After break for good life, it's back to software

Christopher Doggett (left) and Christopher Gali play pool at Adminovate, the company they started to create insurance administrative software. Their nearby bar gives them an attractive place to take clients.
Christopher Doggett (left) and Christopher Gali play pool at Adminovate, the company they started to create insurance administrative software. Their nearby bar gives them an attractive place to take clients. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 04, 2013

If work ever drags for Christopher Doggett and Christopher Gali at their year-old software company, Adminovate, way upstairs at 1818 Market St., they can head around the corner for late-afternoon daiquiris at one of the bars they own, the speakeasy-themed Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.

"Insurance software is boring to a lot of people. But clients love going with us to the bar after 5," says Doggett, 44, who lives with his family in a Rittenhouse Square high-rise.

"It's surprising how good this bar has been for our business," says Gali, 45, who also walks to work.

Insurance software might not fascinate everyone. But it made Gali and Doggett rich. They sold their previous company to Oracle Corp. for $125 million. Then they took a break and focused on cocktails and living the good life in Philadelphia's toniest neighborhoods. Now they are back for a software encore.

Doggett, who left college in Ohio to work in computers, and Gali, who moved to Philadelphia from Chennai, India, to attend Temple University, met while working at American International Group's information technology department in Wilmington 20 years ago.

Since their AIG days, when Gali slaved on a mainframe while Doggett wrestled revenue plans, Gali has been the pair's Mr. Inside, focused on technology, while Doggett is Mr. Outside, running the business end.

But around the office pool table or in conference over drinks at the Franklin, both share the open-collar, fast-moving, good-humored West Coast style of Philadelphia's small but growing software sector, not the buttoned banker-lawyer style that still prevails in other pockets of Market Street West.

In 1998, Doggett and Gali started their own software firm, AdminServer, building Internet applications for dozens of insurers and hiring more than 200 people before they sold the firm to business software giant Oracle in 2008.

Flush with cash, and bound by an Oracle noncompetition clause that would keep them on the software sidelines for a few years, they started Franklin Mortgage, named for an actual Prohibition-era bootlegging front. They also opened Lemon Hill in the Fairmount section.

They figured they were done with software. "We'd been working 14 hours a day, seven days a week," Gali said. The pair had leavened that load by jetting the staff to surprise vacations in places like the Bahamas. It was time for more break, less grind.

But by the time Gali and Doggett's noncompete lapsed, they were ready to develop what Doggett calls the "next generation" of insurance-processing software, built on the common C# programming language and compatible with Microsoft, smartphones, and cloud-based systems.

Gali says Adminovate, their new outfit, has designed the interface so business analysts can use it even if they are not programmers. Gali and Doggett have recruited a half-dozen AdminServer and Oracle managers, plus AIG veteran Ken Walma, who chairs Adminovate's board.

Adminovate's early clients include Health India TPA, which handles payments for AIG and other big insurers. So Adminovate is bringing work to Philadelphia from some of the same Indian outsourcers who earlier took American work overseas.

"At our level, American software is now the best in the world," says Gali. They plan to grow the 30-person staff rapidly: "If we can build this to the level we intend, Philadelphia will be the San Francisco, the Seattle, of this type of software."

On Wednesday, Adminovate announced a joint operating arrangement with Exton-based iPipeline, whose software manages insurance customers' applications.

"They do the back end, we do the front end," said Paul Melchiorre, the South Philly native and SAP AG veteran who serves as iPipeline's president. He first met Doggett and Gali at Rouge, another Rittenhouse Square bar (one they don't own).

IPipeline has opened an office in the same building as Adminovate. Up-to-date computer talent is scarce, both firms say. They're targeting new college grads who they say prefer downtown to the suburbs.

Should Oracle feel silly to have spent $125 million buying AdminServer, only to watch the sellers build a "next generation" software for a similar market?

"They're so big, $125 million is a rounding error" for Oracle, says iPipeline's Melchiorre, laughing.

Oracle officials didn't return messages seeking comment.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

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