Arnold Leung is the CEO and Founder of Appnovation Technologies. He founded Appnovation right after graduation from the UBC Sauder School of Business. While he is a finance program graduate, he has always been an enthusiast in the information technology space. In 2007, he saw the emergence of Open Source technologies in enterprises and governments, and as a result founded Appnovation with a focus on helping organizations deploy Open Source solutions. He is a winner of the Vancouver Top 40 under 40 Award, BC Business’ Top 30 Under 30, and the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award. He is also a board member of the Vancouver Enterprise Forum.
You started up Appnovation Technologies, where you serve as CEO, right after graduating from the UBC Sauder School of Business. What was the rationale for both founding the company and doing it so soon after completing your studies?
Right after graduation was a great time to start a business because I was able to take on much more risk. Living at home and without a family to support allowed me to really focus on work. It was the perfect time to start a company that focuses on open technologies since technologies such as Drupal were still emerging. As the technologies matured, we were able to capture more and more key customers.
While in school, you studied finance-related topics, but you ended up working in the IT space. Was this intentional or did you start out with a finance-related career as the goal — only to catch the IT bug?
I was always interested in software/IT. This sector is the best place for young people to start businesses as the barrier of entry is low. My finance studies allowed me to understand about the importance of running a financially sustainable business. This has allowed me to build a great foundation to further the business.
What does your role as CEO of Appnovation entail?
I am primarily focused on the global expansion of the company and managing the financial operations of the company. I am also responsible for setting the strategic direction of the company.
Your company is ranked at No. 16 on the Profit Hot 50 list. What’s the secret to Appnovation’s success?
We have a great team who share a common vision. We have always stayed ahead of our competitors in terms of innovation. Having dedicated people lets us win an amazing portfolio of large customers.
What is the best part of your job and what causes you the most frustration?
The best part is that I am in the people business. We don’t build machines at Appnovation and our success is based on our people. However, this can also cause great challenges at times.
When it comes to meeting the challenges of a CEO in the IT world, what hard and soft skills are required?
I think having a great understanding of finance is important. I also think it’s important to delegate and allow other great people to run aspects of the company without restraints.
There are lots of IT services companies out there. What is it about Appnovation that makes it a better choice than its rivals?
We have always been ahead of the curve in terms of technology adoption and opening up new markets. We plan to continue to do this. As an example, we are opening up an office in Hong Kong in a few months time.
Why the focus on open source rather than proprietary software?
Open Technologies allow us to innovate without limitations. It enables things to happen fairly rapidly. All of this increases business productivity.
What sort of advice would you give a college or university student interested in getting into the IT field after graduating?
It’s better to start when you’re still young without much risk to worry about. Focus on building a great team and on sharing your success with the team. The rest will happen by it self.
In your spare time, what sorts of hobbies or special interests do you enjoy?
I love traveling quite a lot.
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