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Interview with Klaus Schauser, AppFolio Chief Strategist (Part 1)

Will you tell us a little about your background, where you’re from and how you landed in Santa Barbara?
I am originally from Germany and you can probably tell by my accent when you talk to me. I studied computer science as an under-graduate in Germany. I then got my PhD at UC Berkeley and fell in love with California. I became a Professor in Computer Science at UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara is like paradise to me. Especially since I grew up in Germany, I love the weather here because it never rains and you have so many outdoor activities to enjoy with the ocean and the mountains so close. I love it and now my kids grew up here and are true native Californians.

The other nice thing that I like about California is that it is at the forefront of computer science and computing in general. There is a tight relationship between academia and industry here. I think it is an amazing place to have a start up company doing highly relevant stuff with great people, great influence, and great impact.

How has cloud computing / Software as a Service changed since you started working on GoToMyPC years ago?
It has changed a lot. When we were working on GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting we were very early with this concept of Software as a Service. Back then there were premise-based solutions on the market and people had a lot of security questions and they weren’t willing to give up their software to a hosted infrastructure. These days you see people really understanding the benefits of not running their own IT infrastructure. They also see the benefits of other people taking care of security, which is usually much better than they can do themselves. Lots of people are now embracing Software as a Service – consumers have embraced the concept the most, and this is very interesting. Many people are using Gmail and Google and other services. Businesses have been a little slower to move to SaaS but this is the future – and the basis of AppFolio. The future trend of Software as a Service and Cloud Computing is going to happen big time and we want to be part of making that revolution a reality.

What do you like best about your current role at AppFolio?
I love having a great impact and working with the team to create products that customers love. I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction when AppFolio customers come up to me at a Meet Up and say “Wow, AppFolio has had such a great impact on our business and really makes our business smooth. Thank you for helping found AppFolio.”

Day to day I work with the team here, which is phenomenal. My role as Chief Strategist is to look out into the near future and work with the product team to determine what we should do next, what products we should make next and how to make our existing products even better. I love doing that.

Why do you think property managers are so interested / excited to use web-based software to run their business?
I am excited that property managers are “forward thinking” and they really see the value in it and understand that managing the IT is really not their core competence. I think that property managers are business savvy. Before we developed AppFolio Property Manager, we looked at other verticals where the folks that are running the businesses were not as business savvy and got hung up on the idea “I must run the software myself!”. We allow property managers to outsource the computing side of things and they get continuous updates, security, and easy to use software and they love having more time to focus on their own business.

What are some of the benefits you see from having a great University (UCSB) so close and connected to Santa Barbara entrepreneurs?
I still teach a class every 2 years. The last time I taught a graduate computer science class at UCSB on scalable Internet services, and it is great to teach to students who are eager to learn from a person with lots of industry experience. The advantage of that is that we also get a lot of great interns over the summer and many of them want to stay and work with us as an employee. Fortunately, we are a fast growing company and can afford to hire great people and a lot of those people come out of UCSB. It is great to be able to leverage such a strong academic program and those people are the ones who develop strong products and provide valuable service.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Interview, Klaus shares a few technology predictions.