Being the first name on the school register was one of the few benefits of being called Andrew Avanessian.
The entrepreneur is now the CEO of Manchester-based Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) vendor AppLearn and admitted his classmates struggled to pronounce his Armenian surname.
“I was called everything from ‘Avy’ to ‘asbestos’,” he jokes. “Even now I still have to spell my name out to people on the phone.”
Avanessian was born and bred in Manchester and has a reputation for problem-solving.
“I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was a child,” he explains. “I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. Being dyslexic has given me a clarity of thought which enables me to think two to three years into the future and in this I’ve found great strength.
“Reading is definitely not something I do to pass time, however I have a hunger for knowledge and I’m an avid Audiobook ‘reader’, they are a great way to multi-task.”
He’s just finished Malcolm Gladwell’s self-help book ‘Talking to Strangers’.
“I always knew I liked fixing things and understanding how they worked,” he says. “The more complicated the problem, the more complicated the technology required to fix it and the more excited I become.”
In simple terms Avanessian is now on a mission to make AppLearn the go-to name for businesses around the world to get the most out of their software.
More than two million people across 137 countries already use their technology and Avanessian’s eyes are focussed firmly on growth.
The father-of-three made his name at security software company Avecto, where he was the fourth employee when he joined in 2009.
Prior to the company’s sale to American firm Bomgar for just under £200m in 2018 he’d risen up the ranks to the position of COO and effectively ran 80% of the business.
“I wasn’t the founder but I found myself in the fortunate position that I didn’t need to work straight away after leaving Avecto but I’m not the sort of person who can stand still,” he says. “I always need to be working on something.”
The call to join AppLearn in 2019 as COO came from a familiar figure in his former colleague Paul Kenyon, co-founder of Avecto.
“It was a consultancy services business at the time and needed to transition into a software product-led SaaS-based business,” explains Avanessian. “It’s really exciting for me.”
One of his business mantras is to keep things simple, evidenced by a famous quote from Einstein that he likes to use in presentations. “Genius is taking the complex and making it simple,” he recalls.
It’s an approach that clearly works as Avanessian has overseen growth of 108% since joining in 2019.
AppLearn secured $25m investment from K1 Investment Management in 2019 followed by an eight figure raise from Silicon Valley Bank and Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund – Maven Equity Finance in January 2022 to scale its international reach.
The funding will see AppLearn create up to 60 new roles within its North West-based team, accelerate growth in the North American market and enter new countries, including South Africa.
According to Avanessian, now the CEO, AppLearn’s mission statement is simple: Make software work better for everyone.
“Businesses are overwhelmed by the amount of applications that they have to use,” he says. “Covid has accelerated 10 years of digital transformation into two.
“Staff are having to switch between various digital applications multiple times a day and that’s time-consuming and wasteful.
“What we do is layer an intelligence support experience over all these applications and guide users through each of the processes that they have to do.
“We want to deliver support like a sat-nav would guide you on the roads you drive in. We can do that though our AI and machine-learning technology.”
According to Avanessian, AppLearn’s technology has helped save one customer – Prudential – the equivalent of 27,000 hours across a six-month period.
He now wants to make AppLearn a global powerhouse in a space and create the best-in-class DAP.
“Our competitors have traditionally worked in a very transactional way but what we do is understand it from a very user centric perspective,” he says.
“We look at what the user is doing and where the friction points are. We use our machine-learning to automatically deliver support into the flow of work so users don’t have to spend ages configuring out their products.
“The vision is growth. We want to be a leading player in the space although we might not get as big as WalkMe.”
Following the investment AppLearn bought Slovakian-based DAP provider YesElf, which tripled its development capacity.
Explaining the reason for the 2022 acquisition Avanessian says: “One of our biggest problems is hiring good people fast enough to support our goals.
“We searched for a company to buy and found YesElf. Slovakia is not a million miles away and it’s gone even better than we thought. We acquired a company where their gaps are our strengths and our gaps are their strengths.”