I always learn something new when interviewing entrepreneurs about their companies and products for this series on SAP App Center, and talking with Jani Hiltunen of LiquidBlox was a revelation.
When I mentioned that I’ve noticed that a lot of new business applications are coming from Finland, where he’s based, he told me that there’s “a tremendous pool of creative talent” there. Jani added that Finland has one of the best educational systems in the world and that it encourages students to explore curiosity and innovation. It also has government-supported conferences and programs for startups. And did you know that some of the biggest gaming companies are located in Finland? I did not.
Jani spoke with me by phone from his office in Espoo to tell me more about LiquidBlox, a software-as-a-service Web design solution that’s now live on SAP App Center. LiquidBlox is a browser-based solution that can be used to create websites and other digital content, and the beauty of it is that it doesn’t require users to have any coding or IT skills. Another revelation: how could that be possible?
Web Design Without Coding
Essentially, Jani and his team have done the work for their users. The LiquidBlox solution is more than just a SaaS content management system (CMS) platform for creating Web pages and digital publications. It includes predesigned templates that are ready for editing and instant use. For example, there are templates for websites, landing pages, news sites, digital magazines and catalogs. Users can also take advantage of the block template gallery to create unique page layouts — for a magazine or catalog, for example — with any number of container blocks for each page. To create layouts from scratch, container blocks can be used to add content to websites, then they can be fine-tuned using the style editor. Thus, the name LiquidBlox: it’s a liquid way to use building blocks. “It may not be the perfect name for an app in Finnish,” Jani said, “but it does work, because customers remember it, even if they often misspell it.”
It’s a really fun and cool tool. Go ahead: you can try it for free on SAP App Center, the SAP digital marketplace where customers can find, download, use, and buy solutions directly from SAP partners.
Of course, I had to ask Jani about his career, and when and how he recognized a need for this kind of tool. It seems that after spending his younger years as a professional basketball player (yes, third revelation uncovered during our conversation), he retired in 2006 and was looking for something interesting to do. Using nothing else but Google, he taught himself how to code, and eventually started picking up clients who needed Web page layout and design.
“I quickly realized that most of the tools for Web content management were designed by engineers for engineers,” Jani explained. “And that made it a challenge for non-technical people to modify or update their content in the same view a visitor to the website sees. I wondered, what would it be like if you didn’t need coding?”
What he learned is that there was a strong demand for the tool that he ultimately named LiquidBlox among small businesses, professional graphic designers, and even marketing departments and individual lines of business in large companies. Jani added that he has many cases where customers have moved from WordPress to LiquidBlox, because they have found LiquidBlox to be a much easier, intuitive and less complex tool to use.
“These customers need a lighter, faster way of building landing pages, creating simple websites or publishing blogs,” added Jani. “For marketing departments, they don’t want to have to rely on an agency or the IT department for a quick, short-term campaign, for example. With LiquidBlox, they can do it themselves. One of our new employees came up with a great analogy: You might think your provider is delivering a turnkey solution, but then you realize you don’t have the keys. LiquidBlox gives you the keys.”
Jani noted: “It brings simplicity to something customers weren’t able to do before. And in fact, that concept ties in very well to what SAP conveys: simplified processes.”
The SAP Connection
I was quite intrigued to find out how Jani had connected with SAP, and I asked him what his impression was before he got involved with the company. “Honestly, I didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “But last year, one of my employees had a small booth at a conference attended by thousands of techies, and SAP found us. What I understand is that SAP customers want more options for innovation, and SAP can provide that by giving them access to its partners. For us — well, we are just a humble startup, and it’s surprising how things have evolved in just a short time. Now we suddenly have access to over 378,000 SAP customers.”
Bill Rojas is senior director of Digital Transformation and Partner Engagement on the SAP Digital team. Contact him on Twitter | LinkedIn.
He kicked off this new series of blogs on partner apps on the SAP App Center in December 2017. Read more here.