AppSense is a privately owned software company, founded in Warrington in 1999 by Charlie Sharland with humble beginnings, but has grown to be one of the key players in the industry.
In 2011 Goldman Sachs invested $70m and the company has seen a turnover greater than $100m. In 2012, AppSense made its first acquisition, RapSphere, a mobile device management platform. The company has three product areas: desktops, mobile devices and corporate data. AppSense has undergone a structural and management change, with Scott Arnold newly assigned as CEO. Riding on the success of their DesktopNow and MobileNow products, AppSense have recently launched DataNow, which enables companies to cloud enable their existing storage infrastructure.
CBR speaks to Scott Arnold, CEO of AppSense, about his new role in the company, their latest innovation and what the future holds for AppSense.
What are your goals for your first year within the company?
My goals are to come in and help the company grow to the next level. One of the things that I've learnt from my time in Silicon Valley and in tech companies, is that the types of skills and leadership to grow companies is different at different stages of their evolution. So for instance, the types of skills and capabilities that the company needed to grow from 50 to 100 million in annual revenue is very different from what's needed from 100 to 300 or 500. So, what I'm excited about is the chance to come in and build on the foundation that Charlie and my predecessor have done to get us to and above 100 million to then take it to the next level. I'd say that that's sort of a theme, and underneath that theme is a bunch of things around improving the way we're able to deploy and add value to our customers quickly, improving the way we can scale our business, improving the way that we think about creating value for our shareholders, employees, customers and partners and really taking the next step in operating as a truly global team. So those are sort of our four big internal goals for the year.
Can you tell me a bit more about AppSense?
We sell enterprise software, a primary focus market is around helping companies manage their desktops more effectively and is often around the area of virtualisation of those desktops.
Our customers tend to be global customers, they tend to be large and complex and they have lots of different technologies, so heterogeneous in nature. So if you're a large, heterogeneous, complex client, then we're your answer. What that means is, we help companies manage the way they are able to secure user desktops and manage them, but to do so in a way that gives the users a really good experience.
If it's taking a long time to log on to your network, we can help address those types of problems. If people are doing things to their computer that is causing them to get corrupted so that they don't work and they have to call the helpdesk, we can help manage that more effectively. We generally are a bridge between what the IT department is trying to do in managing the desktops and what the users need to do to be able to be productive and have a good experience. So that's the core of our desktop products, called DesktopNow. We've just introduced a new product this week called DataNow. DataNow enables companies to cloud enable their existing storage infrastructure. What it allows them to do is to take the intellectual property and the data that is stored in their corporate storage devices and be able to access that remotely via things like laptops, smartphones or tablets. So if you're at home with your laptop, it allows you access to that data in a secure way while offsite.
What a lot of people have done is they've used more consumer type solutions, like Dropbox. The reason that's scary to an IT department is because it involves putting their intellectual property in a very unsecure place on the net. We provide that same easy access via DataNow, so we allow them to retain security control over the data.
The third product area is MobileNow, which is a product we introduced earlier this year based on an acquisition a year ago of a company called RapSphere. What MobileNow allows you to do is to manage the applications that are on mobile devices, maybe your Android smartphone or perhaps your iPad. What we can do is help companies be more secure and clever about the way they provide access to corporate data to their employees in a very rich, good user experience way. So for instance, if you wanted to make sure that sensitive email attachments were managed appropriately when viewed on an iPhone. Or if your colleague lost their tablet on the train, there was an ability to wipe that so the data was not lost or potentially available to eyes that shouldn't see it.
So the capabilities from the mobile product and the data product are new capabilities we're offering to help companies manage mobile devices and the data they want to have access to, in places other than just inside the corporate firewall. This is in response to the types of things that we hear our global customers talking about, that they want to do, to evolve their desktop and their computing space. Some people call this BYOD. We embrace that and can help with that but we think that's a bit of a narrow way to think about it because often companies are actually providing smartphones, for example, to employees. In that case the employee's not bringing their own are they? The company's providing it for them. So it's a broader way to think about it, it's helping companies manage both devices that they own and devices that they don't own, to do that in a way that still keeps their data and intellectual property safe and secure.
