A battle of galactic proportions is brewing.
The terrain is cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) software — industry jargon for the technology platforms businesses use to manage everything from accounting and reporting to manufacturing and customer relationships. To get ready, Bellevue-based Acumatica has devoted 80 percent of its staff to research and development alone.
“We’re a heavy tech shop,” CEO Jon Roskill said in an interview with Built In Seattle. “Especially compared to the likes of NetSuite, where around 70 percent of the people work in sales and services.”
NetSuite is an ERP platform owned by Silicon Valley-based Oracle, and Roskill doesn’t mince words when it comes to his main competitor.
“We’re the good guys, NetSuite’s Darth Vader and Oracle is the Death Star.”
Cue the John Williams soundtrack.
Taking on the Empire
Leaning so heavily on R&D is a bold move for any software company — let alone one that’s trying to outsell Larry Ellison’s empire. So how can Acumatica afford so many technical minds, and so few sales reps?
Roskill says the answer has two dimensions — the first of which is technological agnosticism.
“If a company buys NetSuite, or SAP’s ERP software, they’re forcing their customers onto the Oracle or SAP cloud,” Roskill said. “And I would say they are, at best, second-tier options compared to AWS and Azure.”
By contrast, Roskill said Acumatica prefers to keep its options open, chasing integrations with the best possible tech for each application within its sprawling platform. It’s a frank admission from a smaller company, accepting that it can’t necessarily build the best of everything in-house. The company was the first business app to integrate with Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Power BI, and boasts integrations with Tableau, Adobe, Smartsheet, DocuSign and more.
We’re scaling very fast, growing in triple digits every year over the last five years.”
The trick, Roskill said, is to find those technologies and make them work in harmony across a single platform. Take artificial intelligence, for example:
“Accounting, finance, inventory and scheduling are some of the best places to think about applying AI and machine learning,” Roskill said.
But different AIs excel in different arenas. For their purposes, Acumatica leverages the Google AI engine’s computer vision capabilities for its visual product selection algorithm. Meanwhile, it found Microsoft Azure’s Cognitive Services better-suited to IoT data crunching in support of distribution, manufacturing and construction operations. The real test for Roskill’s teams is to effectively identify and integrate those technologies into Acumatica’s stack, and to do so without locking customers into a narrow stack.
The company also bands together with other enterprise software businesses, creating a sort-of rebel alliance of sales channels to complement its more collaborative approach to tech integrations.
“Partnerships are one of our core competencies,” Roskill said. “We’re scaling very fast, growing in triple digits every year over the last five years.”
For a company that prides itself on a nimble independence when choosing its stack, you’d think an acquisition might be the last thing on its mind. But in June, Acumatica did just that. The company is now owned by Swedish private equity firm EQT, which also owns Industrial and Financial Systems, a European enterprise software maker.
But the fact that the deal excites Roskill — who is all about partnerships and technological flexibility — speaks volumes about how it fits into his vision for Acumatica.
“EQT is assembling a pretty amazing portfolio of resources,” Roskill said. “They’re going to give us additional capital to help us accelerate both in North America and globally, and also pair us with larger sister companies to tap resources we wouldn’t get otherwise.”
And so the rebel alliance grows.