David Williams probably never expected what would follow when he signed on with Penn National Gaming (Nasdaq: PENN) as CFO in January, to begin work March 3. The 20 year Apple employee, last as CFO of its Claris (formerly FileMaker) subsidiary, was probably looking forward to potentially booming times at the Berks County-based company, and the biggest problem managing growth. The gaming industry has been jumping with opportunities.
Then Covid-19 hit the US and eventually led to shutdowns of most social gatherings spots, including on-premise gaming operations.
Suddenly Penn National was facing a liquidity crisis. Earlier in March it drew down the remainder its $700 million revolving credit facility. The company has temporarily closed 34 properties across the country. It also announced that it has suspended the construction of $110 million Hollywood Casino Morgantown and the $120 million Hollywood Casino York in Pennsylvania .
And it reached an agreement Friday to sell the real estate assets of the Tropicana Las Vegas for $337.5 million in rent credits, while maintaining operating rights. “While this transaction will help to relieve liquidity pressure in terms of rent obligations, we are committed to taking further steps to reduce our ongoing operating expenses in order to ensure we have a healthy business to return to when we are able to re-open our doors,” said Penn National President & CEO Jay Snowden in a statement.
On Friday Penn National also announced unpaid furloughs for approximately 26,000 employees companywide beginning April 1.
Busy month for Mr. Williams. And Apple isn’t needy for cash.
As Angelo Stracquatanio III, Apprentice’s cofounder and CEO, tells it, the first sign that pharma companies would need more access to the Jersey City startup’s product came in January, when he had to cancel a trip to China.
“We saw very early on that this was going to have a much broader impact than what folks were reporting,” he told us.
Apprentice, which provides an intelligent software platform to pharma companies, noticed that its customers were first canceling international travel, then domestic travel; and, finally, they were no longer allowing their employees to come to work at their local facilities.
Pharma companies have offices and labs all over the world, Stracquatanio pointed out. When they stopped all travel, both domestic and foreign, the global supply chain began to grind to a halt. This happened “because now you can’t get vendors in to help troubleshoot or subject matter experts to fly in to help collaborate with their colleagues” on such things as “how do we ensure that we produce this job correctly?
“It’s a fairly scary situation because if these facilities can’t continue to manufacture, it will lead to worldwide drug shortages. There’s going to be a potential supply chain impact.”
Apprentice’s augmented-reality (AR)/artificial-intelligence (AI) system, called “Tandem,” can be used by organizations on the manufacturing floor, actually next to the equipment that is producing the drugs. “They can use our tool to then collaborate with vendors, subject matter experts, colleagues, engineering supervisors, whatever, who are at home or in another country, or just in a place where they just cannot physically get to the facility,” he explained.
“It’s a fairly scary situation because if these facilities can’t continue to manufacture, it will lead to worldwide drug shortages. There’s going to be a potential supply chain impact.”Angelo Stracquatanio III, Apprentice
When they saw the demand coming, the Apprentice team went into action. “We developed this concept called a ‘rapid deployment kit’ that we ship out to pharma organizations. We have everything pre-configured, preinstalled, pre-everything. And then they simply just turn it on, they get collaborating, and then they can continue to work with their operations team, no matter where they are in the world.”
The kits are customizable and come with the enterprise-ready Tandem platform preloaded onto hands-free, clean-room-compliant, AR smart glasses and accessories. According to an Apprentice release, Tandem is the industry’s only compliant, language-independent solution that breaks the barrier between in-suite and out-of-suite collaboration, enabling troubleshooting and guidance, and ultimately reversing the devastating impact of this virus.
“We’ve seen a huge uptick for this right now. As you can imagine, we’ve shipped devices literally from China to Japan, to South Korea, to every country in Europe at this stage, to help ensure that the supply chain stays open. If it doesn’t, there will be a secondary fallout for all of this that keeps me up at night.”
Seeing “Unprecedented” Demand
Stracquatanio said that Apprentice is shipping these kits to both new and old customers, who have reached out to his company at an “unprecedented rate and scale.” New customers have come via word of mouth from existing customers, he noted. And, “We’ve had to — very, very quickly as a team — adapt all of our internal tooling to be able to quickly configure for each new customer. So, it’s been a rapid change internally as well because we’ve literally had to build internal software to be able to more efficiently configure these devices and software so that when they go out the door, they’re ready to go for a new customer.”
The team’s ability to act on the opportunity is a hallmark of startups, which are generally much more agile than large companies. “It’s been a lot where we’ve had to adapt internally at like the light-speed to be able to deliver on this to help our customers through this really difficult time.”
The Apprentice team of nearly 50 employees is working seven days a week to fulfill orders. “We finished a call last night at 4 o’clock in the morning. And we’re off again! It’s, it’s insane. We just know that every hour during this crisis counts. The whole team has bought into helping out our customers because we know it touches patients, right? We know that patients rely on those drugs that our customers produce.”
Using Their Own Tool for Remote Communication
Stracquatanio said that that the entire team has been working from home since last week. And how are they working remotely? “We use our own tool. The one that we’re shipping to our customers is the exact same tool we use to collaborate among ourselves all day long.”
Apprentice has what it calls a “community 10” Tandem session going, which is open 24 hours a day right now. “Any member can pop into that session, scream out, you know, ‘Hey what do you think about this?’ This way we can continue the decision-making velocity that we’ve had in the past when we’re in the office, but we can do so just by yelling out to our counterpart on our on our own software on a Tandem session. It’s kind of cool how the team has adapted to it. It’s just kind of a continuation of our culture,” said Stracquatanio.
