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Atlas Networks utilizes a 'knowledge is power' proposition to gain market share.

Atlas Networks utilizes a 'knowledge is power' proposition to gain market share.
9/1/2020

Sarasota entrepreneur Anand Pallegar was pivoting long before pivoting was a popular pandemic practice.

Pallegar’s penchant for shifting to meet customer demand — or create it — goes back at least 17 years, when he was in a violent car crash that left him with 18 fractured facial bones. Born and raised in England, back then Pallegar was working for an internet startup in Detroit while trying to grow his own fledgling website development company.

He recuperated from the accident at his parents house, in Bradenton, and that led to his first shift: Deciding to ditch living in Michigan, he opened a coffee shop, just outside downtown Sarasota, and he created a daily online newsletter. Other transformations over the next 15 years include finding new markets for his website development and public relations/marketing firm, AtLarge; creating PINC, a popular one-day global speaker event in Sarasota; and DreamLarge, a public benefit corporation dedicated to community engagement, education causes and other efforts. (The Observer Media Group, publisher of the Business Observer, has been an AtLarge client.

“I’m comfortable in this environment,” Pallegar says, noting he started his first business when he was 19, in what was soon to become the dot-com bust. “I’m comfortable building through downturns.”

The latest transformation comes from an AtLarge spin-off company, Atlas Networks. That business was founded in 2018, when Pallegar, now 42, saw a need to help businesses migrate networks to cloud computing. A decade ago, Pallegar says, “there was a lot of dispute” about whether a business should be on the cloud. Although the cloud — essentially data centers over the internet — won out, Pallegar found many companies struggled with cloud integration. In addition, a managed services model for the cloud was an opportunity for recurring revenue, as opposed to AtLarge, which had a bevy of shorter-term web development clients.

A majority of Atlas’ clients at the start were customer-facing and events-based brands — and the need was there: Revenue grew more than 130% in 2019 over 2018, to more than seven figures. It hired eight employees and has since added 20-30 contractors. Atlas, which won the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce's Rising Star Award Aug. 28, also handles managed IT services and WebOps for clients.

Then came the pandemic — and another transformation. “We repositioned everything at the end of March,” Pallegar says. “What does the world need now in this crisis? And how can we deliver it?”

One key to the change was a big hole in the target customer base, with events sidelined. One client, for example, Palmetto-based Feld Entertainment, one of the largest live show producers in the world, shuttered all events at the onset of the pandemic. Other clients include Endeavor, the Los Angeles-based entertainment conglomerate that owns Bradenton-based sports academy IMG, Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater and the Harlem Globetrotters. (Other clients, such as Sarasota-based Sun Hydraulics, a unit of Helios Technologies, are in different fields.)

Another key to help accelerate Atlas’s transformation doubles as its main selling point to prospective clients, in that its research shows companies overspend on cloud-based services by 23%. “We’re not here to sell or pitch anything you don’t need,” Pallegar says. “We want to save you money. We are putting money back in organization’s pockets.”

The reinvention of Atlas includes a rebrand, new website and a new office, in the Rosemary District, just north of downtown Sarasota. Another key in the shift, meanwhile, predates the pandemic, with Atlas’ certification as an Amazon Web Services partner. That designation, Pallegar says, is a barrier to entry for competitors. “There’s a lot of things we have to do for that,” he says. “It’s not just any company that can do this — we were one of the early adopters.”

Now Pallegar aims to leverage that knowledge and AWS wherewithal to build a larger client base for Atlas. To help show potential clients what Atlas can do, the company, in July, introduced a free cloud cost-optimization assessment to help businesses cut overspending on cloud infrastructure.

Even with information, Pallegar says he’s seen several business in hover mode on many big decisions, given the lingering economic uncertainty. Companies that received federal PPP money, he adds, are also facing a reckoning because those funds are going to be used up for the most part by the fall. Getting those firms to buy into the Atlas proposition is a core challenge. “Organizations remain very cautious right now,” he says. “A lot of organizations have delayed inevitable decisions and relied on the status quo.”

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