10 Best CEOs to Watch 2020
Appnomic is the provider of game-changing innovation Heal, the first self-healing software for IT operations that fixes problems before they happen. Heal uses unsupervised AI to learn how a system works under normal conditions and creates a dynamic baseline for the entire system and workload behavior. It therefore recognizes “signals” as leading indicators of future incidents and eliminates factors causing problems.
Appnomic customers using Heal have achieved, on average, a 60% reduction in false-positive alerts, a 60% reduction in developer time spent on solving problems, and a 75% decrease in incidents.
Let’s catch up with Nitin Kumar, Chief Executive Officer of Appnomic
What is Appnomic all about? What attracted you to this company?
Appnomic helps digital enterprises become self-healing. We are the industry’s first self-healing software enabling autonomous IT operations, helping predict and prevent problems before they happen. This ability is beyond the present-day AI-assisted APM and monitoring tools. Appnomic’s patented, unique cognitive capabilities include predictive anomaly detection, anomaly linked healing triggers and unified causation that navigates the linkages between digital journeys, transactions, applications, and IT Infrastructure on the edge, public and private cloud.
For me, it was a unique opportunity to create value from some outstanding technology and great people. The raw technology had firepower to create a category-defining product and a very compelling proposition for our people, customers, partners and investors. It also was an opportunity to bring all my leadership experiences together into one package, given I have led large and small organizations working across strategy, operations, M&A, transformation and leading business pivots at a global scale. I could also see the excitement in the company, its investors and people who were hungry to gain access to new markets and showcase the great work that they had done.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next year?
Personally, and professionally, I believe we have made a great start by changing the direction for Appnomic. We are now looking at scaling our new product i.e., self-healing software into new markets and geographies, establishing new routes to market through partners and executing the strategy well. Our strategy, products and go-to-market engines are in place; we will now have to execute to scale both customers and revenues from here. We already have approximately 50 customers, as our execution engine delivers to plan, we would like to see all this double in the next 12-18 months. It is an interesting challenge, but we are confident in it.
How did you build your own personal brand in the market about being exceptional at the business pivot?
I have done many different things in my career and I view it as a mosaic of experiences. My ability to pivot an organization was purely circumstantial. Many years of doing M&A landed me on opportunities where companies were acquiring other companies to change their business models. Having taken more than a dozen organizations through business model changes made me good at the so-called pivot, I guess. A background with strategy, operations, products, sales, marketing and M&A with hands-on and execution-oriented approach makes it easier to think through the big picture, test a hypothesis in the market very quickly, adjust the go-to-market motion and structure operations to enable rapid execution. In short, given the roles that I played and the opportunities I got created the runway to change business models of companies on the Tech, Media and Telecom sectors. At some point the market realized this ability in me, but my clients, my external network and others made me aware of it. There is no perfect formula to getting good at executing business pivots, it is the amalgamation of all our skills, experiences coupled with the ability to identify opportunities and execute on them quickly.
What does a good pivot entail?
First, the definition of a pivot itself is somewhat subjective in the industry and there is no standard definition to this. Many people may differ, but I can give you my honest view that a pivot is different from a full transformation and an overhaul. It is about letting go of the old assets and trajectory of a business and embracing the new direction. Pivot is not about change in vision; you still have the same end goal, but a company picks a different path, style and approach to attain that goal. Many people construe pivots as total transformation or adjusting the posture of their product or just serving a new market segment. For me, it is more holistic, less mystic and more practical. It has five discreet dimensions starting by understanding the changes in the market, trends, customer behavior, buying behavior, profit patterns and structural changes in the industry altering or creating new demand. Once this is identified one should think about the following:
This is a non-trivial exercise and has material execution risk if you do not consider things holistically and have contingency plans in place for failures at any given point.
It appears that Appnomic has gone through a big pivot, what has changed?
