Start-Ups

How Kony is streamlining and mobilizing enterprise apps

Mobile traffic is growing quickly and the need for enterprise mobile deployments is paramount. Kony has spent the last seven years building platforms to help enterprises go mobile.

konyteam.jpg
The Kony executive team.
Image: Earl Harris Photography

In 2007, Raj Koneru was looking to build a company. After previously founding a few other companies, Koneru was searching for the next big enterprise trend and, at the 2007 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, he found it.

According to Koneru, just as enterprises moved from the PC to the web, it was clear that the web was moving to mobile. So, he decided that it made sense to build an enterprise mobile platform that would enable enterprises to put out mobile apps for their employees, and Kony was born. Around the same time, the iPhone was released and it seemed that Koneru founded the company at just the right time.

"I think our timing was almost perfect," Koneru said. "There were some enterprise-focused mobile platform companies previous to the iPhone being released, and those had very old architectures that were focused on Blackberry and Windows Mobile and those kind of operating systems. So, we just hit the market right in being able to deploy apps on iPhone and later on Android."

Kony's first goal was simply to help companies put out apps. But, the dramatic change in use cases over the last seven years have given Kony new opportunities to step into mobile deployments.

Building the platform

The first product Kony released allowed users to write the frontend and backend of an app and and build it on their platform. Users had the ability to generate it as a native app on any of the operating systems in the market at the time and deploy it to a mobile browser.

The Kony team saw the number of mobile operating systems growing and mobile browsers standardizing on HTML5. The introduction of new hardware, such as tablets, meant that differing screen sizes would lead to different experiences. This is what Koneru refers to as "fragmented endpoints." Based on what they noticed, the team changed their platform so users could build a functional app with endpoint-specific experiences. So, you have a common code base, but different experiences between phones, tablets, and on the desktop. Kony refers to this as multi-channel apps.

Kony also offers Visualization Cloud, a tool where a designer can work alongside a developer on their company's app, and see a working model during the process. They can then generate working code out of that model and Koneru said it is one of the most sought-after features of the customer base. Kony is also known for its mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS), which exposes backend capabilities as a standard service, so that developers who want to do native development can use Kony's middleware to communicate with their backend servers. Koneru said that this is part of Kony's strategy to standardize enterprise mobile app deployment.

"One of the things that we expect the market to start transitioning to, is moving away from custom development and finding providers who have packaged applications," Koneru said.

The Kony team recently built the product "Apps Foundation," that allows users to customize a base application that is maintained and updated by Kony. Apps Foundation will be released later this year, and it is a big part of Kony's strategy.

Andre Blumberg, director of IT at CLP Power Hong Kong, said that his company has been using Kony for two years and the standardized platform has provided a cost effective and data effective solution.

"The true value of mobile apps can only be achieved when they are closely integrated with the relevant existing enterprise backend systems so that corporate data can be stored in one place without duplication and redundancy and to ensure it is always up to date," Blumberg said. "This is also an area that is traditionally very complex to get right during the implementation. CLP has used the various Kony adapters to achieve backend integration in a secure and user-friendly way, be it for SharePoint, SAP, or other line-of-business applications."

The mobile ecosystem is quite complicated, with a growing number of different devices, screen sizes, operating systems, and carriers. Steve Murray, a venture capital investor at Softbank Capital, said that he invested in Kony because it simplifies the process.

"What a platform like Kony allows its customers to do is to manage all that complexity reasonably seamlessly, behind the scenes; so that they can deploy apps and have those apps operate in the way that they're designed to," Murray said.

Growing the business

The company's growth is significant. CEO Tom Hogan goes as far as to describe it as "meteoric." Both Koneru and Hogan noted that the next goal for Kony is to break $100 million in revenue, and they are on the path to taking the company public. While that may be a good thing to work towards, it doesn't mean that it will be easy.

"The good news about hot markets is, by their nature, they're high growth, highly relevant, strategic, big, all the attributes you'd want in a market to pursue," Hogan said. "The bad news is when markets look like that, they attract the goliaths, which is exactly what's happening in mobility."

This explains why the company is so heavily focused on product. But, Kony could also be on the road to becoming a goliath itself. Currently, Kony has 1400 employees and it focuses on 10 verticals in 14 regions, with sales in all of those regions. Koneru said that the last investment round raised by the company, which they believe will be their last ever, was $50 million, and the company has raised a total of $90 million to date. Hogan also noted that every year the company has been in existence, it has hit at least double digits in growth.

Kony's value proposition is what Hogan calls "Time to great." Companies now are running on "internet time" and mobile deployments have to be able to go out quickly, and be able to rise above the noise. When working with a prospective client Hogan mentions that, of the company's 1400 employees, Kony has 600 developers exclusively working only on mobile solutions for customers. According to Hogan, mobility is part of Kony's DNA.

"This is what we do, this is all we do, and we have every intention of doing it better than anybody else," Hogan said.

While the mobile market has exploded in recent years, we are still in the early innings of where it can go, and Kony wants to be the first to cross home base.

The takeaways

Kony CEO Tom Hogan shares the two lessons he has learned on the company's road to IPO.

1. Do whatever it takes to make sure you have an edge in innovation and your solutions.

When you're competing with goliaths, you have to make sure you have the best product in the game. Hogan said that one imperative for success is to stay focused on innovation and make investments in R&D. Bigger companies can afford to have sub-standard technology because they can lean on their distribution or the comfort they provide.

2. Do not take your eye off of the service and support dimension to the business.

When selling to enterprises, your customers will have fair expectations for services and support. Hogan said that sometimes companies focus too much on innovation and neglect the post-sale experience, which is an essential part of maintaining a product for business customers.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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