Sramana: If you were to pinpoint the key positioning points in your approach that are dramatically better than your competitors, what would that be?
Chris Gladwin: To summarise it succinctly, they don’t virtualize the data. They make actual copies of data, which means the data inherits the properties of the physical world. It can be lost, damaged, or compromised. In our case, we virtualize the data as a way of storing it. That allows us to disassociate the properties from what happens in the physical world. That enables greater efficiency. Our competitors create reliability by creating multiple copies. We make reliability by not making multiple copies. It’s just a different way to storing data at a very fundamental level.
Sramana: Have you encountered a major competitor in the venture-funded startup world that you contend with?
Chris Gladwin: Not yet. I think there are a couple of guys trying to. They are still in the early stages.
Sramana: What are some of your other key strategic pieces? What have you done that is worth discussing?
Chris Gladwin: One of our biggest challenges was getting our first customer. We are targeting the largest data storing organizations in the world. They are the type of organizations where national security is part of the requirement or they are storing data for the world’s economy. They simply cannot fail. It’s a lot easier to sell to the 100th customer because you have 99 others.
Sramana: How did you win your first customer?
Chris Gladwin: We had to do it one step at a time. The first thing we did was a series of tests showing the technology working at production levels. We found a non-profit organization who had the need for large scale data storage but did not have the resources. We gave them the option of using us as a demonstration at no cost, so they were willing to try. This was for the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
One of the great things is that they needed us for very visual data. They needed to store historical television and radio and have it available online. That allowed us to demonstrate the data. We have a lot of customers today who we cannot even talk about let alone show their data. This customer had public data that was very easy to look at and see that it was working.
From there, we took the next step, which was selling to other customers in test or staging systems. It was not quite production, but it was close. We finally found customers who were willing to give us a little bit of production data and run us in parallel with their production systems. Eventually, we started getting some production data as the prime system. It took a lot of time to get different organizations through those steps. We had to break it down into a hundred smaller steps.
Sramana: Who was your first paying customer?
Chris Gladwin: A very large cable company outside the United States. They used us for the origin storage for their video on demand. They have 30 million subscribers and they offer on-demand entertainment. We were the master storage library for all those digital videos.
Sramana: How did you handle the next 5 to 10 customers?
Chris Gladwin: We had to work with each customer step by step. The key there came down to the quality of our people. You get judged by your customers. We are a new technology and a new product. That creates uncertainty. One of the key ways we dealt with that was by having extremely high quality people who were extremely customer focused. If any of those early customers had an issue, it immediately became the top priority of the company. It did not matter if it was the middle of the night on Saturday. We developed the reputation of operating in that fashion, which gave our initial customers confidence in us.