VB: There’s a centralized structure, and then at some point you release it to a business unit?
Berkes: Correct. It’s really a pipeline.
VB: Does this fall under R&D then, as far as the whole organization?
Berkes: It does, strictly speaking, and it’s a component of our overall R&D strategy just like the university research. We think of it in terms of time horizons. The university research, we think of it as horizon three. It’s further out into the future before it has a real business impact. The accelerator we think of as horizon two. It’s a nascent market. It’s a technology inflection point that’s just starting to happen. It could be mainstream within, say, three to five years. And then horizon one, that’s our core product portfolio. That’s in the here and now. Obviously that’s the biggest chunk of our focus.
VB: It seems like there’s a lot of change going on. AI is infusing into everything now. That makes it a good time to do something like this.
Berkes: Absolutely. Starting with our university research portfolio, the vast majority of those projects have AI or machine intelligence as a part of their activity. Looking at the accelerator, a significant portion of the accelerator projects either rely on AI foundationally, or machine learning, as a big part of the value proposition. Our horizon one and our mainstream businesses, we’re incorporating machine learning and machine intelligence into those products as well.
A great example is our privileged access management solution. In the past year or so, we incorporated a chunk of machine learning technology into that solution that allows real time risk assessment when someone’s trying to log in to a critical piece of infrastructure. You don’t just have the typical multi-factor type of access, but actually look at other environmental variables, the context around the access request, to make a risk assessment based on historical patterns and other variables to say, “We’re going to need to do some more checking on this request. The IP is different. The location is different. There are some anomalous behaviors we’re seeing.” It’s a great example of the fact that AI, machine learning, machine intelligence is just going to start infusing not just new products, but existing products and lines of business.
VB: Are the accelerator projects reflecting that as well?
Berkes: Absolutely. A big chunk of them have machine learning and machine intelligence as a core part of their technology and the reason they’re able to bring the incubation forward.
VB: All these years later, is there something that you often will pull out as an experience from Xbox, when you’re coaching somebody or talking to someone who’s starting out?
Berkes: It was a formative experience for me. Certainly in terms of how to get something new off the ground and how to get buy-in for something new. Reflecting back on that, number one, without that truly team-level collaboration, and having a different set of skills, starting with the four of us but then much more broadly as the idea of took off as a network effect — it was truly a team effort that I think benefited from a diversity of viewpoints. That’s definitely stuck with me. It’s influenced my approach to the accelerator.
I mentioned the angel team. I wanted to build that kind of diversity of viewpoints and experience and background into that critical piece of the accelerator governance. It makes for better outcomes. It makes for more robust outcomes.
VB: Are you guys also baking in some racial and gender diversity in some way?
Berkes: We’re trying. It’s tough, just given the talent pool. We’re focused on that. We just came back from our leadership offsite for the office of the CTO. We have an offsite every four months, three times a year. That was one of the topics. How can we encourage and foster more founders to come in who are women, women cofounders, ethnically diverse as well? We have a couple of ideas. We’d love to see more diversity in the accelerator itself.
Obviously we’re fostering greater diversity within CA as a whole through a number of both internally facing and externally facing programs. It’s a work in progress. But again — this was something that was a really great topic in the panel discussion that we had at CA World, if you go back. It was one of the most exciting topics of that panel. The importance of diversity as a business enabler — it’s not something you do for appearances. It’s something you do because it’s a necessity for your business. You want to tap into the broadest possible pool of talent, but also, it’s going to give you the best outcomes.
VB: Is there anything else you want to cover on this topic?
Berkes: In terms of the seed and series, Waffle.io is the most mature, not surprisingly. It’s the one that’s been in flight the longest. It’s in series B. It’s an interesting product. What it tries to do, what it does, is takes the management burden off developers who are using GitHub as their source code development tool. It automates the process of tracking their flow of work through a project. It’s had 145,000 signups. It’s gotten a lot of traction in the GitHub developer community. It’s pathfinding its way to being a successful revenue-generating business. The last six months it’s had 500 percent growth.
That’s a good one to look at online, just to get a feel of what these things look like. Hopefully the impression you’ll get is, “This looks like an external startup.”
VB: What else are you doing personally?
Berkes: I wrote a book on digital transformation called Digitally Remastered. One of the central theses in the book around transformation is the need for a modern software factory embedded in the enterprise — the ability to build modern, customer-facing software experiences, not just as a business optimization function, but as a business driver. Look at any industry. Look at banking. It’s all about digital banking and applications and engaging with customers through digital channels. The modern software factory — the umbrella is the concept around building modern software development and experienced development capabilities.
VB: Was HBO your last stop before this?
Berkes: Yeah. I was there about four years. I took that company through their own digital transformation, which by the way was incredibly eye-opening and formative. It really informed my joining CA, because it was the first non-technology company I’d ever worked for. I came on board specifically to help the company navigate through digital disruption and digital transformation.
VB: HBO Go and the like?
Berkes: Yeah, everything behind HBO Go, all the applications, the back end services and infrastructure. What I found, that I realize is not the exception but rather the norm, is that non-technology enterprises are all struggling to use technology and use software in ways that are often foreign to them. The typical use of “IT” — the typical use of technology has been to optimize their businesses. But the new use of technology — getting back to the modern software factory and software development — is to use technology to drive their businesses, to create new businesses.
Which is a very different use of technology. It’s no longer just about back office systems. It’s about creating customer-facing user experiences. How do you engage directly with customers through digital channels? That’s a very different set of capabilities, a very different approach to culture. Moving from, for example, waterfall development to agile development, bringing in user experience and being able to understand user experience is a core competency.
The exciting thing to me about CA is that it’s a company whose mission is to help companies move to a very different mode of using technology to drive their businesses forward. This is central to what I talk about in Digitally Remastered. It’s not just transforming how we use technology, not just transforming the culture that goes along with it. It’s rethinking, fundamentally, the role of technology and software in the context of the business.
That transformation applies to us. The genesis of this floor was in fact the accelerator. I’m like, “Look, we need a space that looks, feels, and operates like a startup, if we’re going to drive a startup mindset and a startup culture.”
VB: Do some of those startup people move here, then, just to be part of the accelerator process?
Berkes: They come in and spend chunks of time here. But we’ve got development centers across North America and the rest of the world. We don’t require them to move. Although if they would like to, we’re more than happy to accommodate them here.
VB: Is it better to have your spot in New York as opposed to here?
Berkes: I spend so much time traveling. In many ways, New York is optimal just because I have three airports to pick from. I spend a lot of my time on the road.