Startups to Watch: SageTea strives to make creating custom software easy

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It sounds almost too good to be true: a program that can turn natural language into computer programs.

David Long is the CEO of Sage Tea.

By Jacob Serebrin

But that’s what SageTea is offering.

“SageTea … takes text and turns it into software,” says David Long, the company’s CEO. “As long as you can describe it in words, you can make an application.”

SageTea is what’s known as a “markup language,” the same sort of thing as HTML, the hypertext markup language used to create most webpages. But unlike HTML, SageTea doesn’t require the user to know any special code.

Instead, Mr. Long says, they can just explain the process in normal words and the system creates the software.

It does have some limitations. SageTea can’t create graphics and it’s primarily suited for developing business applications.

Part of the reason the company decided to focus on business applications is that it’s simpler. According to Scott MacGregor, SageTea’s vice-president of business development, there are only about 100 keywords the system needs to understand in order to create business programs.

“Those words come up over and over again,” says Mr. Long. “You can get computers to understand business language because it’s very simple and common.”

The focus on business software goes back to the initial idea behind the company. Mr. Long was working to implement an IT project at a large financial services firm. He says the project, which used the Visual Basic programming language, took a long time, required a large staff and cost around $20 million. “I thought about how I would do this,” he says. The project “needed a database that could store anything.”

When people hear about what we do, they say ‘no way! David Long, CEO of SageTea

That’s where the idea for SageTea was born.

For businesses using SageTea, Mr. Long says it can reduce time to market by 80 per cent and break down barriers to creating custom software applications, especially for small businesses.

SageTea is also licensing its system to value-added resellers, particularly the makers of multi-function printers, enabling clients of those companies to write custom SageTea programs for those systems.

There are also applications for SageTea in the defence sector, Mr. Long says. Currently, the company is part of General Dynamics’s business accelerator, the Edge Innovation Network.

“What we offer is efficiency,” says Mr. MacGregor. “Everyone has a five-year IT budget, because you can only buy so much each year. But what if your programmers were five times more productive?”

Founded: 2007, launched as product company in 2012

Head count: 13 full-time, one commission-only salesperson

Funding: $1.6 million through convertible debentures

Clients: Small businesses, value-added resellers such as hardware manufacturers.

Product: A tool for creating business software using natural language

Organizations: General Dynamics

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