Advice for standing out in a crowd of clouds

September 8, 2013
The entrepreneurs

Shifting to “the cloud” is not as easy as it sounds. Brian Johnson and Chris DeRamus saw firsthand the problems that can arise when moving to an Internet-based IT infrastructure while working for game company Electronic Arts. They were helping to shepherd the company’s massive multi-player online games from being hosted on servers to a cloud-based service. The shift was filled with bumps and technical gaps.

“Cloud servers are still very new — especially when compared to a traditional data center model, which companies have been using for 20-plus years,” Johnson said. “We decided to leave Electronic Arts and form [Tysons Corner-based] DivvyCloud to write a software and offer a platform solution to help companies better manage their cloud infrastructure — both internal and public-facing.”

The pitch

Johnson

“Maintaining an IT environment in the cloud can be really painful, not just when you’re doing a migration from servers, but also just generally once you’re there. For companies that rely on cloud infrastructure to run their service, they often need multiple providers as back-up just in case one cloud service goes down. But they have to make it look seamless to customers and users, and that’s where DivvyCloud service comes in.

“We offer a software/platform solution. As a client, you’d give us some information about your cloud providers. This information will allow us to interact with all of your providers on your behalf. This interaction allows us to present a single interface, where you can manage and monitor your cloud-based infrastructure.”

DeRamus

“We left Electronic Arts this past spring, incorporated in May, developed our product and sold it back to Electronic Arts. They use our product every day.”

Johnson

“We are making sure that we are testing the system that we’re building and we’re looking for additional customers. We’re trying to talk to as many potential customers as possible.

“Our biggest challenge in building an enterprise or business-to-business product is getting in front of the right people — technical people like system administrators and engineers.”

DeRamus

“This challenge is further compounded by the fact that the cloud space is just massive. As a young start-up that is aggressively trying to bundle in features that people want, how do we get our product to be the top service?”

The advice

Elana Fine, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“Before you start expanding on the features you offer, figure out if you are accurately hitting a pain point that is also somewhere outside the gaming realm. Otherwise, your total addressable market may be too small. You are doing the right thing in talking to customers, but be careful to avoid bundling in too many features to try and be everything to everyone.

“You may find that it doesn’t make sense to start with the biggest companies with the biggest pain points, because if you don’t deliver, you’re out of business. Cut your teeth on companies that need your service, but are still growing and understand that you’re still growing. Start with start-ups.

“At this point, you shouldn’t be spending all your time finding the right people within large organizations. You’ll find an easier sale or an easier pilot process at smaller organizations where cloud services are critical to that start-up’s business. When those services have gone down in the past, who was tweeting and blogging about the hassle it caused their business?”

The reaction

Johnson

“We agree that targeting smaller organizations is the correct place to start.

“On top of focusing on small to medium-size businesses, we are focusing on smaller organizations inside of large companies. These organizations often have their own buying power, as well as complex IT environments. We hope we can gain traction inside the larger organization over time.”

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