As part of a feature article series on the tech business climate in New Jersey, NJTechWeekly.com recently interviewed Tianyi (“TJ”) Jiang of AvePoint, a Jersey City-based global enterprise software technology company.
AvePoint has been in business in New Jersey for 12 years. Founded by Jiang and Kai Gong in 2001, the company was established to provide enterprise-class governance, compliance and management solutions for social enterprise collaboration platforms. The company says it is now the largest provider of this kind of software.
AvePoint has a strategic relationship with Microsoft and is what is known as a “Depth Managed Microsoft Gold Certified Application Development Partner” and a “Gold Certified Collaboration and Content Partner.” It is also a U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) provider via strategic partnerships. AvePoint has more than 10,000 customers including many Fortune 500 companies and government agencies. The company is privately held, with minority equity investment from global equity investor Summit Partners.
Unlike many startups, AvePoint is not a lifestyle company for its founders, said Jiang. “We dream big and take risks by investing hard in growing the company not only domestically but in every continent around the world,” he told us. AvePoint also invests in innovation. Of the approximately 1,300 global employees, 800 are in R&D, spread around the company’s major hubs so AvePoint can innovate locally to respond quickly to local business needs.
What struck NJTechWeekly.com when we looked at AvePoint was the company’s growth curve, despite the recession. The firm has been adding employees for nine straight years, Jiang said. What makes this possible is AvePoint’s philosophy, he explained. Unlike firms with the traditional mindset of “hunker down in the face of recession,” the company has decided to invest more aggressively, to provide value in addressing real business pain points. AvePoint found that the economic downturn was a time to hire “great talent that would otherwise be standing still” at companies that don’t believe in investing and innovating during tough economic times.
Why is your company located in New Jersey?
The founders — Kai Gong and I — are both based in New Jersey. We found New Jersey to be a great area with access to an excellent talent pool, especially in the space in which we play, which is designing and developing enterprise infrastructure management and compliance software solutions.
About how many people do you employ here?
We employ approximately 200 people in New Jersey alone, based in our Jersey City global headquarters. AvePoint maintains 25 offices in 13 countries, with a total employee count of approximately 1,300 worldwide today.
What do you consider to be the advantages of doing business in N.J.?
One good feature is definitely access to talent as well as access to the tremendous market that is the New York metro, or tri-state, area. Our target customers are mid[size] to large enterprises, and while we have customers across all industries, one of our key target industry verticals is financial services, making Jersey City the perfect location to service that market. Also, since AvePoint is a global business, being located at one of the busiest and most accessible communication hubs in the country definitely helps us in conducting our business abroad.
What aspects of doing business here do you find difficult?
I think the only advantage some other states have over New Jersey is in terms of tax incentives for the business community, especially high-growth startup companies like AvePoint.
Can you find the right people here? And why or why not?
Yes, because of our location in the most densely populated area in the country, with a very high degree of advanced education. Being based in Jersey City gives us tremendous access to a talent pool across all areas of business we are hiring for — marketing, sales, engineering, support, development, business development, accounting, finance and human resources.
If you could speak to Gov. Christie, the N.J. Economic Development Authority (EDA) or anyone else with power, what would you recommend to help the business atmosphere here?
The reason we settled in Jersey City from our original location in Somerset was access to the talent pool. More tax incentives would be welcome for startup businesses like ours.
What do you think of N.J.’s colleges and universities? Do they adequately prepare the workforce?
N.J.’s public schools, like Rutgers, are definitely top in class among public universities in the U.S. Our location also provides us access to top private schools … in N.J., such as Princeton, but also … in New York City. We have found that universities tend to prepare the students with good fundamentals but vary significantly in adequate preparation for the real-world workforce. One of the ways we give back to the community is to run co-op and summer internship programs with local universities such as Stevens, Rutgers and NJIT.
Have you ever taken advantage of any state programs to help N.J. businesses?
Aside from some of the tax incentive programs for businesses based in Jersey City, we haven’t done our due diligence to seek out other New Jersey state programs. I think this is an area where we would need more education and help.
A recent study said that most N.J. tech companies don’t hire employees right out of school. Do you? And why or why not?
We absolutely hire students directly out of school. AvePoint is still a young company, only 12 years old, and a very significant portion of our employee population is hired directly out of universities. We have found that the combination of fresh college graduates and our experienced leadership team works very well in maintaining the AvePoint startup culture, while continuing to drive our enthusiasm and innovation velocity and accelerate our hypergrowth path despite the slow macroeconomic climate backdrop.