New CEO Keith Angell: Pythian Services A ‘Golden Nugget’

'With this much analytics and data smarts with the specializations and certifications that we have, we think we're going to make a nice splash in the marketplace, not only with Google, where we're making some significant commitments, but also with AWS and Azure,' says Angell, who was appointed this month.


Ottawa’s Pythian Services has a new CEO spearheading its plans for accelerated growth as a cloud-focused data and analytics company with private equity backing.

“We believe there is a large market opportunity to help enterprises manage their data, so we're highly focused on all of the data streams—structured and unstructured—that get generated through the myriad of applications that most companies run,” new CEO Keith Angell told CRN.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced companies to focus on key projects that have a high return on investment, according to Angell, and the data and analytics space comes with a quick payback.

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“You can manage your data more effectively with our cost-optimization engines and services and our data services that really help you not only pull value out of it, but better manage the data you have, through both application modernization, smart analytics, better data management constructs, migrating to the cloud,” Angell said. “Given that these projects have a good return, I think they've moved up the priority stack for most companies.”

Angell’s appointment comes nine months after New York private equity firm Mill Point Capital, at which he is an operating partner, announced the carve-out and purchase of the services business of Ottawa’s Pythian Group for undisclosed terms. That business—now Pythian Services—was a “nugget of gold,” according to Angell.

“Our investment thesis from Mill Point was really around data and analytics, and the explosion of data for enterprises and how it gets managed and leveraged to transform those enterprises,” Angell said. “Mill Point had been looking for quite some time to find the right opportunity to get into that space. We made the Pythian acquisition last September after probably looking at the company for nine months.”

Paul Vallee, who founded Pythian Group in 1997, left the CEO position last September and is now focusing on, the cloud-based SaaS platform provider of virtual offices, rooms and desktops, which was spun out of Pythian last year.

Angell has 30-plus years of experience in C-level and board positions at venture capital and private equity-backed technology companies. In addition to being an operating partner at Mill Point he is CEO of West Shore Advisors and takes senior leadership roles at companies “seeking improved strategic direction and/or successful tactical execution leading to significant liquidity events,” according to his LinkedIn page. He sits on the boards of ManageServe, a Lake Zurich, Ill.-based, SAP-certified hosting service provider; Anexinet, a Blue Bell, Pa., IT and services provider; and Eze Castle Integration, a Boston managed services and technology solutions provider.

Angell previously served as CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Velocity Technology Solutions, a Silver Lake portfolio company, from 2015 to 2019, and as global services president at McLean, Va.-based Virtustream. He spent nine years as an executive in IBM’s cloud and technology services division in roles including vice president of cloud managed services and chief revenue officer at the former SoftLayer.

“I've been through multiple acquisitions, I've been through multiple exits, multiple sale processes— both IPO and acquisitions,” Angell said. “I know what the private equity owners are trying to do in that value creation plan and the investment pieces that we put together. We have a great team of senior leaders at Pythian, including the president, [Keith Millar], and so it's really a mentoring and just another skilled person to help lead them ahead.”

As a Pythian board member for the past nine months, Angell helped develop the “value-creation” plan for the company.

“Mill Point is a growth equity investor in technology,” Angell said. “We're looking for real growth, which I think we have in this market space. This is not a financial re-engineering of any sort. This is really about growth of the core assets and business to create long-term value in the platform.”

A list of potential acquisitions were part of that value-creation plan, including Agosto, a Minneapolis-based fellow Google Premier Partner and cloud services and development firm acquired by Pythian in March for undisclosed terms. The purchase of Agosto—which brings strength as a G Suite and Google Cloud Platform reseller and Internet of Things specialist—makes Pythian one of the largest Google Cloud partners.

“The combined entity now … has seven Google specializations, which is more than Deloitte, more than Accenture,” Angell said. “It's really a unique set of specializations around Google, with data analytics, machine learning, Internet of Things and migrating all that into enterprise data platforms.”

But Pythian, which also is an Amazon Web Services Advanced Consulting Partner and a Microsoft Gold Partner, will take a “cloud-agnostic” approach to helping customers, according to Angell.

“There's a few places where, to even increase our visibility with Google, we'll want to continue to expand,” Angell said. “We may do that organically through building it, we may partner with it or we may buy, depending on what's available in the marketplace.”

Pythian is focused on midmarket and large enterprises all the way through the Fortune 50, as well as on companies that are struggling to manage, clean contain, archive and secure their data, “and then do something with it,” Angell said.

“When companies talk about digital transformation, it's really a question about what can they do with all this data they generate,” he said. “Whether it's from their ERP or from the Internet of Things, what insights can they derive and then manage to help improve their bottom line, their service to customers.”

Pythian has almost 1,000 customers that leverage its services globally, but about 80 percent of its business is focused in North America. Recent customer wins include New York’s LivePerson, a conversational artificial intelligence solution provider, and Wealthsimple, an online investment management service based in Toronto.

“We've had good strong growth, double-digit growth, for the last two years,” Angell said. “I think we'll do that again, despite COVID-19, which is really a great accomplishment for the firm. We're seeing high demand from companies, even in the pandemic, trying to figure out how to get the most value, especially now, from all of the data that they generate. We're kind of a remote work-from-home business and always have been, so not much changed for us.”

Pythian Monday unveiled new professional services for the planning, migration and management of specialized workloads in Google Cloud, including support for Bare Metal Solution, which lets businesses run specialized workloads such as Oracle databases close to Google Cloud. Launched in November, Bare Metal Solution now is available in five new Google Cloud regions: Ashburn, Va. (US-East4,) Los Angeles (US-West2), London (Europe-West2), Frankfurt (Europe-West3) and Sydney (Australia-Southeast1).

Pythian also announced several other executive appointments this month, including former Agosto president Aric Bandy as executive vice president of corporate development, and Michael Bray, former senior vice president of sales and marketing for Westborough, Mass.-based Transitional Data Services, as vice president of sales. Rick Erickson, co-founder of Skykit, a digital signage software provider that spun off from Agosto this year, is chief cloud strategist, the same role he held at Agosto. Elizabeth Walsh was named vice president of marketing, a position she also had at Agosto.

“Clearly, [Bandy] has some great relationships at Google that we're going to mine,” Angell said. “He's got a good mind for building value in companies, so as we look at potential acquisitions, he'll be critical. He's got a number of special projects to help us really pursue this value-creation plan, and whether it's a build, buy or partner, he's going be leading the charge on a number of those as well.”