Every software company will have to connect with other software to deliver value to its end user, but building robust, reliable integrations is time-consuming and expensive. Paragon, founded by 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 honorees Brandon Foo and Ishmael Samuel in August 2019, is an “embedded integration platform” providing software integrations-as-a-service to B2B software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies.
The Los Angeles-based startup raised $13 million in a Series A round led by Inspired Capital, with participation from existing investors FundersClub and Garuda Ventures.
Paragon has 26 full-time employees and contractors. The startup faces potential competition from Tray and Workato. Paragon generates revenue from each integration it builds for its customers on a per-task basis.
Foo and Samuel state, “With the funding from our Series A, we’ll continue to invest in making Paragon the best solution for developers building product integrations. We aim to provide the most powerful, flexible developer experience through our SDK and APIs, and we’re working on some exciting updates that we look forward to announcing soon.”
Frederick Daso: What are the challenges to Paragon’s development and distribution in the larger B2B SaaS ecosystem?
Brandon Foo and Ishmael Samuel: The concept of an Embedded Integration Platform is still relatively new in the market – most companies are still spending millions of dollars on building and maintaining their own integrations. This creates such a massive opportunity for us. Still, it also means we must educate the market on the advantages of using Paragon instead of building integrations in-house.
Daso: When did the Paragon team redefine itself as the “Plaid for SaaS”? What led to this narrative evolution of the company?
Foo: Nearly three years ago, Ishmael Samuel and I sought to solve a never-ending problem we experienced firsthand as software developers. When building my previous company, Polymail, my team and I spent months becoming experts in vendor-specific authentication methods, APIs, and documentation for every integration we built. And every time we went through the process, it felt like we were reinventing the wheel. Regardless, our customers kept asking for more integrations. It was impossible to keep up, let alone maintain all the integrations we built.
We later realized that every SaaS company faces the same challenge. In the past five years, the software ecosystem has grown nearly ten-fold, and the average organization uses hundreds of SaaS applications. So, for ‘future work’ to work, software products cannot exist in a silo—they must integrate seamlessly with other apps customers use. Integrations have the power to turn a product into a platform and to provide an incredible experience that fits seamlessly with users’ existing workflows.
At Paragon, we believe in providing a simple, productized solution that abstracts the complexities of SaaS integrations into a single SDK that could be natively embedded in any product. In addition, our solution provides a seamless user experience while allowing developers to build deep integrations for production use cases. Our vision was to do for SaaS integrations what Plaid had done for banking integrations.
As the software ecosystem grows, our vision is that Paragon will become the connecting layer for all software. Just as Plaid has made it virtually inconceivable for any company to build their banking integrations, we believe no company will ever have to develop or maintain their own SaaS integrations again because of Paragon.
Daso: What factors are driving the overall growth of the SaaS ecosystem, and how has Paragon positioned itself to take advantage of such growth?
Foo and Samuel: In recent years, the SaaS ecosystem has grown exponentially: as of 2021, the average company used over 100 SaaS apps, a 38% increase from 2020. Increasingly, SaaS buyers require that the solutions they purchase are well integrated with their existing technology and operations. To avoid market disadvantages, software companies historically spend millions in engineering resources to build and maintain and improve their product integrations indefinitely. Paragon streamlines this process by providing a single software development kit (SDK) and integration infrastructure that enables SaaS companies to build and maintain integrations—such as Salesforce, Slack, or Netsuite—almost instantaneously.
Daso: How do you determine which software integrations to prioritize and what productivity consequences stem from saving Paragon customers “70% of development time and resources” as claimed?
Foo and Samuel: We work closely with each of our customers to understand what they want to achieve with Paragon. Through this process, we’ve been able to develop our product and integration roadmap based on which integrations and features we know will serve the needs of our customers and the market more broadly.
We currently support around 45 pre-built integrations in CRM, marketing, product management, messaging, and productivity categories. We are rapidly expecting new categories such as ad platforms, ERP, HRIS, and others we plan to announce soon. For apps with which we don’t currently have pre-built integrations, we also provide a Custom Integration Builder that enables our customers to create their own integration with any SaaS API easily.
Daso: At Paragon’s stage as a Series A company, how will your go-to-market strategy evolve to address current and potential customer needs?
Foo and Samuel: We’re constantly improving how our customers discover, evaluate, and partner with Paragon. We aim to make it as easy as possible for developers to understand how Paragon can solve their integration challenges. For us, that means making it frictionless for anyone to sign up for a free developer account, providing a robust documentation center for them to learn how to use Paragon, and providing hands-on support from our team to help them get up and running quickly with Paragon. Our Series A funding allows us to further our commitment and investment in each area to provide the best experience possible for new and existing customers of Paragon.
Daso: From an engineering standpoint, how will Paragon systematically organize and grow its engineering talent and resources to develop and maintain current and new integrations that customers request?
Foo and Samuel: Becoming number one in the market in integrations offered is one of several ways that Paragon will dominate the market. As our engineering team has grown, we’ve split it into smaller pods that can build and iterate quickly, ranging from dev ops to the workflow engine. Amongst them is a dedicated integrations team and product manager that work to deliver integrations on our roadmap.