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Scaling a Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery Business in Silicon Valley: Axcient CEO Justin Moore (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Nov 8th 2016

Sramana Mitra: How long did you persist in your first effort?

Justin Moore: It was probably about a year and a half. While I was at school, it started consuming more and more of my time. Instead of doing homework, I was working on a company. That was when I decided to stop.

Sramana Mitra: You returned to Stanford in 2005?

Justin Moore: No, that would have been 2001.

Sramana Mitra: How long did you continue at Stanford before reengaging with entrepreneurship?

Justin Moore: I think it was early 2002.

Sramana Mitra: When you came back to Stanford and had a bit of time to think about things, what was your key learning?

Justin Moore: I’m not sure I was so self-aware at 20 years old to think about learnings. It was unconscious learning.

Sramana Mitra: You didn’t have it synthesized yet.

Justin Moore: The brain isn’t fully developed until your mid 20s. I don’t think I had this self actualization to step back and think about it. If I look back in terms of how informed my decision was, I think there are a couple of things. People ask me, “When did you decide that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?” I look back and realize that actually I never decided that I wanted to be one.

Frankly, I still question whether that’s an appropriate title. It’s not something I ever sought to do. These were passion projects. Every company I started was just something I was interested in. Then the company came out. I was always interesting in solving problems and taking on big challenges. Coming back to school, it was tough because I had gone out to the real world and experienced obsession, grinding, and working. I came back and people were still going to frat parties and getting drunk.

Sramana Mitra: You felt a lot more mature.

Justin Moore: I looked at the world through a slightly different lens and it was a bit hard to integrate after that. I focused on my studies and things that I was interested in. One day I was reading the Wall Street Journal. They were talking about how the Internet infrastructure was at about 3% of utilization after the dot com.

All of these companies have built out infrastructure assuming that the dot-com boom was going to continue its trajectory for the next few decades. With the collapse, you had all this excess and under-utilized infrastructure and capacity. It just occurred to me that there was something to be done about that. Where was it all going to go? What were these companies going to do with all the money they had spent? Whether there was some way to take this excess capacity and over provisioning and offset some of the losses elsewhere.

It occurred to me that there would be a lot of infrastructure sitting around that people would have no idea what to do with it. If I can find a way to help them offload some of those assets, they can take the capital write downs to help improve their balance sheets. I built my second company which was called MK Global to address that challenge.

One of the things is also that you don’t know what you don’t know. Therefore, there’s no fear. There’s no concept of opportunity cost. When you’re young, you think you have all the time in the world. You don’t really need much because you don’t have a family. You don’t have a lifestyle or mortgage. You don’t have a fear because you don’t know what’s on the other side of the wall. In many cases, it doesn’t occur to people to not take on a challenge for a younger person. I cold-called companies and started navigating my way to these organizations.

I ended up signing these contracts that were, in retrospect, crazy. We became one of Accenture’s go-to partners when they are consulting with companies. You literally have billions of dollars of excess infrastructure that they had over-provisioned. We ended up working deals with the original equipment manufacturers like Cisco and Nortel to get them to service and support that underplayed infrastructure. We got exclusive contracts with companies like Quest Communications for all their worldwide excess infrastructure and inventory. We ended up building that company. It was exciting and exhilarating. In the first couple of years, we had two full-time employees and about 20 consultants and contractors. We rapidly scaled to $10 million in revenue and beyond.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Scaling a Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery Business in Silicon Valley: Axcient CEO Justin Moore
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