For all the hoopla around the digital revolution and how much time and money it will save businesses, the reality is it's complicated.Many companies still rely — at least in part — on manual processes. Even those who have digitized nearly every aspect of their workflow struggle to make disparate systems talk with one another. The Software Guild's Eric Wise said it's not unlike what we experience personally with our own devices."In this digital future we have been promised, I should be able to open up my smartphone and set the temperature on my thermostat at home, and it should remind me when I have a meeting and monitor traffic to tell me when to leave … all of these things to make our lives better," said Wise, chief academic officer for the Akron-based software training company. "But we are not there yet."Smartphone users aside, a new Akron venture wants to help businesses get "there."In July, partners KYC Holdings and CyberAccess, which share offices on the fourth floor of the Akron Global Business Accelerator, announced the formation of Mesh Integration. Along with its offices in the Accelerator, the startup is a tenant at the Braintree Business Development Center in Mansfield, where it recently was awarded $30,000 from the Appleseed Microfinance Loan Fund.Simply put, Mesh is the youngest fish in the deepening API connectivity pond. APIs (Application Programmer Interfaces) are components, or hooks, in software that allow platforms, apps and systems to connect and share data with one another. A trigger in system A — someone in sales fills out a new order, for instance — automatically generates an action in system B — the creation of an invoice, perhaps.While APIs themselves are nothing new, API integration is gaining momentum due in large part to the migration to cloud-based business services, which began with startups, according to Mesh CEO Bill Vasu. To quicken time to market and decrease costs, startups defined their business processes and "then stitched together these applications available on the internet to match up," he said. "That is basically what APIs allow you to do.""It is an affordable, powerful way to use pre-existing cloud-based internet applications to drive your business, instead of having to have internal IT server and staff and all the overhead associated with those," he said.Mesh vice president John Covender said as cloud computing grows among more established companies, so does the need to quickly and efficiently connect APIs."That is our specialty," he said.But it's not all the five-person company does. Mesh distinguishes itself, particularly from competitors who take a more transactional approach to app integration, by embedding its API platform in a suite of services designed to automate, optimize and secure technology-driven business processes."It is one thing to go to an API, or any tech subcontractor, and basically buy some technology and give to your IT department, and then it's just a done deal," Vasu said, "versus dealing with a company like us that is really looking at all of this as enablers for better business processes."In 2012, Covender founded, a website where companies could crowdsource the outing of deadbeat customers. He linked up with Vasu, CEO of CyberAccess in Chagrin Falls, three years ago while looking for a Customer Resource Management tool to help manage his site's growing client base.At about the same time, Vasu and his team were exploring API tools that could help their customers "tie their CRM to other business computer applications like another marketing app or some other internal operations like accounting, order fulfillment or logistics" without coding connectors from scratch, which is cumbersome and time-consuming.When he stumbled upon an API innovation being piloted in a large health care project overseas, Vasu jumped on board, offering up CyberAccess' expertise in CRMs and workflow automation. And when the contractor bowed out to focus on enterprise licensing deals rather than projects, Vasu and Covender stepped in — not only to see the project through but to license the API technology for their burgeoning joint venture.The API platform consists of a library of 15,000 applications. Among those apps, Vasu explained, are about 200 existing "subconnectors," sort of like Lego blocks. To build a connector, Mesh developers pick one of the subconnectors and fill in the parameters between it and the apps in question."So instead of everything having to be written in hundreds or thousands of lines of codes, in 95% of the cases, you can pull from these 200-prebuilt 'Legos' and just tie them together," he said, cutting development to about one-quarter of the time it takes to manually code connectors."We have sped up technology, and that is the cool part," Covender said.The Mesh execs said their nascent venture is not your typical startup. For one thing, the API platform — and Mesh's workflow process in general — is already in the marketplace, about to be deployed in 1,000 hospitals in the United Kingdom, Australia, Africa and the Far East. Then there's a backlog of about 400 projects referred to Mesh by its API technology provider and a broad set of partnerships it brings to the table.The latter includes data center access via SecureData 365 in Canton; micro-token technology that fragments data for secure storage from Eclypses, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and account receivables insurance courtesy of Euler Hermes, a global specialty insurance company headquartered in Paris."We never wanted to be a standalone company," Covender said. "We always wanted to be the business resource."The challenge now is to raise awareness about Mesh and its unique offerings so the firm can get buy-in from regional business leaders and begin the scale up necessary to meet the demand.Wise predicts buy-in will not be a problem should the company deliver on the promise to make the burdensome and piecemeal process of business app integration easier."If a company can crack being able to hook these things together in a nice, useful way that is easy to do, they will make a lot of money," he said.MORNING ROUNDUP Business headlines from Crain's Cleveland Business and other Ohio newspapers — delivered FREE to your inbox every morning. Sign up for the Morning Newsletter.

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