Appirio Then and Now: The People, The Big Bets, & The Legacy

November 10, 2016 Mike O’Brien

Before becoming a co-founder and employee #4 of Appirio, my career began in the Navy operating nuclear submarines, so you could say I developed a strong appreciation for operational disciplines and doing the job right the first time. As I transitioned into civilian life, I found myself working in enterprise software, focusing on the operational aspects of building large teams from the ground up, defining service offerings that sales teams could sell and consultants could actually deliver, and creating methodologies that made all of that repeatable and predictable.

It was during this period that Chris, Glenn, Narinder, and I first met. We quickly became friends, while also realizing that we all brought very different skills to the table. With a shared entrepreneurial spirit, we started banging around start-up ideas, eventually hitting on the fortuitous idea of services in support of public cloud technologies — an idea we came up with when we were introduced to Salesforce.com as a customer at Borland. We got to see our would-be competition first-hand when Salesforce introduced us to potential vendors to handle the Borland implementation — and we knew we could do better. Soon, we took the leap of faith, quit our jobs, and started Appirio.

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But it wasn’t just Chris, Narinder, Glenn, and I that took a big leap of faith to create this amazing company. There are countless others who came along and bet on us and our ideas —  making great sacrifices in both their professional and personal lives to join what we all hoped (and believed) would become what it is today.

Born in the cloud

If you’ve seen the series Silicon Valley on HBO, then you’re probably somewhat familiar with tech incubators (at least from a fictional, comedic standpoint). Appirio got its start in a Salesforce incubator, where we paid $20,000 for a cubicle. (If we’d only waited 10 years, maybe we could’ve gotten that space for free!) Nevertheless, we crammed into that little cubicle and got to work. Just like Pied Piper, we had our ups and downs, our missteps and our wins, but with great people working hard and making a lot of the right moves, we continued to grow and thrive. As the team grew, we ended up taking over half the floor, and eventually got big enough to leave the nest and open our first office.

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It’s because of our people

Appirio’s success can be directly attributed to our people. It’s people like employee #18, Maryam Norouzi, who did a little bit of everything (consultant, business analyst, project manager, account director) before raising her hand to lead our Topcoder community — and helped grow it to over a million members. She was also instrumental in developing our earliest inception of The Appirio Way project methodology, and serves as an advocate for women in STEM.

It’s people like Todd Bursey, who signed on as employee #5 — the first employee outside of the founders. We had no funding, no customers, not even an office. In spite of all that, Todd took the leap with us and shared in the vision to become the next IBM (minus the hardware). Todd even rolled up his sleeves prior to his first day, taking sales calls and consulting on our first ever customer. Todd eventually became the brains and muscle behind our professional services automation (PSA) product, and went over to FinancialForce to continue with the product leadership when we sold PSA to them in 2011.  

Jennifer Taylor, our first VP of Human Resources, joined Appirio as employee #28. We knew Jenn well from our Borland days and were so lucky to get her onboard to run our people engine. While I did my best to run the HR show prior to Jenn, I’ll never forget how kind she was in fixing all my HR oversights and missteps without making me feel like a complete HR novice — which I was! Jenn went on to truly build every aspect of our HR team, from benefits to recruiting to onboarding and training. But where we all benefited the most was the leadership she provided around business partnership. From Chris Barbin on down, Jenn provided her colleagues with invaluable guidance, advice, and wisdom that truly helped shape who Appirio is today.

And I’d be remiss not to mention James Eitzmann — employee #17 — who helped build pretty much every product solution we’ve ever developed. James came to us from Artesia Technologies (now part of Open Text) along with about 10 other Appirians over the years. James’s quiet demeanor complemented his technical prowess and became quickly known as the go-to tech guy for the hardest R&D work — plus he just got things done. His contributions across all of our products over the years have been enormous, but none as great as his work on our flagship solution — Cloud Management Center (CMC) — which we use to run all of our customers’ cloud projects. James was recognized early on for all his contributions as the first ever recipient of our War Horse Award in May of 2013.  

Unfortunately, I can’t mention every individual employee here, but each and every Appirian — both past and present — has contributed in some important way to build this business. Over the past 10 years, we’ve been very lucky to have some of the best and brightest minds in our ranks.

Joining the Wipro family

This was a big decision for us — one that none of us took lightly. From day one, our culture has been the DNA of the company, and finding the right cultural fit was a top priority. Wipro has embraced our core values at every step. And the more we learned about them, the more overlaps we saw, from their emphasis on philanthropy (which aligns with our Silver Lining), to the importance of advancing employee careers and their focus on education. Their customer base is also impressive… and we are well aware that you don’t have such a massive and loyal customer base without strong relationships.

What it means for our customers

The Appirio our customers, employees, and partners have come to love doesn’t change. Our culture, agility, flexibility, and speed will continue — we’ve just gotten better and can bring more to the table. The additional practices and partners, and the broader integration and migration practices that we can now tap into, will allow us to give our customers more — not to mention the design capabilities with Designit and Wipro Digital, and Wipro’s deep vertical expertise. We’ve been well positioned in the Salesforce and Workday ecosystems, but joining Wipro gives us scale and geographic advantage, making us more formidable in the space. We know we’ve found the right home at Wipro, and know the best is yet to come for both our people and our customers.

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