ACD/Labs prides itself in offering our users vendor-neutral tools that allow them to use our software with almost any analytical instrument. For us, that means we need to work closely with many partner organizations to ensure we are compatible with the latest data formats. In this episode, we are talking with Graham McGibbon to learn how great partnerships are forged and maintained.

Reach out to Graham: graham.mcgibbon@acdlabs (dot) com


Read the full transcript

00:00  Graham McGibbon

Customers might be the third party to the business partnership, but they’re the most important component. Our mutual customers are often the biggest beneficiaries of the partnership outcomes.

00:28  Jesse Harris

It’s almost February, and you know what that means, Sarah. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

00:34  Sarah Srokosz

That’s true, Jesse. But what does Valentine’s Day have to do with chemical data?

00:39  Jesse Harris

Well, while not specific to chemical data, Valentine’s Day is all about relationships.

00:45  Sarah Srokosz


00:47  Jesse Harris

And like in many other industries, the relationships between companies and organizations that deal with chemical data are an important part of doing business and providing customers with the best possible solutions.

00:58  Sarah Srokosz

Okay. I think I get it now. Does this mean that we need to send out some cards and chocolate?

01:04  Jesse Harris

No, I guess that’s kind of where the metaphor falls apart. While business partnerships are similar in many ways to personal relationships, they involve unique considerations that must be taken into account.

01:16  Sarah Srokosz

And so that’s why today we’re going to talk about our partnerships here at ACD/Labs. One of the features that many scientists appreciate about our software is that it’s vendor neutral or vendor agnostic. This means our products can use analytical data files from almost any instrument.

01:32  Jesse Harris

This often involves the help of one of our partners; as new data formats are released, we work to ensure our software is compatible. At the end of the day, this is done to help our customers. We want to make sure they can use the instruments and software they need without issues.

01:49  Sarah Srokosz

We see our partnerships as an essential part of our business, which is why some of our relationships go back such a long time. In the last episode, we mentioned our renewed partnership with CAS. But what we didn’t mention is that our partnership with them goes back over 20 years.

02:06  Jesse Harris

Today we are joined on the podcast by Graham McGibbon, who as the director of Strategic Partnerships at ACD/Labs, can give us an idea of what goes into delivering vendor neutral solutions to our customers. Let’s hear what he has to say. Hello, Graham. How are you doing today?

02:25  Graham McGibbon

Hey, Jesse. I’m fine, thank you.

02:27  Jesse Harris

Very good. Very good. We usually start off our episodes with a question about what is your favorite chemicals? Can you tell us what your favorite chemical is?

02:36  Graham McGibbon

Sure. My interest varies in the area of chemicals, but the newly synthesized cubic C8F8 molecule called Octafluorocubane caught my attention, in part because it’s got a high degree of symmetry and that structure allows it to be hard to make, but also that you can…turns out you can make an anion of it. And I was a mass spectrometry person by my training, and so I find ions particularly interesting in chemistry. And that structure itself for all those reasons is quite notable. And I think it was even voted by a magazine to be molecule of the year. So I’m probably not the only person interested in it.

03:16  Sarah Srokosz

I love that. But jumping into our topic of today, we’re here to talk about partnerships. So how do you define a partnership and how does it differ from other business relationships?

03:29  Graham McGibbon

That’s a really good question. I think that all business relationships have some degree of interaction between different parties, but in a partnership, the parties, at least two, but sometimes more, would agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. Whereas in other business relationships, the interaction is more transactional, that is to fulfill an order, rather than a cooperative partnership to achieve some goals together.

And that doesn’t mean that that both parties are interested in each in the same goal. It’s a partnership to achieve something for both of the two or more partners.

04:08  Jesse Harris

Yeah. That definitely is a good way to put it. But then why are partnerships really important for a company like ACD/Labs? Because I understand that we have a good number of them.

04:19  Graham McGibbon

Of course, I think they’re important for every organization because it doesn’t matter the size of the organization. Even the largest companies in the world can’t achieve everything that they might seek to profitably without external help. And partnerships provide opportunities, particularly in the case of ACD/Labs, which is a small and technically innovative company, to offer some particular technology or capability, or to insource that capability from somebody elsewhere where we just don’t have the time or resources to develop it fully ourselves. That that can be very interesting for a company like ACD/Labs.

04:54  Sarah Srokosz

Yeah, so we have these two way relationship partnerships, whereas other business transactions are kind of more just that—a transaction. So what is the other side of a partnership? What do the partner organizations get from these agreements with ACD/Labs?

05:12  Graham McGibbon

That’s a really great question. Our partnerships do vary widely in nature. We deal with all kinds of different organizations. And so what’s of interest to them in terms of a partnership win, what they’re seeking, can really vary. Sometimes they might be interested in a particular type of technology or a market access opportunity for dealing with a company like ACD/Labs, so it really depends. But we have to keep our eye on that because in terms of both ACD/Labs benefiting and another company benefiting, bringing, for example, from hardware vendors to bring their data with other data from different sources together and being combined. That’s one of the things which ACD/Labs is very strong in historically, and that’s something that our partner organization may not have the capability of doing without working with ACD/Labs.

In other cases, it could be to try and leverage some of the predictive capabilities of ACD/Labs software and embedding that into their kind of environment. So, for instance, they might have an interest in predicting certain chemical properties or toxicological properties.

06:22  Jesse Harris

Okay. Yeah. So it sounds like it’s a lot of different things that kind of happen in those partnerships, but I imagine that often it is really driven by the customers at the end of the day; they’re kind of the third party in a lot of these business partnerships. How do you make sure that their needs are addressed and the partnerships ultimately impact the customers positively?

