It’s a niche Schuller discovered along with his college roommate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Abe Sultan, and a co-worker, Matt Ammerman, while they were all working at a software firm after college.
Recognizing an opportunity, the three created a quintessential startup business, combining their skills and knowledge with the financial backing of their family and friends to develop the prototype which would allow them to present their product to venture capitalists and other financial backers.
Despite the call of Silicon Valley and the allure of the tech boom taking place on the west coast, Schuller fought to keep his company in the region he loves and forced his investors to recognize the value of the product instead of the location of the company.
Since it was founded in 2007, Apprenda has earned more than $15 million in investments from Silicon Valley and west coast based corporations such as New Enterprise Associates and Ignition Partners and at just 30 years of age, Schuller has secured clients such as JPMorgan Chase, Honeywell and Diebold.
According to Apprenda employees, many whom have local connections, much of Apprenda’s success comes from Schuller’s commitment to the area and the incentives and progressive work environment he implemented at the Clifton Park-based upstart.
Dan Domkowski, who is married to Stamford Central School graduate Nickie Davis-Domkowski, is employed as a business analyst at Apprenda and said the relaxed, employee focused environment at the office, which includes a full gym, free drinks, beer on tap, and even a foosball table, makes it a fun place to come every day and a place where free ideas flow and teamwork abounds.
“They have made work a great place to be,” said Domkowski. “They truly understand that happy employees are productive employees. They are willing to invest in us and I think we all get great returns as a result.”
Other local graduates who have found their way to Apprenda, includes one of Schuller’s high school friends and fellow RPI alumni, Jesse Kliza, of Gilboa, who is the director of Marketing, Hunter-Tannersville Central School graduate Derek Thompson is in the position of Test Engineer and Jefferson Central School graduate Chris Hardiman is working his way over the last two years from a business development role to a recent promotion to Junior Sales Representative.
Hardiman said he loves the fact that Apprenda is an innovative company in the capitol region and has helped to create a buzz and positive image for the whole area. In one way, he said Schuller and the success of the company has helped prove that ambitious young locals don’t have to pack up and move across the country in order to be successful.
“My role at Apprenda has hands down been the best opportunity I’ve ever been a part of,” said Hardiman. “I was given a chance at a role that I wasn’t too familiar with and was given an incredible amount of guidance. My bosses have also acknowledged me and given me more praise for my accomplishments than any other job I’ve had and worked closely with me when I have come up short. The team I work with makes it extremely easy to be passionate about my job and honestly, I love coming to work every day.”
While many successful industry leaders come from privileged backgrounds with educational opportunities at every turn, Schuller said he believes his upbringing in a rural area and education in a small central school helped instill in him the tools to make his own success and not rely on bells and whistles to make everything easier.
“In some ways, being from a small, rural school made me feel like an underdog and that might have been the best thing for me,” said Schuller. “It pushed me. It taught me that no one was going to hold my hand and coddle me in life and that if I was going to do something, I was going to have to figure it out myself to make it happen. I guess that’s what I did.”
Schuller said he hopes young people in the area today realize that opportunities do exist here and success truly is what you make of it.
“It’s 2014,” said Schuller. “Where you are doesn’t matter. You can live alone in a cabin at the top of the mountain and still be successful. The only thing keeping you from success is your own thoughts and your own perceived limitations getting in your way.”
With new clients and opportunities opening up at every turn, Apprenda recently outgrew their office space in Clifton Park and is currently in the process of moving their operations to an entire floor of the converted industrial space at the Hedley building in Troy.
While some may have questioned why Schuller chose to keep Apprenda in the capitol district, the growing tech climate in the region may indicate Tech Valley is gaining ground. In 2007, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped fund the opening of Tech Valley High School and in 2009 the computer chip fabrication company GlobalFoundries invested $4.2 billion in developing a site within upstate New York’s growing Tech Valley.