Apto’s reuse, recycle business is booming

James Kilkelly, CEO, Apto Solutions
James Kilkelly, CEO, Apto Solutions

‘Apto’ is Latin for “to adapt, to adjust, to accommodate”: it is also the name of an emerging company in the ITAD space. For Apto Solutions CEO James Kilkelly, this name root has philosophical meaning that relates to the asset disposal challenges that the IT industry now faces, and to how Apto works to address these. According to Kilkelly, business transformation, innovation, and environmental issues have created a need to adapt – and for Apto, the need to adjust not only to the times and the market, but also to the specific customer service requirements.

This is heady stuff, but Kilkelly also shared a more concrete vision of trends that are driving his company’s success. Data – and the explosion of it due to growth in mobility, IoT and social communication – is key as companies have to ensure that at end of life, data is completely wiped and destroyed on devices, including servers, PCs, handhelds, etc. A second trend is the growing volume and complexity of IT assets, which Apto manages by handling reverse logistics on behalf of customers, collecting old equipment for either destruction or remarketing in other areas of the globe. “America is the number one creator and user of all this stuff [IT and telecom equipment], and what we may utilize for two or three years will have very useful life to folks in other countries across the globe,” Kilkelly added. Successful sustainable IT initiatives always feature the ‘twin greens’ – green outcomes and greenbacks: Apto claims it has delivered an 80 increase in recovery revenue through restructuring of a technology company’s in-house remarketing. A final component is e-waste, which Kilkelly claimed is the fastest growing stream of all waste, and a global problem that must be addressed in a responsible manner to ensure no release of toxic chemicals and elements in the recycle process, and to comply with regulation governing the breakdown and reuse of component materials.

Apto’s history stretches back to 2001, to the dot com boom and bust era, when the ITAD industry was composed largely of equipment brokers who operated with little oversight. Today, end of life practices for IT equipment must meet a number of regulatory requirements, a fact that is driving a good deal of demand for Apto services. “What’s allowing us to grow,” Kilkelly explained, “is also the fact that there is better awareness of the unintended consequences of data loss. There are many large organizations out there that do not understand where the data resides on their equipment, and how to wipe it properly.” Awareness is also growing of the value in recovery product, he claimed, coincident with an acceleration of hardware refresh associated with trends like cloud computing.

Teardown in Apto warehouse.
Teardown in Apto warehouse.

“We do do recycling, but we’re not just a recycler,” Kilkelly stated, rather the company provides a range of services that include asset lifecycle management, decommissioning of data centres, value recovery, data protection, global logistics, ITAD management tools, procurement and trade-in programs – in addition to recycling. What differentiates Apto in Kilkelly’s view, is the use of software that can help companies to make good decisions around what services are needed, and to create efficient, cost effective workflow around the disposal of IT assets – just now, Apto is working on a project to integrate its software with an inventory audit platform used by equipment manufacturers and VARS that would enable these to offer additional (Apto) services such as asset valuation. Working with very large organizations, Kilkelly pointed out that Apto needs to provide software that may help a customer with 300,000 employees standardize processes around asset management or properly wipe data, as well as consulting and physical capabilities. “This business will never be solely automated,” he explained, “but if you can create a compelling solution from a software standpoint and be at the top of the food chain and funnel it [used IT equipment] into facilities that have the capacity to deal things as they have to, you have a total solution that can be highly beneficial to large organizations. That’s where we’re headed.” To create even better decision-support tools, the company is also working on developing the APIs needed to integrate with existing systems that customers may have for asset management.

In its go-to-market, Apto focuses on OEM programs, indirect programs and VAR programs, helping these organizations in the marketing of their products by providing a take-back option. “We’re also the world’s largest provider of off-lease assets, and so work with companies like GE” Kilkelly explained, and when equipment comes back, Apto will audit it, check for damage, etc. Apto counts the financial OEMs and the large Silicon Valley tech companies as primary target markets, but also moves a lot of what he called “the low rent, mobile world,” including phones, and the 20-30,000 PCs that are processed in company facilities on a monthly basis. On an enterprise level, banks represent an important vertical segment for Apto which works, for example, with Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, with equipment ranging from ATMs to data centre and branch infrastructure. Smaller companies play in the Apto schema as buyers of pre-owned IT equipment, sold through the online Apto Store and other distribution partners.

Apto Solutions currently employs over 150 people, many of whom are technicians in processing facilities, technologists working in labs on data wiping and reconfiguration of reusable equipment, and workers who manage fleets involved in reverse logistics (though some of this is outsourced). To scale, though, the company relies on Apto certified partners who can extend the company’s reach in different geographies, and who can help meet the needs of global customers with distributed operations. In addition to Georgia headquarters, the company has locations in San Jose, CA, Austin, TX, Chicago, IL, Canton OH and Pottstown, PA, and working with global partners has in the last six months completed 250 international projects. When onboarding partners, Apto performs audits to ensure compliance and the creation of proper documentation for standards like R2, e-Stewards, in the case of European partners, who tend to be full service providers, or in the case of Asian partners who tend to be more focused on recycling. Over the years, Apto has developed expertise in compliance management, which may be a “headache” for businesses, but acts as source of opportunity for the experts. Going forward, Kilkelly sees ample additional potential in large accounts that are just beginning to approach reuse, recycle and remarket in a systematic way, and hopes to double revenues (or more) for the $50 million company in the next three years or so. Good news for everyone who thinks about the e-waste challenge.

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