Apperian Appoints New CEO, David Patrick, to Raise Money and Bring Mobile Apps to More Businesses

9/27/10Follow @gthuang

There’s some interesting personnel news today in the world of mobile software apps for companies. Boston-based Apperian, a mobile development and platform startup, says it has appointed a new CEO as of last week. He is David Patrick, a veteran of Lotus, Sun, Novell, and a number of cutting-edge tech startups on both coasts. He succeeds founder Chuck Goldman, a former Apple executive who is staying on as chief strategy officer and will continue to run the company’s services, sales, and business development.

I took the opportunity to get to know Patrick a bit, and to get an update on Apperian’s business. The company has about 20 full-time employees plus a number of consultants; there were three new hires last week, and more will come soon. Patrick says the firm’s revenue “has grown very dramatically” and could be on pace to increase by 300 percent this year over last year. Nevertheless, one of his first objectives as CEO is to raise a Series A financing round. To date, Apperian has been supported by $1.5 million in seed money from CommonAngels, plus services revenue from its mobile-app development work.

“I’ve looked at a lot of startups, and this is the first one I’ve seen as healthy as it is after 18 months,” Patrick says.

Founded in January 2009, Apperian has developed consumer iPhone apps for companies like American Greetings (electronic cards), Intuit (tax forms), and Timberland (retail marketing). It also counts Estee Lauder, Rue La La, Progressive Insurance, and Warner Bros. among its customers, for whom it has developed 55 apps so far. But an even bigger opportunity may lie in creating a platform for companies to develop their own internal mobile apps—what would amount to an “enterprise app store” for iPhones, iPads, and Google Android-based devices.

That’s what Apperian announced it was working on this spring, as my colleague Wade detailed in an interview with Goldman. The software platform is still in beta mode, Patrick says, and he has been studying it for the past couple of months (before officially starting with the company), thinking about issues such as how to ensure the security of confidential data and users’ identities on mobile devices. In the meantime, the company seems to be gaining traction, particularly around the iPhone and iPad.

Challenges aside, it’s clear that being an early player in the emerging mobile business 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.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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