

What if we could spend more time doing what we love and less time grinding it out? The problem is obvious.  Solving it has the potential to deliver efficiency gains on a level we haven’t experienced for decades.

Instabase is providing a platform that makes the dream a reality. Instabase is a platform with a suite of toolkits that can help with a number of document-processing or NLP-related problems (Document Reading (OCR), Extraction, Classification, Redaction, Clustering, Document Diff, Document Generation, Workflow Builder, Entity Extraction, and Natural Language Understanding). For example, banking customers can use the Instabase platform and tools to build a custom application that can do income verification of their customers in a few seconds – combing through pay-stubs, tax documents, bank statements and other supporting documents, currently a very labor intensive, tedious and error prone process.

In the not too distant future, we will be launching the Instabase Marketplace for business applications and functions.  In fact, our Founder and CEO, Anant Bhardwaj, took inspiration from the lack of a Business Applications App Store when starting Instabase.  After all, we as consumers can go to Apple or Google and download an application to do just about anything to improve the human experience. Why doesn’t this exist for business applications?  Initially, we will be delivering out-of-the-box application components like Pay Stub Reader, Bank Statement Reader, W2 Reader, 1040 Reader, Passport Reader, P&L Reader, Driver’s License Reader and many more.  We will also be releasing higher level applications that are comprised of multiple components – things like Income Verification, ID Verification, Financial Spreading, LIBOR Remediation, Trade Finance, Adverse Media Search and many more.  Longer-term, we aim to open the Instabase platform to 3rd party application developers.

I have a similar feeling of passion and excitement in joining Instabase as I did with Tableau.  Yes, Instabase is a startup. Yes, it’s going to be a lot of work. There are a lot of risks – like any startup.  It won’t always be easy. We will get some things wrong before we get them right. We will learn and we will grow.  

We will experiment fearlessly, per our core values. We will deliver technology solutions that improve the human work experience and minimize the amount of time we spend in the grind.

We will automate workflows that haven’t been automated because the technology didn’t exist.  We will automate the ingestion of offline, unstructured data and make it actionable. We will provide a Marketplace of applications that automate various document processes – things like ID Verification, Income Verification, Financial Spreading.  Most importantly, we are going to do all of this the right way. We are going to build a company that puts people at the center of everything we do, and we’re going to have fun doing it! I’m pumped!

About Barry Sowerwine

Barry Sowerwine is a Technology Executive with 20+ years of experience building and scaling high-performance Sales, Business Development and Customer Success teams for hyper-growth Software and SaaS organizations. Over his career, Barry has helped 4 companies go public including Tableau Software where he helped architect, build and scale GTM operations in the Americas. Barry is passionate about authentic human connection and leading teams that “do the right thing” — prioritize people. Currently, Barry is a Board Member for Alpha Sense and provides consulting and advisory services to the high-tech industry.