Blog: The Evolution of Cleo and History in the Making

Throughout Cleo's dynamic history, the core competencies of the company remain unchanged.

Cleo has come a long way since its founding in 1976. Pull up a chair and listen to how an innovative hardware communications company evolved to be the leading business data integration software company that it is today.

In the Beginning

Cleo originally began as a division of Phone 1 Inc., a “voice data gathering systems” hardware manufacturer, and built data concentrators and terminal emulators — multi-bus computers, modems, and terminals to interface with IBM mainframes via bisynchronous communications. As the popularity of mainframes regressed and their respective programming skills dwindled, Cleo developed its Transaction Processing Suite (mainframe middleware) to leverage mainframe, midrange, and other back-end data into modern applications and open system with easy-to-use tools. This enabled the data integration companies needed to more freely move data between mainframe based legacy applications and non-mainframe based systems, as they, over time, migrated off mainframes.

Cleo evolved into software with the advent of the PC, building software/hardware (3270 and 3780) file transfer solutions to run on DOS and Unix platforms to communicate with mainframes, VANs (value-added networks), or other 3780 hosts. This expanded with the Internet boom of the 1990s into the secure business data transfer and exchange market space.

Cleo introduced secure network fax and interactive messaging solutions (now known as Cleo Streem) in parallel to help customers meet increasing government compliance mandates. The widespread need for Cleo Streem software’s versatile capabilities led to a long-standing partnership with Xerox, with whom Cleo has closely embedded key functionality into their multi-function devices. In fact, Cleo has been named a Xerox partner of the year for five years in a row (and counting).

Cleo VersaLex

Another Cleo product line evolved from the Cleo VersaLex code base during the 1990s as businesses began a slow but steady migration off of VAN services and onto software solutions that enable secure and direct B2B data connectivity through the Internet. Three Cleo solutions emerged to bring varying levels of A2A and B2B managed file transfer capabilities, including Cleo LexiComCleo VLTrader, and Cleo Harmony, which serve small, medium, and large-scale production requirements via Unix, Linux, Windows, and iSeries operating systems.

With an expanded solutions portfolio, high-quality interoperability between Cleo and other data communications products became more critical, and Cleo further invested in its support of many market-leading protocols. Cleo was the first to certify AS2 with Drummond Group and the first to certify AS2 with all the add-on options that make it easier to transfer files and manage larger trading partner communities. Cleo’s VersaLex products have been Drummond Group-certified for interoperability since 2002, for every release, and also completes regular testing for AS3 and ebMS 2.0.

File Sharing

In the past few years, with the rise of remote workforces and increasing needs to enable teams of collaborators to securely work across company boundaries, Cleo development teams expanded company offerings with both Cleo Unify and Cleo Trust. These products enable secure file sharing, collaboration, and advanced person-to-person and person-to-system messaging tools for use within the enterprise and beyond.  Unlike their consumer-based cloud file sharing cousins, the Cleo solutions enable full IT control and auditing needed to ensure safeguarding of valuable company information across company boundaries.

A Year of Change

For decades, Cleo predominantly served smaller and medium-sized businesses who were in need of software to exchange documents within larger trading communities.

In April 2012, Cleo, then a company of fewer than 50 employees, was acquired by new management backed by Globe Equity Partners. Under the new leadership, Cleo built out its product portfolio to offer its great platform to the world’s largest companies.

Cleo’s portfolio of solutions had served tens of thousands of companies needing to connect to mostly large corporations. Now, Cleo’s enterprise technology fuels the data integration operations of these corporations (Kellogg’s, JDA, and SAP, to name a few). The software solution that was once enabling a customer to execute a few hundred transactions per month grew into an engine powering hundreds of thousands of trading partners moving millions of documents daily that comprise tens of billions of dollars each day in e-commerce using Cleo solutions.

The company has already nearly tripled in size with this significant investment in our people driving to become a more agile organization with a focus on innovation to continuously provide greater value to our customers.

Additional Key Moments

In addition to the management change of 2012, there have been numerous other notable moments in Cleo’s nearly 40 years of history. Here are a few more:

  • 2002: Cleo already demonstrated early market leadership in AS2, but the AS2 mandate by Walmart and Lowe’s helped Cleo further enhance its customer base after widespread supplier adoption.
  • 2007: Competitors were acquiring products to tack on visibility and central management capabilities, as well as different platforms to manage B2B and A2A communications. Cleo developers focused on providing the world a single platform for all file integration as well as the ability to comprehensively move, view, and act on those files.
  • 2012: Repeated inquiries from customers seeking comprehensive governance and control over all data flows within their organizations led to Cleo’s development of an enterprise-grade solution for file sharing and collaboration built on the same proven platform as its systematic data integration.
  • 2014: The big data era is here, and Cleo responded by enabling big data gateways to provide managed ingestion, metadata creation, and content-based routing for Hadoop and non-Hadoop analytics platforms to power enterprise data lakes.

A Few Tidbits

Some additional fun facts and figures about Cleo:

  • Cleo has gone through multiple acquisitions but has remained headquartered in northern Illinois (Loves Park, Ill.) and now also operates an office in Chicago.
  • According to a 1987 issue of Network World, Cleo software facilitated the first electronic transfer of a tax return to the IRS.
  • The company for years was more popularly known as Cleo Communications despite every iteration of its logo simply saying, “Cleo.” (FYI: The company officially goes by Cleo now in all regards.)
  • Geographic expansion of customer bases through partnerships have netted Cleo customers in more than 78 countries, for a truly global reach.

Additional Resources

Some other interesting Cleo pieces:

  • We ran across this great blog post that sums up the history of Cleo via public records, advertisements, and other documents.
  • This 1988 Cleo promotional video tells of the total communications solutions Cleo provides to thousands of customers, and how projections for data growth would increase demand for Cleo’s communication products for years to come. How true! (Note: Isn’t it also interesting that the same ethic for customer ease-of-use continues today in Cleo products that bring order and simplicity to our customers’ complex web of communication with B2B trading partner communities?)
  • Watch this Cleo-centric 2003 airing of World Business Review, the popular infomercial-type program highlighting up-and-coming companies and their solutions. (FYI: There’s a cameo around the 2:15 mark featuring Todd Enneking, who is still with Cleo today!)

One important element to note throughout Cleo’s dynamic history is that the core competencies of the company remain unchanged. Cleo’s commitment to its products and a strong customer service ethic have delivered superior feature-functions embedded in software enabling easy setup, use, and flexible extensibility.

We here at Cleo strive to provide our great customers with great products and service for many more years to come, and we look forward to the journey!

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