Apperian Appoints New CEO, David Patrick, to Raise Money and Bring Mobile Apps to More Businesses
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market—21 million iPads might be sold in 2011—was exciting enough for Patrick to sign on. “It’s amazing how the mobile experience is driving what happens” in corporate computing, he says. “The past was an extension of enterprise computing to the browser. But now, people want rich, local experiences.” (Richer than reading e-mail on a BlackBerry, say.)
Patrick, 53, has rich experience of his own in both business and consumer tech. He spent most of the 1980s working in applications software, and then moved into the consumer market. He helped build The Learning Company, based in Cambridge, MA, into one of the biggest consumer software companies in the world; it was sold to Mattel for $3.8 billion in 1998-1999. Patrick then moved into open source software, becoming CEO of Boston-based Ximian, which was acquired by Novell in 2003. After serving as vice president and general manager at Novell for a few years, he joined Xkoto, a database virtualization company, in late 2007 and was its chief executive until its acquisition by Teradata earlier this year. Apperian is Patrick’s fifth startup. “I wanted to go right back to work,” he says.
Given the growing amount of activity in the field of mobile business apps, Patrick says his top challenge is to “triage the opportunities and prioritize them [according to] which ones will allow us to grow and be the most relevant.” Asked whether Apperian could be a billion-dollar company someday, he would only say that “it’s a huge industry” and that he doesn’t see the current trend in mobile reversing.
Of course, Apperian will face competition from a slew of other small companies like Ondeego (AppCentral) and JackBe (Presto). And down the road, Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and other tech giants could decide to offer their own business app stores for iPads and other tablet devices or netbooks. Patrick downplays that possibility, saying that companies like Apple and Google “develop platforms for the largest possible audience. We’re focused on how enterprise will use it…We think there’s plenty of room for us to build toolkits and connectors to enterprise.”
What’s more, Apperian has strong relations with Apple, given that its core team came from there, and many of its employees worked on parts of Apple’s software development kit that is used for the iPhone, he says. (Perhaps the startup will be an acquisition target then.)
I asked Patrick about the lessons he has learned from his previous startups, and how they might translate to Apperian. Back in the ’80s, he says, he was working on a spinoff out of Ashton-Tate (an old software firm) that failed to raise money around the time of the 1987 stock market crash. “It taught me at a very young age about cash flow,” he says. “In 2000, I was at Ximian, and I sat the team down and said, ‘I’ve been here before.’ And in ’08, I had the same conversation with Xkota. You’ve got to take a bunker mentality…You need to manage as close to cash flow break-even as possible, and wait until the environment improves.”
For Apperian, that time is now. “Good economy or bad economy, you need to run companies responsibly,” Patrick says. “Raising money is important to expand the company when you really have an opportunity you feel very confident about. It also can be used as a safety net, or a war chest. You’ve got to be prepared for economic climate changes and product slippages. If you don’t have a rainy-day fund to get you through that, you back yourself into a corner, and that’s not a place I like to be…That’s what I bring to a small, fast-growing company.”