Xconomist of the Week: Appature’s Kabir Shahani Eyes Culture as Company Expands

10/14/11Follow @curtwoodward

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first Tuesday of every month,’” Shahani says. “You’ve got 14 percent of physicians’ offices that have gone no-show—they literally have said, ‘We’ll never see a sales rep, ever.’”

The magnitude of that change for a broader industry means that, even though it’s been a small operation that drives efficiency through software, Appature eventually needed to have its own sales and accounts people on the ground in key areas, both to serve its existing clients and take on new business. Those relatively new remote offices are in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, and the San Francisco Bay area, with no more than a couple of people in each spot—but there are plans to grow.

That’s where the experience factor comes into play: Shahani says Appature’s hires in the field offices have an average of 12-15 years experience in the industry.

“These are highly skilled, highly experienced folks that are sitting with customers at major pharma, major device brands,” he says, “helping them understand how technology can help them go through this business transformation in a very smooth way.”

As for holding that small-company culture together amid stair-step growth periods, Shahani says a lot of credit goes to a strong core team. Since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s death was fresh on everyone’s mind, Shahani recalled something Jobs told “60 Minutes” some years ago, when he said his model for business was The Beatles: “They were four guys who kept each other’s negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other,” Jobs said. “And the total was greater than the sum of the parts.”

At Appature, Shahani says, the core roles are filled out by product strategy director Matt Hallett and development VP Derek Slager, who joined co-founders Hahn and Shahani a few months after Appature got rolling.

“You’ve got four guys that, kind of at a foundational level, are able to work together, coach each other, and grow together,” he says. (Unfortunately, I didn’t ask which members of the team were John, Paul, George, and Ringo.)

Shahani also says Seattle’s entrepreneurial community gets a lot of credit for helping Appature navigate this phase, as does the company’s board, which includes Richard Fade of Ignition Partners and Tim Porter of Madrona Venture Group.

“Those guys have done such a phenomenal job of supporting us, and not being dictatorial about how we build the business,” Shahani says. “It truly is, ‘Here’s how we’ve seen this movie play out, and here’s where the happy endings were, and here’s where the not-so-happy endings were.’ And those are things that really help, those stories and perspectives really help guide us.”

For himself as an executive, Shahani says it’s also been important to make sure that he’s taking time to celebrate successes—and let the rest of the company celebrate too. The tenfold increase in sales bookings is a great example of that, he says.

“I mean, that’s insane. When you think about that, I should be drinking champagne right now, with my feet up on the desk, telling you how awesome everything is because we are at 10x the sales bookings for this year,” Shahani says with a laugh. “The reality is, I want to be at 100x. I want to be at 1,000x. You want to keep pushing forward. And so, the hard part when you are going through this growth is you want to be sure that you celebrate the success, and you enjoy the milestones.”

Those milestones mean that Appature is set for another growth spurt. The company is looking to have an additional 15 jobs ready to offer by the end of the first quarter, with “well over half” in Seattle, Shahani says. He also thinks the tenfold sales-pipeline increase could repeat itself next year, as well. And the company feels poised, he says, to make those changes with the strong footprint it has in place.

“These first 30 folks, these key pillars—it’s really important,” he says.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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  • http://www.rhstrategic.com John Raffetto

    A great read… I love that Kabir is tapping into a market where there is an epic transformation under way, and lots of $$$. Keep up the good work!

  • http://on.fb.me/curtwoodward Curt Woodward

    Thanks, John – This isn’t the kind of business story that’s a typical headline or “announcement” from a company (the fact that they’re now growing into field operations, etc).
    But it’s such a key moment for a young company that it’s a naturally interesting topic. At least I thought so!

  • http://www.startuprecroot.com Tara Gowland

    Great peice on a fabulous Seattle company – and good on them for hiring experienced employees!