Exclusive Interview with Aricent’s Frank Kern at MWC 2015

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It’s been a few years since I’ve covered Aricent (2012, 2009, 2006) but as fate would have it I was fortunate enough to interview Frank Kern, CEO at MWC 2015. This is one of the companies behind many of the products we use and one you likely don’t know a great deal about. It’s owned by KKR and Sequoia and is a pure-play product innovation services company – Kern explained his they don’t do IT and BPO like others in the space.

Another differentiator is the company’s core strength is connectivity and there is a great demand for such services at the moment.

He continued, by saying the internet is disrupting market after market frank_kern.jpgand software eats everything and chips are being found everywhere. People are taking old-line businesses and getting them to operate in new ways. He then specifically mentioned automotive and banking as a couple of markets going through this change and moreover that his company helping such companies through the transformation.

He explained, the company has 1,200 people doing research in this space.

From there we got into a fascinating discussion of how Aricent works. Specifically, who owns what and where the value is in what the company provides. He says they do not have patented intellectual property or IP, instead they have enabling software they license to companies who write on top of their solutions. Continuing, he explained this accelerates the application development process by boosting productivity and in an era when time-to-market is so valuable, they add immeasurable value.

He said emphatically, “We are more rigorous than any company regarding the protection of our client’s IP. To an extreme. We build something for someone and protect the people and IP that the client owns.” He continued, “It is their IP. The people doing open standards enabling software are a separate team in separate group.”

From there we had a chance to discuss frog – a company which was propelled to greater notoriety when Steve Jobs asked the company creator to move from Germany to California some years after Apple Computer was founded.

Kern said, “A design led business strategy is what they believe in.”

We discussed how many people are part of frog, their revenues and more but sadly, I was asked not to disclose the information. One imagines this is a highly lucrative part of the organization and they prefer not to tip their hat too much to the competition. I can just say the numbers are substantial – also that they do work for automotive companies among others.

I wanted to share with my readers what the future will look like. After all, mobility touches everything and BYOD changed the landscape of business information technology thanks to better hardware designs which inspired consumer-purchases. Knowing this, imagine what other changes mobile technology will bring to the world. If I had told you 15 years ago that workers would quite often buy their own laptops and phones and bring them to work rather than use the ones supplied by the organization, you would have said I was crazy. Yet, design, inspired mostly by Apple changed things dramatically.

What’s next I wondered? I prodded Frank a bit – I tried to get him to distill what is likely vast amounts of proprietary R&D information from companies we all purchase from into concrete concepts we could all benefit from.

He responded, “We have tremendous insights at 2 levels. Strategy at frog, research and strategy work gives us perspective on where tech and strategy are going.” He said, he can tell clients what’s happening in next 3-5 years – especially regarding connectivity and mobility as well as wireless trends.

In addition, the company has research on the future of work which I believe will be a fascinating read.

I was hoping for more as he continued, “Wearables are going through an evolutionary phase. Clients aren’t sure how it will evolve.” He explained that chips will be in places you haven’t thought of yet. On skin, watches, rings and clothes among other places.

He went on to explain its all about the software – cars he says, will be “software.”

He brilliantly looped this back into the company itself explaining – this is their value to customers… This is what they do. Products and embedded and software.

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