Upper St. Clair’s Accion Labs grows from three-man startup to international operation

The story of Accion Labs Inc. goes back to three men and a maybe.

In 2011, the trio of Tony Kernan, Sandesh Sukumaran and chief executive officer Kinesh Doshi founded the Upper St. Clair-based company based on their idea to help streamline the process of software development to bring products to market more expediently and at lower cost.

From facing the uncertainties of any new business venture, Accion has grown exponentially, to more than 1,000 employees in 12 offices from Silicon Valley to India and Malaysia. But no one is forgetting how it all began.

“We still do have that startup mentality,” Kernan, the company’s vice president of sales, said. “We value every opportunity. There’s a real awareness of not taking anything for granted and the fear that comes from working in the startup environment that we did five-plus years ago.”

Accion’s information technology support focuses on the critical phase of product development, between coming up with a concept and putting it out for the public. Sukumaran provided the example of ride-booking service Uber and its need to stay ahead of the competition.

“You saw Lyft, you saw like 10 other companies creating software off their idea, so Uber has to continuously update their software,” he explained. “That time take should be much faster and precise. And that is the space that we know very well, how to help an Uber or a Google come up with a better, innovative line of products.”

As vice president of talent acquisition, Sukumaran has the vital role of fulfilling the needs of clients with qualified personnel, a process that also requires timely action.

“Everyone is looking for the top-10 person with the talent,” he said. “And those top-10 people don’t stay unemployed for a very long time. So to attract that, you have to shrink the time to recruit. We’re trying to create a market space where the hiring managers and the talent can come together fast.”

Bringing exceptional employees on board is just the first step.

“They can always be looking for the next best opportunity, so retention is huge in this industry,” Amy Halter, Accion’s director of operations, said. “We’re always finding ways to keep them engaged, keep them motivated and excited.

“One of the ways that we’re able to do that is because we focus on emerging technologies,” she explained. “And that, in itself, is a huge motivator and exciting for a lot of the technologists.”

For instance, Accion works with Thync, a California-based company with an intriguing product offering.

“They’ve actually created a wearable device, wearable technology, that can affect your mood,” Halter said. “If you need to relax, it helps you relax. If you need some energy, it gives you some energy.”

Health care technology is an industry with a particular demand for the types of services Accion provides, from electronic prescription software to client tracking and database management.

“That’s huge in the health care space, how to protect the data and make it easy to access, because people are much more mobile than they used to be,” Halter explained.

Although Accion has well-known clients, including HP, IBM and MasterCard, many are on the obscure side. And that’s by design, as the founders told their main investor at the outset: “Let’s go after product companies, companies that you’ve never heard of, that I’ve never heard of,” Kernan recalled.

“If you think of all the solutions that are needed in this world, whether it’s expanding health care coverage or shortening supply chain delivery, everything ultimately is solved by technology,” he said. “There are all these entrepreneurs out there, these really bright people building these products. We are pitching to them. We’re saying to them, ‘Hey, we can help you build your product."

Jennifer Wells