By Doug Karlson
After selling their highly successful business, BackOffice Associates, in 2012, Harwich-based entrepreneurs Trish and Tom Kennedy thought they might retire.
The couple, who split their time between Brewster, Miami Beach and New York, did take a little time off. Then Tom, a software architect, had an idea.
A very good idea.
“It sounded unbelievable,” recalls Trish Kennedy. “But also very exciting.”
Tom conceived of a groundbreaking new IT platform called Vinyl that allows clients to create customized computer software applications both fast and economically.
They formed a new company, Zudy, and recently opened an office and state of the art training facility in the same building on Route 28 in Harwich Port that had been home to BackOffice Associates, a data governance and migration services provider.
The Kennedys are now busy signing new clients and hiring new staff to work in the Zudy Harwich and Miami offices, as well as remotely.
So far, says Trish Kennedy, the response has been tremendous.
According to Kennedy, Vinyl allows clients to create powerful business applications that perform any business function, from human resources to sales, without having to use programming languages or code.
What’s more, the process takes days, rather than months, and costs just a fraction of what traditional computer programming costs.
Traditional programming requires too much expertise, she explains. As a result, businesses are hamstrung with inefficient manual process of hand coding applications. Most companies have disasters when they attempt to custom build an application. The results of custom software projects are often disappointing and require expensive fixes and changes.
“Traditional applications are comprised of millions of lines of code. The process to build and maintain those applications is both lengthy and costly,” says Kennedy. “And it can sometimes be difficult to communicate with programmers, who are mired in code.”
“Tom always wanted to bridge the gap between business and IT,” explains Kennedy.
He approached the problem from a different angle. According to Kennedy, her husband’s question was, “What if there was a really cool way to communicate with a computer or smart device without writing code?”
Vinyl is a platform that does just that. It translates client’s requests so the operating system or device can perform the functions required without writing code. The platform allows customers to quickly automate any business process in a fraction of the time and cost.
Kennedy explains: “The business provides high level requirements and a Vinyl developer can quickly, in days render the application. Then a streamlined iteration can occur to continuously improve the application, as the business needs change. All Vinyl applications run everywhere, mobile and web, on any device. So far, she says, “it’s working like a charm.”
In 2015, while Vinyl was still in development, Zudy began testing the new platform in private. One of its first clients was iHeart Media, a large media and entertainment company. iHeart Media needed a way to keep track of and sell advertising slots. They were bogged down using time-consuming spreadsheets.
“They tried to do it themselves using standard programming languages,” says Kennedy. “They spent millions.”
It didn’t work.
“We told them we could build anything in a week,” she recalls. The first iteration was completed in four days. The client was stunned.
Other successes followed.
A global pharmaceutical firm was struggling with integrating multiple databases to manage vacation time for 4,000 employees. The solution had to involve multiple systems, like payroll, HR records, and scheduling.
“In the past, everything had to be tied to a database, but [Tom] figured out how to move up a level so software is not tied to a specific database, but rather can sit on multiple databases,” explains Kennedy. Zudy’s patented software allows companies to integrate multiple legacy systems and applications for more efficient operations.
Traditionally, an IT department can generally put out only one or two apps per year, she says. “We take them to 50 to 100 with a third to a half the number of people at 1/50 the cost. These companies are saving millions of dollars.”
In addition, she maintains, “if there’s no code, there are no bugs.”
In 2016, Vinyl went into full public release. Business has continued to be strong. Clients include Brooks Brothers, which uses the Vinyl platform to automate their made-to-measure business. Other clients include Stericycle, a multibillion dollar medical waste company, and the New England Patriots. Local Cape-based clients include Mid-Cape Home Centers, Cape Medical Supply, and Nauset Disposal.
“People are realizing they can’t transform their business digitally without being able to create applications,” says Kennedy.
Zudy is marketing Vinyl primarily through word of mouth and social media.
“People say, ‘Wow, how did that happen?’ We get phone calls from people asking, ‘Can you help us?’” The success with Brooks Brothers led to other large retailers.
The new platform also facilitates innovation. Representatives from Zudy sit down with Chief Marketing Officers and ask them, “What kind of new business would you like to come up with?”
“We show them how ‘no’ is no longer the IT answer. That’s the cool part,” says Kennedy.
Once a client purchases Vinyl, they are trained by Zudy consultants to build their own applications.
While they work with many billion-dollar corporations, Vinyl is relatively affordable, so Zudy has client companies of all shapes and sizes. Clients buy the platform for a monthly fee, which Kennedy says is less than $100,000 per year. They can then use Vinyl to create an unlimited number of applications, with an unlimited number of users. The alternative, says Kennedy, it to pay developers millions of dollars to program a single app.
As interest in Vinyl grows, Zudy has been busy building a team. Kennedy says she and her husband wear a lot of hats. One job description they don’t need is programmers, because Vinyl doesn’t require them. Rather, consultants train clients to use the system.
They currently have 85 full-time staff. Of those, 25 work on in the Harwich Port location, which serves as a training center for clients. (The building was once a lobster processing plant.) Sixty employees work remotely, both the United States and England. Many of the consultants are responsible for training clients on how to use Vinyl. As a result, a large number of them work remotely.
With technology like Skype and other video conferencing systems, Kennedy says, “there’s such an acceptance to working remotely. We have so many people everywhere.”
She says the Cape has been a good source for talented employees. “Cape Cod’s been really great for us. We’ve found great people. It’s really a great place to build a business.”