Innovative entrepreneurs are fearless in taking risks and are often disruptive in their approach, challenging traditional ways of doing things. They are known for their creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and ability to identify opportunities in a rapidly changing business environment. However, for global business leaders, innovation has many definitions. “Many people find innovation to be an overwhelming word. For me, it can be as simple as a new idea. Still, at its heart, it is solving problems in a unique and differentiated manner,” says Eric Simmons, CEO and President of Asigra, an award-winning, agentless enterprise backup and recovery platform that proactively hunts ransomware.
For Mr. Simmons, the most rewarding part of being an innovative business leader is bringing something new to the market that is unique and valued by many customers. He says, “Helping others to see great new benefits is a great reward. As well as the inspiration it gives to our internal teams.” Mr. Simmons has a proven record of taking customer-centric, technology-focused companies to the next level. Before joining Asigra, Mr. Simmons was Chief Strategy Officer at IMC, CEO of Altum Health, a division of the University Health Network, Head of Innovation for automotive at Canadian Tire, and General Manager of the Rogers Communications IoT business. Mr. Simmons has also held several leadership positions at Dell Technologies.
An Inspiring Leader
Mr. Simmons has a broad career spanning many different roles and industries. His experience covers sales, marketing, consulting, partnerships, product, innovation, and running three businesses ranging from ten to hundreds of millions of dollars. “Starting in sales was a critical element that has played into every other role I have had. When I moved from sales to marketing, I focused on marketing ROI based on closed deals, while others were focused on bums in seats,” shares Mr. Simmons.
From his experience handling different roles, Mr. Simmons has learned that buying and growing a business to be the #1 in its area through solving customer pain points and then selling it brings a new perspective. He explains, “You own the business and can implement whatever changes you want in the timeframe that you like. It is very powerful, particularly if you ask the right questions and listen to your customers.” Over the years, he has transitioned from a motivational leader to an inspirational leader. “Inspiration is the strongest bond to create trust and transparency and drive results,” adds Mr. Simmons.
The Saga of Asigra
Aigra was founded by David Farajun, a pioneer in cloud backup who has been innovating in the managed backup space for three decades. Like many great companies, Asigra also has an exciting founding story. Mr. Simmons shares, “Our founder David Farajun was coding and lost his code. He turned to the IT department to get it back but was told they could not recover his data. He then looked for a product to allow him to back up, and when none were available, he started Asigra 37 years ago.” Over the years, Asigra has continued to innovate, and as ransomware began to attack backups, it started implementing unique cybersecurity elements. Today, Asigra delivers a secure comprehensive cloud-based data protection software solution deployed by Fortune 500 companies worldwide.
“Our unique architecture and being agentless have allowed us to innovate in ways our competition could not,” says Mr. Simmons. Looking ahead at the risks to businesses, many attacks are now occurring on SaaS applications, and companies need to protect their data using a 3rd party, as SaaS apps, by nature, are not designed to be backup and recovery organizations. “They back up their full infrastructure, including customer data, but the ability to recover a single customer’s data is often costly, slow, incomplete, and sometimes impossible. This represents one of the largest opportunities in the industry,” explains Mr. Simmons. Asigra’s flagship product Tigris protects its clients’ backups from today’s new breed of attacks, improving the odds of data recovery while being easier to manage than traditional backup software.
Mr. Simmons and his team at Asigra are in the process of launching a new platform called SaaSBACKUP that allows companies to back up a multitude of SaaS applications, creating an SDK to allow other companies to build connectors to more SaaS applications and then leverage Asigra’s marketplace to monetize their work across the entire customer base using our platform. “We are a thought leader and early entrant into this space, which had a tremendous upside for our partners and great value to their customers. Protecting companies’ business-critical data that is not protected today is a very exciting innovation for the ever-growing backup space,” pinpoints Mr. Simmons.
Asigra is now operating in an industry that is expected to see a higher growth trajectory and technology disruptions. “The industry continues to see robust growth, and many areas are just being developed. It is a fascinating part of the market to be in,” states Mr. Simmons. Asigra is uniquely positioned in its deep integration of proactive ransomware hunting and security with backup. “We have many unique capabilities in our Deep 6 Security layer that no one else has. We are launching a new product in Q3, a platform to back up a multitude of SaaS Applications. Many companies don’t realize that SaaS vendors are not responsible for your data and that companies need a third-party backup product to have true protection,” adds Mr. Simmons.
Generating a Positive Spirit
Mr. Simmons firmly believes in leading through inspiration. When he joined Asigra, the first thing he did was hire Lance Secretan, who is the 4th leading executive coach in the world and teaches inspirational leadership. Mr. Simmons recounts, “His work created an organizational unity far beyond anything I have experienced in the past. It has helped the team to be highly energized and focused and to care about each other and our partners. It gives people a voice to participate without fear of being judged, which is essential for innovation.” The teachings through Mr. Simmons’ initiative went far beyond the office and were life-altering. He adds, “In everything we do, we ask whether we are being inspired and if not, how can I be inspiring. It is very powerful. We encourage everyone to contribute.”
Mr. Simmons considers himself a leader at Asigra. However, he knows that leadership can come from anyone in the business. So, he has fostered a model where titles are not a barrier to communication and ideation. “There is a great difference between motivation and inspiration. One uses the traditional carrot and stick, while the other asks what inspires you in your life and whether we can tie that to the work that everyone is doing. Inspirational leadership brings a personalized sense of value and comradery across the business. You cannot get the same results through motivation,” explains Mr. Simmons.
The biggest milestone Mr. Simmons cherishes in his career is owning his own business and being responsible for all business aspects. It is then followed by becoming a CEO. He shares, “When you are the CEO, you are the ultimate decision maker and hold the livelihood and ultimate success of the business on your shoulders. When rowing, you need the whole crew to move as a single entity, and then the boat glides and almost floats across the water. The same is true within the business, and the results come through.”
A Few Things Beyond Work
A life-long learner, Mr. Simmons loved his school life. He was a student-athlete playing on the school rowing, tennis, and hockey teams. As Mr. Simmons matured into high school, he became very confident in who he was without the broader social impact. Additionally, he excelled in studies and graduated high school and university on the Dean’s list. “I grew into becoming a leader naturally and without it being a specific conscious effort. By believing I could achieve anything I set my mind, I grew the most by constantly moving outside my comfort zone and managing through it,” shares Mr. Simmons. This self-confidence helped Mr. Simmons move from technology to owning a courier business to retail, healthcare, AI, and natural language machine learning and into the backup world.
Since he joined Asigra, Mr. Simmons has been working all day, many evenings a week, and at least one day on the weekend. This leaves less downtime than he usually has. “We have some concrete and time-sensitive goals we are trying to achieve. I do not expect the same time commitment from others in the business,” says Mr. Simmons. He stays calm by listening to problems or challenges and finding working with the team to find ways to solve them. He adds, “I focus on the outcome we are looking for vs. the current problem and work towards that.”
To unplug from work, Mr. Simmons takes his dogs, a two-and-a-half-year-old 130 black lab and a golden retriever puppy, for walks. Mr. Simmons also has three incredible children who inspire him every day. “I spend time with my wife, friends, and family. My wife and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and heading out to the Caribbean for some quality time together,” shares Mr. Simmons.
To aspiring leaders around the globe, Mr. Simmons’ advice is simple. He shares, “Being a leader is not about you but how you enable all the people around you to come together to achieve. To move to the CEO level, you need a broad set of skills and work cross-functionally in organizations to develop enough knowledge to run a company. Never stop learning and, most importantly, really learn to listen.”
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