Bob Moul says his 50s are going to be his best decade yet.
Today, Moul, who led Berwyn-based Boomi to a Dell exit, announces he has become chairman and CEO of AppRenaissance, a year-old Old City mobile development shop. The 48-year-old, who left Boomi after transitioning the acquisition and diving into the local entrepreneurship scene on way to volunteering to lead Philly Startup Leaders, has major plans for what is now a five-person startup.
“The goal is to IPO or otherwise make a really big technology story here,” Moul told Technically Philly on Super Bowl Sunday. “I want to build a major, permanent software company in Philadelphia.”
Moul is proving to be a convenient poster child for a technology community seeking big name players in a city that is still shaking its post-industrial rust. At a Chamber of Commerce luncheon this afternoon, Mayor Nutter is due to speak about, among other successes in local technology, Moul and his interest in building business in Philadelphia proper.
Though a suburban resident and frequent defender of regional connectivity, Moul says his whirlwind tour through the Philadelphia tech scene has made him realize the importance of building up a central hub.
“You can look at all the different industries that Philadelphia used to have and how that connected to what the region became,” said Moul. “This is a digital rebirth.”
With recent news of a possible First Round Capital move here, the on-going question continues of whether it’s truly in the cards for Philadelphia to build up a truly dense collection of technology businesses or if the broad region might continue to keep it too diffuse for a change in impact and perception.
“There’s a richer source of talent in the city [than suburbs], it’s a much more vibrant community to build a company. That is good for everyone in this region,” Moul said. “Maybe saying the reputation for technology here is blossoming is overstating it, but it’s sprouting or budding… and big stories help move that forward.”
Moul is joining AppRenaissance at an earlier stage than he joined Boomi by almost every measure. The company was already a half decade old with 18 employees when Moul joined Boomi in 2005. By contrast, AppRenaissance isn’t yet a toddler, with just five employees, though it also has a board that gives it roots in Silicon Valley and India.
Old City is an ideal location for his new venture, says Moul.
“Mobile is a hugely creative endeavor. Of all the different applications and platforms, mobile above all else is about the intersection of art and ingenuity and technology and science,” Moul said. “We want to run more of a studio than an app firm, and Old City has that artistic spirit.”
At the surface, AppRenaissance, which presented a 2011 Philadelphia Geek Award, may seem like a cookie cutter app shop that builds mobile tools and does related contract work. But, Moul says the differentiation can come in shared infrastructure, developing products for scale and, as he adds, “focusing on the hand-crafted nature that Philadelphia was once known for.”
Moul is joining Scott Wasserman, the company’s CTO and founder, and bringing a top notch growth resume. Before Boomi, Moul was president of education solutions powerhouse SCT leading to its own acquisition by SunGard in 2003. Prior to that, he spent nearly 20 years at EDS, including stints overseeing efforts in Hong Kong and Australia.
But, now, has Moul missed the window of getting in on the basement floor of the mobile scale that was among the buzz words of choice in 2011? He says it’s still the beginning of the movement.
“Even though mobile has been around for a while and we know it’s big, I think it’s early in how we’re going to see it penetrate in how we work and play,” Moul said. “There’s loads of talent around mobile here, so I feel like if we coalesce, we can build a major mobile software company that can impact the market and the region in a really big way.”
“The team at AppRenaissance wants me to take that journey.”