The Founder of 8base Wants to Supply Custom Software Platforms Faster and Cheaper than Larger Rivals
When Albert Santalo launched 8base in 2017, he set out to help people build and design apps, offering easy-to-use software tools and connecting users with tech professionals on a shared platform. Now, his dream is a growing reality, with the Coral Gables-based venture employing 40 people and hiring more, from sales staff to marketers and even a chief technology officer.
“We’re democratizing software for entrepreneurs and other digital creators, especially for non-technical founders,” Santalo says proudly.
The 8base founder knows the startup ropes. A computer engineer and former business consultant, he created two successful South Florida companies before: Avisena and CareCloud, helping medical practices handle office tasks more efficiently. He raised more than $130 million in capital for them, exiting later.
With 8base, Santalo is trying a different route to growth. He’s relying more on cash flow from the business and less on outside investors, though he has raised $4.2 million for the venture so far. “At this stage in my life,” says the 53-year-old, “I’m valuing ownership and control more than securing large venture capital deals.”
8base – named for the eight bits in a byte and for the database – earns money in two ways. Users pay to access the platform and its software modules, with pricing based on usage. Subscribers include giants such as IBM Global Services and NATO, Santalo says. Second, customers can hire 8base’s in-house tech team for projects, with a new app costing between $50,000 and $1 million – cheaper and faster than many rivals, he says.
Cost and speed are what drew entrepreneur Jason Killings to 8base. A longtime insurance agent in Coral Gables, he sought a better way to handle long lists of leads for new insurance clients. Tweaking existing software designed for other industries wasn’t cutting it. So, Killings turned to Santalo for help, successfully launching his LeadVolt app in December after roughly a year in development.
“Rather than have other companies tailor their solution to us, we decided to build our own,” says the LeadVolt CEO. Working with 8base turned out to cost roughly half the price – and was far quicker and more integrated with his other insurance software – compared to offers from longtime enterprise software builders. “8base did a stand-up job,” says Killings, who now has dozens of subscribers to LeadVolt.
Santalo says his team is helping tech ventures from finance and health to real estate and collectibles. The staff includes software engineers in St. Petersburg, Russia. And 8base aims to open a “nearshore” office in Latin America, likely in Medellin, Colombia, a rising star in software development, he says.
So, what advice does the Baltimore-born son of Cuban immigrants offer local entrepreneurs? Don’t think startups are glamorous. Building a venture is often gut-wrenching. Be prepared. Keep focused.
For South Florida to become a major tech hub, he suggests founders and others share local insights and not try to replicate Silicon Valley. “We need to shape our own identity. We’re better suited in the app space than in core innovation,” more like Austin than San Francisco, Santalo says. And for tech folks relocating to Greater Miami: “You have to be a person open to diverse cultures to do well here. We have a great opportunity now.”