Bringing a start-up mindset to emerging enterprise markets

The Australian market hasn’t seen too much of mobile application development platform provider Kony since it acquired Australian SAP mobility specialist Sky Technologies back in 2012. But that’s about to change, according to Steve Medeiros, former SAP executive and Kony’s newly recruited general manager, Asia Pacific and Middle East. Freya Purnell reports.

 

A self-described “Silicon Valley brat”, it’s perhaps not surprising that Steve Medeiros ended up in the technology sector. He is the youngest of seven children, all of whom have followed their parents’ footsteps into IT and high-tech.

Medeiros cut his teeth in Bay Area start-ups, and then spent eight years with SaaS start-up hire.com before the company was sold. In 2005, he joined SAP in Palo Alto, but developed a fascination with Asian developing markets.

“I kept reading about India and China – who is going to win the race. Everybody around me talked about it, but nobody had actually participated,” Medeiros says.

Seeing an opportunity, he put up his hand to Bill McDermott, then president of SAP North America. “I said I am either moving to India or China with or without SAP.”

They chose with – and Medeiros was given the task of launching SAP’s Application Lifecycle Management business in Asia. He successfully built the business to 50 million in net new licenses and the team to around 35 people. His next task was to launch the mobility business in Asia, which grew to around 51 million in 14 months, and then to build SAP’s cloud business in China, including HCM, SuccessFactors, Ariba and CRM, before being approached to join Kony.

Medeiros was attracted by the useability and scalability of the Kony platform, as well as by the pedigree of its new management team, led by founder and chairman Raj Koneru, alongside CEO Thomas Hogan, CFO John Joyce, president of field operations Blake Salle, and CTO Sriram Ramanathan.

“You couldn’t ask for a better dream team, so that’s what made me move,” Medeiros says. 

Originally operating in the B2C space, Kony, whose platform provides strong integration with SAP and other ERP back-end systems to allow enterprise customers to mobilise their solutions, has also found favour with analysts in other areas of mobility recently. In its December 2014 ‘Critical Capabilities for Mobile Application Development Platforms’ report, Gartner outlined four use cases for mobile apps, and ranked Mobile Application Development Platform (MADP) vendors on their product feature set for each use case. Kony was ranked first for B2C Transactional, B2E Back Office, and B2E Front Office, and second for B2C Informational apps (behind Adobe). Kony also was placed firmly in the Leader category of Gartner’s September 2014 Magic Quadrant for MADPs, alongside SAP, IBM, Adobe, Appcelerator, and Pegasystems.

Bringing a heritage in start-ups is certainly an asset when tackling new markets, particularly in a sector such as mobility, which is still making the move from infancy to maturity.

“Missionary sales is the pedigree. The type of individuals that drive mobility are different to your classic enterprise software sales guys,” Medeiros says.

He says a background in telecommunications, selling into enterprises and a solution suite, plus some SaaS experience provides the best combination for going into the mobility market – coupled with the ability to be a “lone wolf” who can turn their hands to all aspects of building a business in a new country.

With Kony looking to build its offices and channels in the markets of Dubai, Qatar, Japan, Greater China, Australia and Southeast Asia, one of the changes Medeiros is making is placing managers in key countries, rather than having management based in India.

Australia is one of those countries, with a new account executive coming on board.

“Historically in Australia, we have 40-plus customers on the Sky platform for enterprise asset management. I think we have had some gaps in coverage with salespeople there,” he says. “We haven’t traditionally been that present in the New Zealand and Australian market, but that’s going to change significantly on April 1.”

Kony also will be working closely with Telstra, with whom the company has a partner network, and will be investing in a specialised sales presence to support this network, alongside some direct business.

“Telstra wants to launch the Kony platform, offering both preconfigured apps and a marketplace, as well as providing hosting services for some of the top brands in Australia,” Medeiros says. “Eighty-seven per cent of enterprises are on Telstra, so as they differentiate their offerings to the enterprise, they want mobility to be a key one. We are going to have a specialised sales team that overlays their existing enterprise team and go to market together.”  

Kony is taking a similar approach in Japan with the SOFTBANK Group, a telecommunications, internet and media conglomerate, and are in similar discussions in other regions. 

Kony has had success in the banking sector, particularly amongst new and innovative banks which are creating business models that don’t include branches.

“One of the State Bank of India’s programs is having a virtual relationship manager on the mobile device. Imagine you are walking down the street and want to talk to your broker and look at your account, you can have a Skype or FaceTime-type experience with your relationship manager, and the pop-up screens show your account balance. You never had to go to the retail outlet or make an appointment, and this is what people are doing on the Kony platform,” Medeiros says.

In Medeiros’ experience, the key challenges enterprises face currently in planning and executing mobility initiatives are time and complexity.

“It was OK when IT organisations had one or two requests for applications, and they would traditionally do it in native or HTML. I think what they are realising is those three or four apps have been multiplied by five, and by five again. The complexity of managing all the different operating systems and formats, and the pace of change that the line of business guys are expecting is the challenge,” Medeiros says.

Over the medium term, he believes mobility, from both a customisation and capability perspective, will be the ultimate entry point for all data.

“It’s the gateway to big data. It’s the gateway to anything and everything,” he says.

And for Kony, the next 12 months are all about massive expansion, with a focus across sales, pre-sales, and in particular customer care, with employees being incentivised on customer satisfaction.

“The cultural and behavioural shift of our company has happened. So customer first, business impact and business value are all just now part of the DNA and how we engage with customers.” 

This article was first published in Inside SAP Summer 2014/15. 

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