AppSense Labs Competes with Google and Facebook for Tech Talent in NY

2/22/12Follow @jpruth

On the hunt for techies with entrepreneurial spirit, enterprise software developer AppSense announced today it formed a research division that has its epicenter at the company’s New York headquarters. AppSense Labs, as it is called, aspires to do more than hire new experts; it aims to disrupt the way the company’s technology is developed by adopting a more nimble strategy to compete with rivals.

“The model of innovation that is traditionally ‘enterprise’ doesn’t work anymore,” says Harry Labana, chief technology officer for Britain-born AppSense. “You’ve got to get new ideas out faster that may or may not fit into your core enterprise product.”

The new division, he says, will give the company an edge in technology development while also putting AppSense on the prowl for talent where it has offices in New York, Santa Clara, CA, and Britain’s Warrington. Shaking off some of the inertia common to enterprise technology may help the company be more versatile, Labana says. “We don’t see that many people focusing on making enterprise software cool and useable in a multiplatform world,” he says. “We’re focused on that problem moving forward.”

As more companies include smartphones and tablets in their IT tool boxes, enterprise software developers must change to embrace these devices, Labana says. That means finding developers and engineers with the skills to transform this sector. AppSense’s technology lets users within enterprises operate smoothly across different computing environments such as variations of Windows. Layoffs among financial institutions in New York, he says, presented an opportunity for his company to grab such tech professionals. “Work is being outsourced, offices are moving to Jersey City,” he says. “There’s a lot of good talent you can tap.” He also says New York was chosen as the headquarters for AppSense Labs because of the proximity to financial institutions that are customers of the company.

Labana says the city is something of a battleground for talent. “It’s expensive to open an engineering office in New York City because you are competing with Facebook and Google,” he says. “There’s lots of jobs, just not enough skilled people.” In spite of such challenges, Labana says, the caliber of talent that is available in New York makes the competition worthwhile. “You get good project managers, people who understand IT systems,” he says. “Those people really help us understand the market.”

AppSense Labs is also looking for talent in Silicon Valley, Labana says, especially to develop new mobile and cloud computing technology for the company.

For now, AppSense Labs plans to hire employees “in the dozens,” as Labana describes it. Relative to the company’s staff of 400, AppSense Labs sounds like small beer, but he says it will be responsible for creating products at the pace found in the consumer market rather than the stodgy way enterprise technology companies operate.

Labana says rather than engaging in complex studies of what customers want, AppSense Labs will brainstorm for straightforward ways to make life within enterprises better. “Let’s do some experiments, let’s see what happens,” he says. “Not all of these ideas are going to make it into a core enterprise product, but some of them become very useful.”

AppSense Labs is looking for a variety of professionals including mobile developers who work with iOS and Android, backend Java engineers, and user interface designers. The new research division is expected to usher the company into mobile and social territories AppSense has not yet exploited. “A lot of our products are mature and robust in the Windows space,” Labana says.

The research division released DataLocker, its first product, today. DataLocker is free encryption technology for users of the file-sharing service Dropbox. While some folks may readily post photos, videos, and other files with Dropbox, Labana says others want more layers of security. By releasing DataLocker for free to the public, AppSense can put the technology through its paces and see how it may be useful in the enterprise market. DataLocker can be used on Windows, Mac, and iOS platforms.

Founded in Britain in 1999, Labana says, AppSense maintains its headquarters in New York where much of its senior management operates. AppSense Labs plans to develop more products for collaboration and interaction that mesh the depth of enterprise technology with the access the cloud and mobile devices offer. “You have no choice but to evolve,” he says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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