In this second installment of a three-part blog series celebrating Insum’s twentieth anniversary, we reveal the story of Insum’s product-focused beginnings and its subsequent discovery of Oracle APEX. Co-founders Francis Mignault, Michel St-Amour, Patrick Bonneville, and their long-time collaborator Roger Leblanc recount the details.
The Insum Way: How did we get here?
An interesting revelation in all of the interviews leading up to our 20th Anniversary celebration was the story of Insum’s beginning and the discovery of Oracle APEX. How did a company so invested and engrained in the APEX community start with a product and stumble upon APEX?
Wait, it didn’t start with APEX?
Insum was founded in 2002. The .com crisis had just ended and at the time Michel, Patrick, and Francis were independent consultants. They decided to join forces and go after Oracle projects in the area of data analysis. “We wanted to assemble as a group of consultants and build something.” Francis fondly remembers, “We were not thinking of specializing in anything. It was more a matter of joining forces.” From the beginning, these three knew that if they brought their skills together, they could take on larger projects and offer better services.
Eventually, they found themselves using their Oracle expertise and seeing a need for a product to assist associations with their administrative tasks. In the beginning, they decided to use Oracle Forms to build the application. However, when they began research for the project, Francis happened upon the first versions of Oracle APEX on an Oracle Forms installation CD (remember those??).
For a detailed description of how Francis came upon Oracle APEX See his blog: “How Oracle APEX Changed My Life”
“Our specialization really began when I realized that APEX would be the right technology for this project particularly because we wanted to build a kind of portal or tool that would be “cloud” (in those days it was called “SaaS (Software as a Service)” Francis reminisces about the early Insum days. “And that’s where our APEX expertise started to grow.”
Insum began its journey with its product, AdSum, which had at least twenty associations onboarded and using it. It was here that they learned what APEX was capable of. At one point they realized that APEX’s technology was something they could really concentrate on. After nailing a contract with a local aviation company, a decision had to be made: the product or consulting? Twenty years later, Insum’s largest service option is Consulting. They bet on the right horse!
Speaking of the right horse...Taking a chance on APEX
At first, when APEX was new to the scene, potential clients had trouble taking Insum seriously when they suggested it as a solution. “It made us sometimes wonder if we should be taking it seriously. Because it was new and because we’d just found out about it. We were very impressed by it but also thinking “what if this doesn’t work out? What will we do then?” Co-Founder Patrick Bonneville recalls the risk in taking the APEX leap.
It was the confidence the team showed in the product that really sold it to the clients. “We explained how it enabled us to do things very quickly and well. That you don’t need to download software on your computer, you’re working from your browser, it is web-based, and so on. They found this extremely interesting.” Patrick also told us about other resistance, “Other clients saw it as yet another tool to support, which reduced their interest. But, once they started to see everything it could do, they changed their view on the product. And they were hooked from then on.”
Now-a-days there is a new product and technology every day and we all welcome taking a leap. But at the time, trying new things was not as common, and there was a greater fear of the unknown. But also, there was major pushback because clients would repeatedly say, “Why hasn’t Oracle told me about this?” The Insum team found themselves continuously explaining that the product was free, so there was no incentive for the Oracle sales team to even mention it.
Michel recalls “We had to evangelize, evangelize, evangelize. We had to talk a lot about APEX. The Oracle sales team wereas basically competing against us, selling Java and other paying tools. At that time, people didn’t talk much about cloud either, but there we were, on the Cloud with APEX. We struggled to be understood.“
The sales potential of Oracle APEX was, however, very clear to the Insum team. Michel recalls the first time he showed it to Roger Leblanc, their longtime collaborator and current VP of Business development. “When we sought out Roger, he was selling .Net exclusively for his employer. We saw that and thought “Ok, we’ll diversify. Roger will help us sell APEX, .Net and other technologies to accelerate our growth.” But when Roger saw what APEX could do, he said “Michel, we can’t sell .Net. We have to sell APEX.” He never sold another .Net project. He believed in the potential of APEX from the moment he saw it.
Hey Oracle, Nice to get to know you
Insum was one of the first companies to truly believe in APEX. They took a bet on a horse, invested in it, and developed a team around it. As Co-Founder Michel St-Amour says, “We have developed a team of almost 100 people around what started out as a simple-to-use technology. We spent time and sought out and brought in experts and became a worldwide reference. This all happened over a 20-year time period, which is a long time but that is also the time it took for the technology to become mature.” The Oracle team will tell you that Insum played a crucial role in the development of the APEX product.
The Insum team had met the APEX Oracle development team at conferences. The teams instantly connected. The Oracle team was excited and interested in the product the team had built using APEX. They also saw that Insum was building an entire company around APEX and its capabilities. Michel recalls, “Because of that we had very strong ties with their development team and we did our best to maintain that close relationship. That right there was a determining factor in Insum’s success. We were able to detect APEX’s potential, we followed our instinct, believed in it enough to invest in it and the rest is history. If it weren’t for APEX, we wouldn’t have that differentiating factor that has given us international renown.”
Michel, Francis, and Patrick’s faith in APEX put them on a path directly into its community, which was just beginning to take shape. This meeting would be the next life-changing moment in the Insum story. Learn more in our upcoming blog celebrating the APEX community and its integral part in Insum’s success.