Indeed. We have executed a pretty big pivot and a lot has changed. For one, we brought in new members to augment the management team. We have a new CEO (me), a new Chief Revenue Officer and a new Chief Marketing Officer added to an already talented executive team– together we are building on the spectacular self-healing technology assets that the company had. We have also rebranded ourselves from a single product company (AppsOne) to Heal which truly represents what we do. We now have pointed value propositions unbundled from the now retired AppsOne (with many self-healing features) e.g., Heal Cloud, Heal Enterprise, Heal SAP, Heal Edge, Heal Serverless, etc. Some are live today and deployed in customer environments while others will be launched and available in the coming few weeks and months.
You have quite the reputation in the industry for executing at very high speed, how did you acquire these skills and how important is this for a start-up?
These skills are definitely a carryover from my days in Management Consulting. In that world, we deal with the most perishable inventory in the world i.e., time. You’re just wired to respect time and optimize it. Speed, multi-tasking and execution are naturally ingrained in you when you spend several years in that world, you also work with incredibly smart people and constantly work with Boards and the C-suite as your clients. It teaches you a lot about relationship building, execution, importance of a network, making teams work, making tough decisions and leading the leaders. The time I spent in that world was invaluable and now in this role just helps bring it all together. For a start-up, speed is vital and one of the most crucial aspects. We have a very small window to prove out the product, ascertain a product market fit, gain investor confidence, attract customers and talent. Slowing down means burning cash, morale and revenue. If a product is delayed, go-to-market slows and impacts the cash flow and value of the company. In today’s world it is okay to fail, just fail fast.
Optimizing for perfection and risk just will not work in a start-up world, after all entrepreneurs and investors already assumed the risk when they took the plunge. Many start-ups fall into this trap (optimize for risk and cash flow, not for value) and end up in a very different place than they intended to be in. That also does not mean that you make rash decisions in haste; hiring wrong critical positions such as a CTO or head of Sales can derail a company or set it back by months, hence there is always a balance and one has to exercise good judgment on when to move fast and when to pace things out.
Can you summarize your career in a paragraph or two? Highlight the decisions and experiences that influenced who you are as a person.
I view my career in three waves. The first one was in cyber-security gaining hands-on technical expertise and growing into running large security business which included hardware, software and services. After running one of the largest security businesses in the world (at that point), I made a change into M&A with a large global consulting firm which exposed me to C-suite selling and exposure to many different functions like sales, marketing, products, pricing, customer experience and the nuts and bolts of each. During that time, I did around 1,000 M&A transactions ranging from due diligence, integration, separation, M&A strategy and business model pivots. I spent time running a start-up and then went back to Management Consulting doing high end Strategy and M&A work and learned the ropes of working with Boards and CEOs to help them to execute pivots, business model changes and deal with disruption. Now, it is about bring all the functional, technical, operational and consulting experience together for my second CEO role.
Three major decisions helped me get to where I am in my career:
Greet the luminary
Nitin Kumar is a seasoned C-level operating executive and management consultant in the TMT sector. His 20+ year professional story has unfolded in the Silicon Valley, the epicenter of innovation, disruption and opportunities.
He has led organizations ranging from start-ups through multi-billion-dollar companies in Regional, National and Global roles. Notable exec roles include HP, Deloitte, PwC, FTI etc. Held P/L (>$1b), led teams (>1000 people) and experienced 90 countries.
Nitin has played a variety of hands-on executive roles ranging from Start-up CEO, Product Management, Chief Growth Officer, Chief Transformation Officer, M&A Integration/Separation Leader, BU Leader and Management Consulting Partner focused on top-line growth across corporate and private equity portfolio companies.
His functional expertise includes: Sales, Marketing, Products, Service, Pricing and Customer Experience driving top line growth. Nitin has received multiple global awards for innovation and is internationally recognized thought leader in the areas of business model design, transformation and M&A.
“HEAL makes operations run smoother and allow you to focus your time, energy and money into other aspects of your business."
“HEAL enables self-healing & making IT operations autonomous all with the help of highly advanced predictive and preventive AI.”