Avere CEO talks potential for growth for Pittsburgh tech company
Ron Bianchini has started several successful Pittsburgh technology companies, only to see them gobbled up by larger competitors.
With his latest company, Avere Systems, Bianchini envisions a different fate.
The 52-year-old, who’s been CEO of Avere since its founding in 2008, is working toward an initial public offering of stock for the company that specializes in the software and hardware that run data centers.
Getting there is far from certain. But in a recent interview with the Tribune-Review, Bianchini said Avere’s success and industry trends give him confidence.
“It’s within a couple years of where we are now,” he said during the interview at Avere’s North Side office, beside the former H.J. Heinz Co. factory, overlooking the Allegheny River.
The company moved to the office from Ross a year ago to make room for its rapidly expanding work force. It employs 125 people and expects to have 150 workers by the end of the year, up from 75 in 2012.
Investors are behind the company, pumping $72 million into it, including $20 million earlier this year that Avere is using to build a national sales force and marketing operation that Bianchini said will further accelerate revenue growth. The privately held company doesn’t disclose revenue figures.
But his industry is evolving, he said, and Avere is racing to stay ahead of advancing technology and its competitors.
Fewer and fewer corporations are building data centers, the massive buildings packed full of servers that are the central hub for the company’s digital systems. Instead, they’re leasing space in the cloud, essentially communal data centers owned and operated by companies like Google and Amazon.
The transition means fewer sales of servers that Avere makes. But the heart of the company’s value is in the software that makes those servers store and move data quickly and efficiently, Bianchini argued. As companies move their data to the cloud, Avere is becoming primarily a software company, which Bianchini said bodes well for its prospects.
Trib: Is there a danger that you’re undercutting your own business?
Bianchini: No. The only thing we’re changing is where data’s stored or where the processing happens. … The growth in data and the growth in mining that data is just incredible. The only thing that we’re enabling is that growth to not happen on premise but to happen in the cloud.
Trib: But you won’t be selling them hardware any longer?
Bianchini: Except that we license our software. So really what we’ve done is separated the software features we provide from the hardware platform that it runs on. And if you really look at Avere’s intellectual property, the bulk of our IP is that software. … By separating that we’re still going to sell the feature set in the software.
Trib: What industries are driving your growth, and why?
Bianchini: Initially, it’s all the people that have a lot of data that don’t want to build another building to store all that data. So you think of media and entertainment, life sciences, financial services, oil and gas. It’s people that have incredible expense trying to build out disc arrays to try to house it. Those are really the early adopters. But in the end, it’s not any one industry; it’s just enterprise. Why put racks of equipment anywhere in your facility and then have to train people to use it and deploy it when you can just put it in one of these providers’ data centers and not need to spin up this expertise?
Trib: What’s the biggest challenge your company faces?
Bianchini: At this point, it’s getting the word out, scaling sales.
Trib: Why stay in Pittsburgh?
Bianchini: The underlying technology in our product is something called a file system. There is no better place on the planet to be than in Carnegie Mellon’s backyard. The engineers coming out of Carnegie Mellon are the best file system engineers you can find on the globe.
Trib: Why should tech talent come work for you?
Bianchini: If you go to a company that has a thousand engineers, when an engineer arrives, he’s going to be at best 0.1 percent of the code in that product. And since he’s young and just starting, it’s probably going to be less than that. So really, the reason you come work for companies like Avere is the impact you can have on the product and on the customers. … (Engineers) want to see the things they create actually get used in the world.
Trib: What can you tell me about potential growth rates?
Bianchini: Last year to this year, we doubled our bookings. And our plan is to do the same next year. We’re in that hyper-growth phase of the company. It’s all about bringing on more sales guys and getting more access to more customers.
Trib: You’ve talked in the past about having an initial public offering of stock. Is that still the goal?
Bianchini: That is still our goal. If we can sustain this doubling year after year, it’s within a couple years of where we are now.
Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or [email protected].