From Bootstrap to VC: Appature Doubles Size in a Year, Looks for Next Defining Moment in Health IT

5/24/10Follow @gthuang

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“I had to interject and interpret.” Shahani explained to the roomful of executives that Microsoft wanted to create an ecosystem in health IT, and that it would make its money from companies creating applications on top of its platform. “The whole room went ‘ohhh…’” he says. And that’s when he realized Appature could really help bridge a gap between healthcare companies and their customers.

Indeed, the key to the company’s success so far seems to be its deep understanding of the marketing needs of the healthcare industry. “Everything bubbles up from customers,” Hahn says. “We provide visibility and then, upstream of that, the power of the marketer to make decisions on what works,” Shahani adds.

Appature makes money from licensing its software to companies on an annual basis. Shahani wouldn’t give any details about revenues, except to say, “This year we’re showing positive revenue growth over last year.” He says the company has doubled in size “responsibly” over the past year, and that “now we are hiring a little bit ahead of revenue, but not ahead of demand.”

It is precisely that demand that Appature is focusing on when it talks about achieving “scale.” It’s not a technology or software issue so much as executing on signing up new companies and deploying its products as fast as possible. Hahn says he and the rest of the team are working on “how to turn customers on faster, and making sure we can move fast on the customers.”

In the past few months, some R&D areas have been stripped away—like Chatterfly, a Twitter search engine that Appature developed and then shut down—while others have flourished. For example, Appature’s “sentiment analysis” software seems to have taken off, whereby companies can automatically track and understand positive and negative feelings about brands, products, and other industry topics from social media and Web content.

Asked to forecast the next year or two, Shahani made a number of transportation analogies involving boats, buses, and moving boulders. “We expect to see growth. There may be bumps and detours, but we will continue to get the right people on the bus,” he says.

Lastly, I asked what makes Appature’s culture unique and why it’s important. This is a company built by a couple of ambitious young guys, after all. (Shahani’s CEO hair belies the fact that he’s still in his mid-20s.) “We have a culture of celebrating the wins and having fun,” Shahani says. He adds that the company is “focused on professional and personal growth” and has an “environment of supporting each other.” He says Appature’s official company values are: customer obsession, get things done, challenge the status quo, operate with integrity, and deliver on the vision of “surprisingly simple.”

Asked to boil down the culture to one word, Shahani says, “Winning. In the context of the team.”

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 or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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