Application Development

Kony CEO rides mobility wave

Aptly enough for a company headquartered in Orlando, Florida, mobile apps and application development platform maker Kony is pretty hot right now. The eight-year-old firm has pulled in over $103m in funding and finds itself in the IT deployment zeitgeist as companies seek to make applications and services available wherever users find themselves.

“Mobile is really taking off into the mainstream,” says CEO Tom Hogan when we meet in London. “We’re in the right place at the right time.”

Hogan is a veteran of the IT sector having previously led content management firm Vignette and HP’s software efforts as well as holding earlier executive roles at Siebel and IBM. Compared to those names, Kony is relatively small but Hogan says focus is an advantage.

“Mobility is all we do,” he says. “We embrace heterogeneity and have no bias to operating system, device or system of record. Apple, Android, Windows… the world wants that heterogeneity and flexibility - and heterogeneity is here to stay.”

He refers to Kony as a “Goldilocks company” without specifying any three particular bears but suggests that many rival firms are compromised by legacy, partner relationships and an inability to move fast. “Mobile is not all that IBM does and it’s wedded to Apple” for example, he says.

And even if many IT leaders lament the loss of days when they could mandate fixed systems and applications, employees (and for that matter employers) have spoken in favour of a more flexible, mobile-friendly way of working.

“If you surveyed 100 CIOs they’d rather not have Bring Your Own Device; they’d rather drive a standard,” he says. “The problem is that these decisions are being made by the consumer and the enterprise people are demanding that. Most of the CIOs realise that the ship has sailed.”

Both Vignette and Siebel were once hyper-growth companies that changed their respective categories. Hogan says that with about $100m in revenues today and 1,200 staff, Kony is showing parallels with those companies at their early stages and “has a shot to become de facto”.

He sees more than one world of opportunity in what he calculates to be the $20bn mobile software industry. There’s the chance to sell readymade mobile apps, let companies build their own rapidly and then there are the tools to deal with shadow IT development projects where rogue developers might write a program and “throw it over the transom”. Factor in emerging mobile markets like wearables and the scale of what’s happening quickly becomes apparent.

If Kony can pull off the trick of “bridging the chasm between the speed and innovation and the discipline, rigour and security” required by IT and governance then it will be sitting pretty indeed. Do a better job than competitors and the winner takes the spoils.

The mobile development space is still defining itself but Hogan believes that too many firms operate without a clear mobile strategy and says that strategy should come from line-of-business leaders prioritising what’s needed. Increasingly, he adds, Kony has to act as “marriage broker” as more spend comes from marketing and other business departments.

Kony is on the move and an eventual IPO would surprise nobody. Having seen this movie play out before, Hogan says he senses the chance to become a company that’s emblematic of the time and the new ‘mobile-first’ world. Kids entering the workforce won’t settle for a desktop PC and a desk and in the same way customers expect more convenient ways to interact with information. It’s that spectrum of change in expectations that’s building an opportunity for companies like Kony to redefine IT.


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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