Q&A with Appfire CEO Randall Ward

July 12, 2021

Appfire have been the Atlassian world’s story of 2020 and 2021 as they revolutionized the Atlassian Marketplace with a spree of acquisitions. In bringing together the apps of well known vendors such as InnovalogBeecom, Botron, Anova, and most recently SoftwarePlant, Appfire have grown to make up over 20% of all paid Atlassian Marketplace instances!

This is a remarkable feat with, as Figure 1 shows, Appfire coming to dominate a number of key marketplace categories such as scripting/automation, planning, administration, and publishing.

Appfire category spread with brands

Figure 1: Appfire Category Spread with Brands

With this takeover driven approach, Appfire are breaking new ground in the Atlassian ecosystem with their unique strategy driving the future of both the Marketplace and more general usage of Atlassian products. Because of this, Appfire’s strategy has driven up a lot of excitement, interest, and questions among all of us invested in the Atlassian world.

Therefore, we thought it would be really interesting to get some insight into what exactly Appfire are up to and we were fortunate enough that Appfire CEO Randall Ward granted us some time out of his busy schedule of negotiating acquisitions to answer a few of our questions:

Q: Through 2020 and 2021 Appfire has been on a remarkable spree of buying up vendors on the Atlassian Marketplace, could you give us some insight into what the general thinking behind this strategy is? 

A: Our plan for the last 16 years remains the same: making products that matter. Each acquisition is part of a strategy to bring smart founders and world-class products together to build a platform that can solve our customers’ biggest challenges. We’re working on big ideas every day now, looking for whitespace in the Atlassian ecosystem. 

We support six categories (with maybe another few to come) and are simply working to ensure great teammates and products exist under one roof. 

Q: What have the vendors you have acquired over the past year said were the biggest upsides about joining the Appfire family? 

A: Imagine going from having to operate every facet of your business to being able to work on the challenges and opportunities you most want to tackle. That’s the upside of acquisition. We provide the finance,  the go-to-market strategy, a world-class support team, HR, legal, compliance, operations guidance, and a whole family of like-minded founders and teammates all eager to grow together. What’s not to love?

Q: What would you say are the biggest benefits customers can expect to see if an app they use is acquired by Appfire? 

A: We design the transition to make as little jolt or impact as possible. All the while, Appfire makes large investments in people, platform, technology, and processes, to continue to deliver even more value to the collective customer, including great customer experience, support, and an eye on future integrations to further help. Through acquisitions, we’ve added even more of the best apps in the world to our catalog. You know that your app has been thoroughly tested, deployed worldwide, and has a team of several hundred people behind it. 

Q: Once you have acquired another marketplace vendor how do you go about incorporating them into Appfire internally?

A: There are a whole lot of hands in that process. We take care of the people’s needs first (HR, payroll, benefits, all that), and we schedule knowledge transfer sessions (a whole lot of them). 

From there, we add this app to the roadmap, we do deep dives on product and solution fit, we seek out customer insights, and we look towards the future of how this app might integrate with applications of ours (or others) to build a “better together” story.

Q: How does Appfire see the development of its vendor brands progressing? Do you eventually see all of your apps coming under only a unified Appfire brand? 

A: We love the brands we’ve brought into Appfire and each has a storied history that matters to the Atlassian ecosystem. We’re working on moving from a “house of brands” to a single portfolio under one Appfire. 

This makes it easier for our partners in the reseller community and customers when we engage with them. 

Q: Do you eventually see yourselves as being a one-stop shop for customers from a support perspective?  

A: Yes, we’re moving towards the unification of all support contacts. We see customers being able to log support tickets in a single channel for all apps at Appfire as a part of our frictionless model. More to come.

Q: What would you say are the major strengths of your app portfolio and where do you see yourselves strengthening in the future?

A: Great question, there are many strengths of the portfolio.  A few things come to mind:

  • Appfire platform – better overall customer experience.  The Appfire platform generally provides an improved customer experience among many dimensions such as support, reliability, etc because we have the ability to make relatively larger investments in people, platform, processes.
  • Understanding of customer needs –  Because we serve a relatively broader set of customers across more categories, we can get a deeper understanding of customer’s needs which we can use to develop our apps over time.  We can also provide multiple apps to serve customer needs through “better together” combinations of apps.

A big thanks to Randall for his insightful and detailed responses. We hope that you found them as interesting and as useful as we did at Blended Perspectives!

Our take:

  • It makes a great deal of sense to allow the different products to focus on feature development rather than running their companies from a focus and a cost perspective
  • Given our solution blueprint approach, more tightly integrated products can come together to flesh out our solutions.
  • A common support platform will make it easier for us to support customers as well as for customers in general across multiple products

Congratulations to Appfire on an incredible run of acquisitions and as the strategy emerges we believe this is a game changer in the Atlassian Marketplace ecosystem.

If you have any questions then get in touch with us at hello@blendedperspectives.com.

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