What Sets APAX Apart?

Nick Such, Vice President, APAX Software
Nick Such, Vice President
5 min read

As a 17-year-old company, much has changed with APAX since we got our start in 2007. From our humble beginnings with 3 friends in a college apartment, to landing our first 7-figure client, to providing mission-critical custom software for industry-leading organizations, change has been the only constant. Now a team of 22, including UX Designers, Software Engineers, Project Managers, and QA Specialists, we are excellent at building technical solutions for our clients. But one place we haven’t focused as much of our time and attention is internally, on how we run APAX in a way that enables us to continue growing alongside our clients and team members. What we’ve needed is a system to guide our internal operations, and help us better interface with the changing world around us.

Selecting a Framework

Thanks to our relationship with our sister company, Awesome Inc, we’ve seen many frameworks to help startups go from 0 to 1: the Lean Startup, Business Model Canvas, Customer Discovery, or even Move Fast and Break Things. But APAX is well beyond that phase in our journey. Things are working, we just have a sense they could be working better. We’ve grown quickly, making the Inc 5000 list in 2020, but it’s difficult to sustain that growth at a larger scale without going crazy. We heard great things about EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, from our friends at other companies that use it, including Bolt Marketing, Volta, and Hogg Therapy Associates. In late 2023, APAX began to adopt EOS. We read the book, watched a bunch of videos, talked with our EOS friends for advice, and dove in. It’s not an instant solution, and we heard that the journey to fully adopt EOS can take 12-18 months. Nearly 6 months in, I believe it! But I also believe it’s worth it.

One of our first steps in exploring EOS was to take the Organizational Checkup, an assessment in which each of our team members responds to a set of 20 questions about organizational health. There 6 key components of EOS, and the Organizational Checkup helps to measure each of them: People, Process, Vision, Traction, Issues, and Data. Our composite score was 63%, landing us near the top of the “above average” category (yay!), but with room to improve into the desired 80%+ range. We also found out that our weakest two components were Vision and Process, so we are placing extra emphasis on these early in our journey.

Part of the Vision component is getting clarity on who we are and why we exist. Some of these questions were easy, like defining our Core Values. We’ve been living and investing in these for most of our company’s history: Be Good, Be Excellent, Be a Friend, and Be You. Others are more difficult to define, and especially for our team to agree on, such as “What makes APAX unique?” This, however, is such an important question for both internal alignment and our external marketing strategy. Selecting our “3 Uniques” is a key part of our EOS journey, as we seek to move from trying to be “everything to everybody”, to really focusing on what we do best and where we can provide the most value to our clients.

Identifying Our Unique Strengths

So, what’s special about APAX Software? Here are three things that, in their unique combination, set APAX apart:

  1. We build long-term relationships with our team members and clients.
  2. We partner in innovation, seeking to deeply understand our clients’ world.
  3. We provide everything in-house, tailoring solutions to our clients’ needs.

Why did we choose these as our three key differentiators? Our strategy team’s brainstorming session included a much longer list of options, but themes eventually began to emerge. As we reflected, we realized that versions of these statements are things we’d say on calls with potential clients, or things we’d hear our clients saying about us. While we’ve quoted these frequently, we haven’t formalized it into a lens through which to assess our potential clients and potential hires.

Most of our clients have come to us through referrals from other satisfied clients, and one way we know that our clients are satisfied is that they stick with us. Of the 18 clients we worked with last year, 8 of them have been working with APAX for 5 years or more. Part of the reason for that longevity is that our team members have been working for APAX for an average of 5.6 years, longer than the average for the tech industry. It’s hard to know at the beginning of a client or employee relationship whether we’ll be together for the long haul, but it’s important to us that we aim for it.

The process of building software may seem like a black box, full of mysterious technology from which the perfect app is produced, as if by magic. In reality, it’s a process of gaining shared understanding with our clients as to what their users truly need, and working together to turn an idea into something people can actually use. This process is highly collaborative as our clients help us to dive into their own unique business processes, and we help them to understand the various decision points and tradeoffs in the software development process. In short, working with APAX means just that: we work alongside our clients, in close collaboration, to develop valuable software together.

In 2011, venture capitalist Marc Andressen proclaimed that “Software is eating the world,” and in 2022, global consulting firm McKinsey declared that “Every company is a software company.” The important takeaway is that there’s a lot of software out there, and there are lots of different ways to build it. At APAX, we focus on quality. This points to the first principle of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development: “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” We believe that the best way to deliver value through quality software is to control the whole process, with in-house and on-shore team members. It’s possible to save money and even time by working with off-shore teams at lower rates, or individual freelancers who can provide partial solutions. While that may be the right choice for certain software projects, it’s rarely the best move for the type of complex, mission-critical projects that APAX works on.

The Journey Continues

While these may change over time, we’re excited to now have the 3 Uniques as a tool for aligning our team’s vectors. They help our current and future team members know what it’s like to work at APAX. They help our clients and sales team to understand where we are a great fit, and where we are not. It’s one of the ways we’re building a more focused APAX as we seek to drive innovation and growth for our team members and clients.