TJ Jiang’s entrepreneurship journey began shortly after 9/11. At the time, he worked for Lehman Brothers on the 40thfloor of the north tower in the World Trade Center. He made it out safely, but “it was a life-changing event for everyone that experienced it,” he said. Shortly after, he made the decision to leave Wall Street and partner with his close friend Kai Gong.
That was the beginning of AvePoint, a SaaS software provider that enables organizations worldwide to collaborate with confidence in the cloud. Today, Jiang serves as the company’s CEO — but the road to the company’s success wasn’t always easy.
When Jiang founded the company with Gong, they pair didn’t have a solid plan for the future — which isn’t unusual. “The most common entrepreneurial story is to start from nothing and figure your way out as you progress,” he says.
But progress can be slow. “For the first three years, we actually made no revenue,” Jiang says. However, when Microsoft released a new product — which eventually become SharePoint — AvePoint was among the first vendors to support it. Because AvePoint provided a migration path for enterprise customers, Microsoft began referring customers to the company, which allowed them to begin generating revenue.
“We just built on top of that very quickly,” he says. The company then made a successful and quick pivot into SaaS, which paved the road for them to become the largest SaaS data management and security and governance provider in Microsoft Cloud today.
Part of that incredible growth was a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic — and a little luck. Long before 2020, AvePoint served customers with on-premise, cloud, and hybrid solutions. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and companies had to quickly shift to a work-from-home model. Businesses not only had to equip employees to work without being in the office; they also had to figure out how to share data the right way. “That’s where we came in,” Jiang says. “Because we were already there, we were able to help large enterprises pivot to the cloud in a quick way.”
Since then, remote work has become the norm for many companies. “I don’t think we’ll ever return to a pre-COVID world,” says Jiang. “Now, it’s about flexibility. It’s about employee engagement. It’s about enabling your employees to work wherever they are. So, there are more and more continued use cases for cloud.”
However, moving to the cloud is only the first step. “We’re still at the nascent stage of digital transformation,” says Jiang. He explains that businesses can’t simply move their on-premise workload to the cloud “and call it a day.” The next phase is putting that data to use. “It’s about how to get insight into customer data and employee interaction data to make your business better. To make your business much more pliable and responsible. To speed up the cycle of innovation. That’s true digital transformation.”
And a wide range of industries are ripe for this type of innovation, from shipping to supply chain. When these types of companies are able to leverage big data and cloud capabilities, they have the potential to revolutionize their businesses.
Even amid a tight labor market and rising inflation and interest rates, AvePoint has seen success. In 2022, it saw 30% growth in recurring revenue, 30% in top line revenue growth, and accounts receivable of more than $200 million.
Recently, AvePoint has created growth through acquisitions, focusing on building vertical solutions for industries such as education. “That’s where digital transformation is happening — in vertical solutions,” Jiang says. He explains that the AvePoint solution integrates training, learning assessments, and student/alumni management into Microsoft 365. “It reduces the barrier to change management, to training.”
And that’s just the first vertical. As AvePoint aims for growth, its vertical solutions have the potential to help enterprises leverage technology to truly transform their business models.
Like any other business, AvePoint is navigating a tricky economy. But a clear understanding of their market, a plan for expansion through vertical solutions, and the right partnerships have helped them create a robust business with almost unlimited potential for future growth.
To learn more about AvePoint’s plans for the future and TJ Jiang’s role in enabling digital transformation across a range of industries, listen to ICR Founder and CEO Tom Ryan’s interview with him on our podcast, Welcome to the Arena.