As the founder of a company, it’s common to be asked “why did you start SoftNAS?” People are curious as to what drives a person to start a company, take so many risks and do what to many must seem like gambling with your life and career…
Personally, I’m an entrepreneur and inventor. I love creating things. And I enjoy solving problems for customers. Okay – probably the same kind of answers you’d get from most entrepreneurs – we’re passionate about what we do! But why did I start SoftNAS?
I originally started SoftNAS for two reasons:
- I was a disgruntled storage customer who was fed up with traditional on-premise storage.
The high costs of traditional storage was one of the primary causes of the failure of a startup where I was CTO for a time. This was a painful failure and one I felt could’ve been avoided, had things been different.
- I was at a fork in the road personally. I was coming off of another failed startup – and each one of those takes its toll on you, and I’m not exactly a spring chicken, and so either I could start another one and risk it all or play it safe and go take another executive position with a Fortune whatever company, probably move my family out of Texas again, and play the politics and cash in my chips and retire someday that way.
It wasn’t an easy decision.
I just knew I was onto something because it was clear to me that customers were overpaying for traditional storage, it was too complicated and hard to deploy and use, and the capital intensive hardware model just didn’t fit how a subscription-based business got paid. So there were technical, usability and business model issues with the existing model. To me, this looked ripe for disruptive innovation. Keep in mind this was 2012, before the cloud was totally obvious to anyone other than AWS.
I asked my best friend what he thought. Should I go for it and take the risks or take the least risky path and just get another job? He knows me well, and he said “go for it, you can always find another job if and when you need to.” So that’s what I did. That night I started SoftNAS and here we are 5 and a half years later. Boy am I glad I did!
The reasons we are here haven’t really changed that much.
- Business model: traditional premise-based storage doesn’t match how SaaS and other subscription-driven companies operate. That’s one of the main reasons why the cloud has taken off – the cost model scales with the revenue model and every industry is moving toward subscription-based billing models. It’s not so much about saving money as it is about matching the spend with the income. A wise man once told me that business is actually really easy – it’s about bringing in more than you send out… and the pay-as-you-go business model does that for SaaS and subscription-oriented businesses. It’s also helpful for traditional businesses, too, but often for other reasons.
- The Cloud: the cloud is helping customers transition into the new business model, contain costs, increase agility and flexibility. We wake up each day and get to help customers make their journey to the cloud and be a part of that with them, solving interesting technical issues and pushing ourselves to go faster and further than the day before.
- Enriching Customers’ Lives: perhaps it’s because I’ve been on the customer side of IT as the guy who took the calls from irate end users, their bosses and had to deal with the fallout of storage and downtime issues, I have a lot of empathy and understanding for what customers must go through with their vendors. While it’s impossible to be perfect, I managed to create a culture at SoftNAS that delights in making customers successful and, ideally, delighted with us. I wish we could say we are 100% successful in doing that, but alas, I doubt any company ever gets to 100% customer delight, but we continue to improve and excel more each day to get there. Our technical support and solutions architects are among the best in the industry, and we help customers succeed every opportunity we can. In fact, more than 40% of our technical support calls end up with us helping customers troubleshoot and resolve issues in their own cloud infrastructure, with very few actually being bugs or defects in our product (hasn’t always been that way, but sure glad it is today).
That’s why I started SoftNAS. To change the world and make it less painful to be a storage customer. Of course, we are evolving well beyond our original storage roots now, with the advent of the Cloud Data Platform and the push beyond our native cloud roots into the hybrid cloud and exciting new IoT integration worlds. But I don’t expect our approach to change too much.
We continue to focus on improving the quality of customer experience every day. We still have “Customer Experience” meetings every week, where we talk about how customers are doing, how we’re doing at serving them, and where we can improve. And it’s working for us – the proof is in the results.
Today we have thousands of subscribers – from the smallest DevOps teams, individual developers to the largest global enterprises and brands we all use in our lives each day. In fact, I was at lunch yesterday and someone pointed to the TV in the background and said “3 of the last 4 commercials are our customers.” It’s incredible how fast the cloud is changing how we do business.
This is just a sampling of a few of the customers who have chosen to run their businesses on SoftNAS.
I look back on that day when I started SoftNAS after that tough decision, and think about all the challenges we have faced and overcome along the way. I’m so very thankful to be here and have the opportunity to continue to serve our customers. As we grow and try to keep up with the breakneck pace our customers and we put ourselves through, one saying keeps coming to mind.
“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”
What this means is every day you will need to work harder than the last. But when you work hard every day and see what you’re now capable of — yesterday seems easy.
I remember meeting with a wealthy former Compaq executive at a former startup and what he said that day. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for what you guys do. You come in here every day and do things no normal human being would do, knowing that only 1 in 10 startups actually make it. I couldn’t do what you do, but I respect the guts and determination.” He didn’t invest, but his words stuck with me.
I can tell you firsthand that starting a company and figuring out how to make it successful is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I had to fail more times than I can count to learn enough to finally get it right. If you’re reading this and thinking about starting a company, all I can tell you is to focus on what you believe in, don’t listen to the naysayers, work hard and focus on learning what customers want and then give it to them. And never, ever, ever give up! The breakthrough you need is just around the corner if you’re persistent enough. If you can do that, you’ll have a fighting chance to overcome the other hurdles that lay ahead. But having satisfied customers will provide you (and your investors and supporters) with the proof and the emotional fuel that’s required to keep going and winning.
So that’s why we’re here. We like to win. And we measure how we’re winning not just by recognized revenue, churn rate and all those other accepted SaaS and financial metrics, but by how many happy customers we create and make successful in the cloud with us. That’s what keeps me going… along with the hope that this is the last time I have to start another company!