Appnovation Sees Success through Government Funding
Written by: Arnold Leung, CEO, Appnovation Technologies
While a lot of Canadian technology companies benefit from the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive, not many of these companies know that the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade(DFAIT) and the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program(NRC IRAP) also operate programs that assist technology companies with funding and guidance in today's competitive global environment.
Appnovation Technologies, a leader in open source technology development services and solutions, has been one of the more fortunate companies to receive significant support from not one, but both of these agencies. Specifically, the assistance programs run by DFAIT and NRC IRAP have made it possible for Appnovation to develop global partnerships, achieve an international client base, create jobs in Canada and around the world and advance leading edge technology products and services.
DFAIT operates a program called the Going Global Innovation (GGI), which provides funding to help Canadian innovators develop and solidify international partnerships for future R&D collaboration to co-develop a technology or product that has the potential for commercialization. Appnovation, recognizing a need in the marketplace, began developing an initiative called Canopy, which in the beginning allowed for the integration of two open source systems, Drupal, an open source content management system (CMS) for creating web and mobile optimized applications, and Alfresco, an open source enterprise content management (ECM) solution utilized for its document management capabilities. Early on in Canopy’s development, Appnovation came to the realization that support from larger, international technology organizations would be critical to the success of this project. The two technology firms identified as potential partners best able to assist with the initiative were Acquia, the driving force behind Drupal, and Alfresco, the corporate parent of the Alfresco software platform. Benefits from partnering with these organizations were realized not only by being able to leverage Acquia and Alfresco’s technical expertise, but also by significantly speeding up development time, which in turn brought the solution to market much faster. Without the involvement from these partners on the Canopy initiative, it would not have been possible to develop a premier open source integration platform for these two systems. The GGI program made it possible for Appnovation to meet with both the Acquia and Alfresco teams and secure their involvement in helping to develop the Canopy.
Once these R&D partnerships were established, Appnovation needed to secure financing for the actual in-house development work. Having expanded over the past year with additional federal funding to help Canadian businesses with innovative technology R&D projects, NRC IRAP provided Appnovation the financial support to cover the development costs of the Canopy initiative. Furthermore, the program made an Industry Technology Advisor available who contributed valuable insights and feedback on the product roadmap.
With assistance from both DFAIT and NRC IRAP, Appnovation was able to develop initial versions of the Canopy. So as interest in integrating open source technologies Drupal and Alfresco grew, corporate and government entities had a proven solution that was ready to help meet their needs.
Through the innovation of Canopy and the assistance of the DFIAT and NRC IRAP support and funding, Appnovation has been able to grow revenues by winning multiple government and corporate contracts to implement Canopy, form global technology partnerships to further growth and expansion, continue the further development of an identified technology need, and significantly speed up the “time to market” of the initiative helping Canopy maintain its competitive advantage. Furthermore, Canopy and these Canadian Government programs have helped Appnovation grow as a company, almost doubling it in size (35 employees to nearly 60) and expand its reach, taking it from one office location in Canada to now having an office in both the US and the UK.
In 2012, Appnovation’s Canopy initiative won Alfresco’s “Partner Solution of the Year” award and today has expanded to include other leading open source technologies such as HTML5, MuleSoft, Hadoop and MongoDB.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.