06:42  Graham McGibbon

Oh, for sure. Customers might be the third party to the business partnership, but they’re the most important component. Our mutual customers are often the biggest beneficiaries of the partnership outcomes. The access to technology and through some kind of integration, for instance, might allow them to have a more complete and effective workflow and to use their data more effectively as a result of combining capabilities.

The partner synergies offer opportunities for customers to make their overall end results more valuable than it would be by trying to take the data between two separate systems without the partnership and build their own kind of homegrown systems. And we know that customers face this all the time where they have multiple information systems in play. Each system that you add makes an exponential increase or end fold increase in the number of interactions that you could have. And so when partners work together to simplify the interactions between their technologies, that can be a big win for customers.

07:51  Sarah Srokosz

Certainly sounds like it. But one important thing I think, is that a partnership isn’t just an initial agreement or, you know, one exchange of goods or services. It, you know, can span a long time and in a lot of cases, many years, as some of our relationships with other organizations have. And so what do you see as the key to keeping these long lasting partnerships?

08:20  Graham McGibbon

I think that’s a great question. We’re very fortunate and I’m very fortunate in this role that we had partnerships that preceded my role as the director of Strategic Partnerships at ACD/Labs, and some of them I’ve continued. And I think that the key’s to the ones that have been successful and long lasting are good communication between the parties.

Oftentimes people in the organizations change, so it’s helpful if you have some continuity, but you have to be able to have new people come in and maintain those communications, take the time to get to know each other and the needs of the organization. So being open to education and communication, also being pragmatic and some of these things I’ve even looked up over the course of time, you know, what does a healthy partnership look like? You can’t describe everything in contract language as much as you might try. And so both sides being willing to understand give and take and the sensitivity to the needs of the organization, understanding, being open and trusting each other, which means that you have to actually come into partnerships and ideally your partners are bringing to their side as well genuine needs and a willingness to cooperate; to give a little when it is something that can be given on and at the same time to stay focused on what’s important to both companies so that you can stay focused on achieving your goals. And those are all really vital to healthy long term partnerships.

If you can overcome the bumps in the road along the way and get through misunderstandings because over a long period of time, you know, sometimes you’ll have situations which seem difficult and both sides being committed to finding that common ground to achieve goals is really important.

10:14  Jesse Harris

This all sounds like very good advice, but no, I mean, it goes for so many of our relationships and this is such a good example of that. But I did want to know what your role is in this. You’re the Director of Strategic Partnerships, of course. So what does this kind of like look like practically? And like, where do you fit into it? I’m just curious about that.

10:33  Graham McGibbon

Right now. I have that title, but I’m just one representative. ACD/Labs is an organization and I’ve encouraged over the years my colleagues to be involved in our partnerships. We meet people at conferences and through various calls and through customers we’re brought together. Sometimes we have three way calls, but often I have a key role in our activities and communications. When I was talking, Jesse, there with you in preparation for our conversation today, I think that that’s really important—being able to represent what we’re doing with other people and our customers; be a voice of our customer in our partnerships. And each partnership has its unique set of needs and the people with their unique roles and responsibilities that they have to ensure the success, and that can have a technical aspect, it has a business aspect, and it definitely has some governance aspects. So I play a role and I play a different role in each partnership because each partnership is unique, but I bring a bit of coordination to the portfolio and allow our management to have a line of sight into a great number of our partnerships through my activities.

11:40  Sarah Srokosz

Sounds like as the kind of coordinator of a lot of these processes, that if there are any companies or organizations out there interested in exploring partnerships with ACD/Labs, they should get in contact with you. So how can they do that?

11:58  Graham McGibbon

Sure, I’m available via our company telephone system if you’re old school or you can email me directly by my first name, Dot my last name at And I think that will put that out there for people. And there are other email channels. There’s the Direct Information Channel, ACD/Labs website that will get redirected to me if people are interested.

And if you see us at an event near you or you speak your local ACD/Labs business representative, sales representative, anybody on the team will help you get in contact with me about exploring partnership opportunities with ACD/Labs.

12:36  Jesse Harris

Excellent. Well thank you so much for all that insight into how to build these great partnerships over time. And yeah, thank you so much for that.

12:44  Sarah Srokosz

Thanks, Graham.

12:46  Graham McGibbon

Thank you very much.

12:49  Jesse Harris

Hopefully now you can see how partnerships are critical to the success of any business. It was great talking to Graham about our approach.

12:58  Sarah Srokosz

And if you want to hear more from Graham, you’re in luck. On March 2nd he will be a panelist in a webinar on the state of analytical data.

13:05  Jesse Harris

That’s right. The world of analytical data has been changing a lot in recent years, both due to the pandemic and advances in technology. To make sure we’re continuing to deliver the solutions that our users want and need, ACD/Labs conducts a survey every couple of years to see how analytical chemists are managing their data.

13:25  Sarah Srokosz

Graham is going to be speaking about the results of the survey in this webinar hosted by the Analytical Scientist, and he will be joined by Nichola Davies, Director of Structural Chemistry at AstraZeneca, and Mark Kwasnik, Global Product Manager of Analytical Labs at Solvay.

13:41  Jesse Harris

There’s a link in the show notes where you can get more information and register for the presentation on March 2nd. If you are listening in the future, though, we’ll add a link there that you can watch the recording.

13:52  Sarah Srokosz

That’s everything for today. Thanks so much for joining us and remember to subscribe to the analytical wavelength so you never miss an episode.

The analytical wavelength is brought to you by ACD/Labs. We create software to help scientists make the most of their analytical data by predicting molecular properties and by organizing and analyzing their experimental results. To learn more, please visit us at

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