Sramana: What were you doing at HealthStream? Were you part of the early team in any way?
Christopher Aker: I was a technical employee and I was able to go through the IPO ride while I was there. We did not make any money there. We were the last tech company to go public just before the crash. In fact, we went public the day before the crash. That was a valuable lesson all around. One of the things that I have done throughout my career is pay very close attention to how companies run marketing, control their image, and make decisions.
I lasted about four years at HealthStream before I decided that the time was right to break out and start my own company. I had a little bit of savings, about $15,000. I had left my job without an idea of what I wanted to do, but I knew I was going to give myself 12 months to make something happen.
Sramana: Did you at least have a sense of what you wanted to do?
Christopher Aker: I quit my job without an idea. I just knew that my time was up. After a few weeks of bouncing crazy ideas around, some crazier than others, I looked at what I was doing successfully. I had a small web hosting business on the side with a handful of clients, most of who were my friends.
I had a Linux box with a control panel that would allow users to add email addresses and sub-domains. It was very basic. I had been running this service for a year or two. By this time, shared web hosting was a commodity. You could find $2-all-you-can-eat type shared web hosting plans. There was no money in it and there was no future in it. I could see the rise and fall of shared web hosting.
I used that side business as an example and I forecast where the hosting business was going to go. Virtualization was obviously going to be a big thing. You had the benefits of shared equipment cost but the privacy of dedicated hosting. You could be isolated from your neighbors, and it was the best of both worlds. I started working on that project quickly.
I came up with the name Linode a few weeks later. I am a pragmatic person. I try to be realistic and I think that a lot of entrepreneurs have an idea and sell themselves on it. They convince themselves that their idea is viable. That can be powerful but you need to be realistic. Once I came up with the name of the company and I had the concept in place, I could not find a way where the company would not be a big deal. I could not talk myself out of the company.