Scott Coons is no stranger to the pain and success of growing a company. After founding Kansas City-based Perceptive Software, he led the organization from its first dollar of revenue through 13 acquisitions and to $700 million in revenue by 2015. At that time, Coons declared himself “retired” – but like many in similar positions, his retirement includes significant involvement with the world of his former profession.
Officially, you claim to be retired. But you never truly stepped away from the technology field. What has been keeping you busy since 2015?
Well, I guess once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. I truly never wanted to be out of the game. Since the summer of 2015, I’ve been spending a lot of time with technology investing, performing start-up CEO mentoring, professional board work and charitable board work. Of those commitments, I most enjoy working with startups – sitting on their boards and mentoring their CEOs.
Along with my Perceptive software co-founders, I created a venture fund called perceptiveEQUITY that allows us to truly support these Kansas City-based businesses. I enjoy being able to invest in startups I believe in, both financially and from a leadership perspective.”
Applogie, of course, is one of those businesses. Where did the idea for Applogie come from, and how did it grow into reality?
Over my last four or five years at Perceptive and Lexmark, while I was still running the software business, our constant strategic initiative was to get our technology into the cloud as a true subscription offering – 100% in the cloud. As a result of that strategy, we were willing to perform a lot of experiments in our own operations by testing a lot of cloud-based toolkits and pieces of software.
The result of that experimentation was, when managed correctly, we were able to get our product to the cloud faster, more efficiently and to create our point solutions faster. The challenge, though, was that we were never good at managing the expense. Brian Anderson (Applogie CEO and co-founder) and I would always discuss how we could do a better job at that part. It got to be that I would receive our financial statements and, to be honest, become very upset … our cost structure never ended up where we needed it or where we expected it.
What we found was toolkits and solutions would be started up in the cloud and not turned off, even after they’ve been deemed ineffective or irrelevant. Cloud experiments would be implemented and then the people responsible for or passionate about them would leave without shutting down the process. Or things would just get stale and forgotten. There was no good way to manage it with spreadsheets or through our SAP ERP. That’s where the idea was born.
Brian gave it a lot of thought and came to me and said, when the time is right, let’s do this. By 2018, the need for the product was undeniable. The time was right.
Why do you believe so strongly in Applogie?
I’ll put it this way – I believe the success of Perceptive came from our ability to drive efficiency for our customer. That efficiency, in turn, allowed customers to repurpose their people and their investments to the most strategic areas of their business. Applogie does the same thing. It’s a solution that allows customers to spend their dollars on the right things, in a controlled fashion.
Any dollar that can be saved and optimized in this ever-growing world of cloud and software subscriptions is a dollar that can be spent on more strategic investments. It’s about having control of that expense so you can spend toward what you really want to spend, versus trying to manage the factor of constantly having expenses larger than you believe they’re going to be – or never knowing about the expense until it is too late. Applogie relieves that unknown.
Applogie had a very successful 2018. What do you think that success can be attributed to?
I believe customers will always tell you what you should build. You just have to be paying attention. Over 20 years at Perceptive, our growth all came from designing for making the customer solution better. Never was it about solely making the business better or adding to the bottom line. Growth was organic from there. The same thing is happening with Applogie. We started with a product that people need and love to use, and we pay attention to what our customers are telling us.
Most recently, it seems, customers told you that cloud security was a strategic concern for them. How did Applogie respond?
The most positive thing about software that runs in the cloud is that people can sign up quickly and people can start using it quickly. But on the flip side that’s also the most challenging thing. For any company – and enterprise companies in particular – you quickly end up with many systems you can’t control.
So when it comes to security, if you can’t control the system or don’t know about those systems, you’re at risk.
The thing is, there’s a lot that a person at any company needs to know to perform their job. Meaning, they have to be an active user in a lot of systems. They log into a lot of systems. As a result, they tend to use the same passwords and user IDs across these systems. It’s human nature. This proliferation creates the biggest exposure risk. Brian had the idea to incorporate a way to manage this problem into the Applogie platform.
Applogie, through programmatic interfaces with a customers enterprise systems, can determine all of the email addresses and/or user IDs and automatically monitor those ID’s for security breaches. If there’s been a major internet breach, Applogie can identify where it happened, and compare compromised accounts with the accounts we manage. Odds are, the passwords for those other accounts are the same. So, we can in real-time, as soon as a major breach happens, tell you what kind of exposure you might have and advice you toward how to manage it. As far as we know, there’s no other product that can do it with the automation and ease like Applogie can.
What do you think 2019 and the years beyond have in store for the company?
Nothing but continued growth. We’re seeing some competition, but that competition only validates that the market needs what we offer. I’m confident our product is better than the competition’s, and that we can execute on our customer relationships better than they can. It’s fun to be in the start-up business again and exhilarating to be listening so closely to what our customers are telling us we need to build. That’s what drove the success of Perceptive, and it’s what will drive the success of Applogie as well.