“We have never seen this level of demand for both the product, as well as the use of the product,” he added. “The demand of selling is one thing. But the usage! We’ve never seen metrics like this before. If I could show you the graph, it’s literally 10 times of what it was just a few days ago. And it’s been exponential growth over the last several weeks.”
Stracquatanio finds it exciting that the companies are using the product successfully. “From our perspective, we’re just trying to do our best to support them during this period because, at the end of the day, it’s about the patient. And if they can’t produce the drug, there’s going to be a lot of people impacted by this,” he said.
“So, we just hope that we can continue to deliver, continue to execute, that our team stays healthy. My biggest worry as CEO is for my team to be healthy. And as long as the team stays healthy, and we keep executing, we’ll help our customers as best as we can, given the crisis.”
About The Author
Esther is the Founder and Editor in Chief of NJ Tech Weekly. This article is republished here with her permission.
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Although shaken like everyone else by Covid-19, the universe of companies that have built around Salesforce, many within Salesforce’s portfolio of investments, seems to be booming, perhaps exceeding the growth of the mothership itself.
A few recent cases out of many:
New Jersey-based Cognizant Technology Solutions shares rose yesterday after the company announced that it would acquire digital marketing agency Lev Digital, based in Indianapolis. On its home page, Lev says “Lev is the most influential marketing-focused Salesforce consultancy in the world”. I don’t know how they back that up.
Lev will be Cognizant’s third recent acquisition related to its effort to expand its Salesforce business. Last month, Cognizant acquired two other Salesforce premium partners. Cognizant had previously purchased another Salesforce consulting firm in 2018.
Although Cognizant is much larger, the strategy reminds me of LiquidHub’s strategy of buying and integrating Salesforce marketing shops prior to being acquired by Capgemini in 2018. An update from Capgemini Invent, the global group established around LiquidHub and other acquisitions, says it grew 15% in 2019 and passed the $1 billion revenue mark. The LiquidHub acquisition certainly contributed a big chunk of that.
In other deals, Accenture (NYSE: ACN) completed the acquisition of the Workday, Salesforce and U.S. MuleSoft practices from Alpharetta, GA-based Sierra-Cedar. The acquisition adds to Accenture approximately 275 professionals focused on the small and medium-sized education and government markets.
And of course, Bob Moore’s Philly startup CrossBeam, in which Salesforce is an investor, is built on a Salesforce platform.
An IDC study projects what the Salesforce ecosystem might look like in six years..
Its a good time to buy high-quality smaller firms which may not have much access to capital markets, although that may not be the reason behind these specific deals.
Riverside Continues Its Investment in Education and Training Industry
News ReleaseMarch 24, 2020
The Riverside Company, a global private equity firm focused on the smaller end of the middle market, has invested in Red Nucleus Enterprises, LLC, (RN), a company that offers learning and compliance services to customers in the pharmaceutical industry.
RN’s learning business designs and develops training content that includes e-learning modules, mobile apps, virtual training, workshops, games and printed materials primarily focused on the commercialization of pharmaceuticals. In tandem, its compliance business offers a broad array of services pertaining to compliance with FDA/regulatory requirements throughout the drug lifecycle.
“RN is a premium partner to the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, offering training to help launch and commercialize their products,” said Riverside Managing Partner Suzy Kriscunas. “With their already established relationships with blue-chip companies, we look to expand training offerings and build out technological capabilities during our partnership.”
RN’s core competency is its expertise in adult learning within the life sciences industry. The company leverages its training and technical expertise to efficiently convey strategy and information to global sales teams, medical liaisons and others.
“This is an exciting investment for us as Riverside has relevant experience with taking a training business and transforming it into a diversified tech-enabled training and compliance platform through organic and investment initiatives – we’ve done this successfully with other platforms such as HSI and Alchemy, for example,” said Riverside Partner Peter Tsang. “We’re actively looking for add-ons for this investment, hoping to expand its service offerings and global geographic footprint.”
This is one more example of Riverside’s dedication to its Education and Training Specialization. Riverside has invested in more than 60 education and training companies, including those specializing in pre-K, K-12, post-secondary education, corporate training and certifications.
Working with Kriscunas and Tsang on the deal for Riverside were Partner Steve Burns, Principal Jason Fulton, Senior Associate John Ribble, Associate Nesh Faatimah, Associate Mark Fishman, Capital Markets Partner Anne Hayes, Operating Partner Mark Reed and Operating Finance Executive Rob Carraway.
Holly MuellerConsultant, Global Marketing and CommunicationsCleveland+1 216 535 2236
GeekWire reported that Amazon Web Services has settled its lawsuit against Phillip Moyer, a former Microsoft and Safeguard Scientifics exec who jumped from AWS to Google Cloud last year. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Moyer, who remains Philly-based according his LinkedIn Profile, in July jumped from being AWS’ sales chief for financial services to a similar role with Google Cloud, except for healthcare and life sciences. AWS sued him for allegedly violating the non-compete clause of his contract.
Last October, a federal judge placed limitations on Moyer’s role with Google Cloud until the case was resolved.
Washington state last year passed legislation that narrowed the effective scope of non-compete clauses.