There have been a lot of security concerns with cloud computing, people using public Wi-Fi to access corporate data and having unsecure passwords. So what is your stance on ensuring optimum security for your users? How does AppSense approach these security issues?
So in the case that you're describing where a user has a smartphone or a tablet and they want to be able to access it via a public network: it's an unmanaged device, IT doesn't own it and it's over an unmanaged network. What we're able to do in that environment given the MobileNow and DataNow products, is to have secure access to their data that fundamentally resides back at the corporation in the secure storage, we're able to provide access to that in a secure way with a unique encryption key that the end user device provides to be able to view the data and then with the application management capabilities of our MobileNow product, we can help customers manage which applications, and actually access the data and what they can do with it. So for instance if you don't want someone to be able to cut and paste from an internal email onto Twitter, we can help you with that. Being able to provide appropriate access but also appropriate limitations on what people can do with secure corporate data from the end user device is a really core use case that we hear our customers asking us for help around.
What challenges have AppSense faced and how have they been overcome?
I think one of the big challenges we always have is as we've grown and become a global company, so founded in the UK in the north of England and now expanded to be truly global and to be the leader in our space, we have all the challenges that our clients have in managing a global enterprise. So we have to work together across time zones, we have to find ways to be efficient in our communications and the great news about this is we're experiencing first hand the problems that our customers and our clients are trying to solve with our products. So I think it really gives us a terrific advantage in understanding the world that they're living in and being able to empathise with what they're trying to do with our technology. We've got a programme inside the company called 100% AppSense, which means that we are going to be the best users of our own products. I think that's really important because we have to really internalise what it feels like to be a customer with the types of challenges on a global basis that they're facing and I think that differentiates us from many of our smaller competitors. I think our scale alone, we're able to put more into product development and research and development from an investment perspective than many of our clients have in total revenues. And we also, because of our global reach, are able to provide a perspective and a set of insights to our customers that some of the more regional players just can't do.
We also have about 80% of the world's top banks as customers, we have over 3,000 customers over 6 million end points that we have sold to our clients that we manage, and so that type of scale is something that none of the competitors can match.
Have you had any feedback from DataNow so far?
Yes, we've had some quite exciting feedback. As you might expect we've been working closely with a core set of data customers prior to us releasing it and we've got one who I can't name but is a very large 100,000+ user type customer that we are in the process of rolling out with them. So again, I can't name it, but we're very excited about what we've learnt from working with those customers and our ability to scale the product in a dramatic way.
The other thing that's really important to us is that we're always on the forefront of the newest versions of products that are coming out. We're not announcing anything today but you should watch for us in the next few weeks, about an announcement about our support for the next generation Windows platform, so I think Windows 8 and 8.1 and Windows Server 2012. So being able to lead with our customers and provide our customers with the opportunity to deploy on these next generation platforms as they decide to do so is an important part of the way we view our leadership role.
So AppSense is quite customer focused? Do you get a lot of inspiration from what your clients' needs are?
I do and in fact what we're trying to do is understand what their needs are today, so I mentioned some of the problems that we solve at the front of line of the organisations, but we're also trying to have more strategic dialogues with some of our largest, most forward thinking customers around where they see the market going. So as you might expect there's a little bit of a lag time between when you get an insight and when you can actually build that into the software. We're trying to be thoughtful about where the market is going, so when our customers are ready to implement those solutions, we'll have it ready for them to do that.
What's next for AppSense?
What I'm really excited about is this market as we've talked about is changing so rapidly and I see it as being a huge opportunity for us on a global basis. Part of the reason that I joined the company is that we have this global presence. It was a company that was founded in Britain and has now grown to be a truly global organisation. In my experience that's a big transition for companies to take, to become global, that's a great platform upon which we can build and grow. And if we can provide, not just this first generation of solutions around mobile, data and desktop, but we can then help our clients transition as they're ready to do, to the next generation workspace, that's a really exciting thing for us to be able to do in terms of innovation, as well as delivering real value to the customers.
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