New York Business Journal: Ingage CEO Alan Braun discusses jump from Silicon Valley tech giant to NYC startup

The following was posted on the New York Business Journal on May 28, 2019, 10:30am EDT


Before he was at the helm of New York-based Ingage, Alan Braun worked at Apple Inc. as head of worldwide enterprise developer strategy.

The long title summed up his expertise: product and app design.

The jump was unique, since it's not every day a tech wiz ditches Apple Park for a small startup in the Big Apple. But it's happening more often, leading many to believe the Silicon Valley tech scene will soon be eclipsed by New York and a few other large cities (h/t KPMG).

Braun arrived at Ingage when it was known as Scrollmotion. He eventually stepped into the role of CEO on Jan. 2, 2017, succeeding Dean Furbush, who had led the company since 2013.

I chatted with the University of Maryland alum about his leap from Apple to Ingage, and how it provided him with some unique perspectives.

Recall your days at Apple. What lessons did you learn that prepared you for leading Ingage?

The most important lesson I learned at Apple was that “success is in the art of preparation.” What people don’t realize about Apple is that everything they do is about being prepared. For external meetings, our slide decks would go through multiple revisions and to an agency for design enhancements and we’d have multiple rehearsals. What might surprise you is that we’d also rehearse for internal meetings.

This has greatly influenced the way I run Ingage and literally everything I do. I take great care in developing presentations and visuals for board meetings and rehearse for days in advance. My preparation for each bi-weekly company meeting also includes the development of notes, presentations and rehearsals.

I think there’s a misconception that in the startup world you can’t afford to prepare and take your time, but that is a mistake. Moving quickly doesn’t mean that you can’t be prepared.

Can you apply (or not apply) big company thinking to a startup environment? Why or why not?

Yes, you can absolutely apply them but not 1 for 1. You have to consider them in the context of the given environment.

For example, when I started at Apple there were 30,000 corporate employees, but I was a part of group that was run like a well-funded startup within the company. The culture was fast-moving and people were highly valued, but there was a surplus of resources devoted to delivering perfect products.

After joining Ingage, I had to balance the notion to strive for perfection with the need to ship a viable — not perfect — product. Not everyone can successfully make that leap. If they’ve been trained to only deliver a perfect product, they might not deliver one at all.

What inspired you to leave Apple to run a startup?

I really wanted to take what I learned at Apple and apply it to building a product that would change the way people communicate in business.

With Ingage, I saw a market opportunity combined with sharp talent and superior technology to address that market opportunity. They just needed the product expertise, which I was thrilled to bring to the table.

Were there any challenges in getting the company started and eventually featured in the App Store?

When I joined Ingage, the company made a pivot from a services-based business to a product-based business. I underestimated what it takes to build a product, in that it’s not just about writing code. As an engineer, I always think, “I can build anything,” but delivering a product is much more three dimensional.

You also have to understand how to sell that product and create a go to market (GTM) plan. I didn’t appreciate that until Ingage. Another challenge was in retraining the team to move from a services model to a product-minded culture, which was a major shift in thinking.

Getting featured in the App Store boiled down to simply building a great product and I knew how to do that. Apple recognizes innovative products and features them, but I caution other startups not to hinge their GTM plan on being featured in the App Store -- we relied too heavily on that and soon realized that it’s just one piece of a larger strategy.

Why base Ingage in New York and not California?

New York is a growing tech hub that is attracting top-notch tech talent, as evidenced by the local and growing presence of Google and Facebook. What’s more, we’re a content company and we are continually inspired by newspapers and magazines. Some of the top publishing companies in the world are based here and it made sense for us to be in close proximity to them.

How has aligning Ingage’s development roadmap with Apple’s paid off?

Apple is very cyclical. For example, every year in June they host WWDC and announce new technologies. They’re eager to feature apps that leverage those new technologies, so if you integrate them into your product, you greatly increase your chances of getting featured. This was a major win for us.

It’s important to note that the product — and the customer experience — has to stand on its own first though. When customers love your product and you’re able to get Apple’s attention by leveraging the latest and greatest they have to offer, that’s a perfect marriage.

Anthony Noto, Reporter
New York Business Journal