Posts Tagged 'Commitment'

January 17, 2014

What's Next? $1.2 Billion Investment. 15 New Data Centers.

SoftLayer was founded in a living room on May 5, 2005. We bootstrapped our vision of becoming the de facto platform for cloud computing by maxing out our credit cards and draining our savings accounts. Over the course of eight years, we built a unique global offering, and in the middle of last year, our long-term vision was validated (and supercharged) by IBM.

When I posted about IBM acquiring SoftLayer last June, I explained that becoming part of IBM "will enable us to continue doing what we've done since 2005, but on an even bigger scale and with greater opportunities." To give you an idea of what "bigger scale" and "greater opportunities" look like, I need only direct you to today's press release: IBM Commits $1.2 Billion to Expand Global Cloud Footprint.

IBM Cloud Investment

It took us the better part of a decade to build a worldwide network of 13 data centers. As part of IBM, we'll more than double our data center footprint in a fraction of that time. In 2006, we were making big moves when we built facilities on the East and West coasts of the United States. Now, we're expanding into places like China, Hong Kong, London, Japan, India, Canada and Mexico City. We had a handful of founders pushing for SoftLayer's success, and now we've got 430,000+ IBM peers to help us reach our goal. This is a whole new ballgame.

The most important overarching story about this planned expansion is what each new facility will mean for our customers. When any cloud provider builds a data center in a new location, it's great news for customers and users in that geographic region: Content in that facility will be geographically closer to them, and they'll see lower pings and better performance from that data center. When SoftLayer builds a data center in a new location, customers and users in that geographic region see performance improvements from *all* of our data centers. The new facility serves as an on-ramp to our global network, so content on any server in any of our data centers can be accessed faster. To help illustrate that point, let's look at a specific example:

If you're in India, and you want to access content from a SoftLayer server in Singapore, you'll traverse the public Internet to reach our network, and the content will traverse the public Internet to get back to you. Third-party peering and transit providers pass the content to/from our network and your ISP, and you'll get the content you requested.

When we add a SoftLayer data center in India, you'll obviously access servers in that facility much more quickly, and when you want content from a server in our Singapore data center, you'll be routed through that new data center's network point of presence in India so that the long haul from India to Singapore will happen entirely on the private network we control and optimize.

Users around the world will have faster, more reliable access to servers in every other SoftLayer data center because we're bringing our network to their front doors. When you combine that kind connectivity and access with our unique hybrid offering of powerful bare metal servers and scalable virtual server instances, it's easy to see how IBM, the most powerful technology company of the last 100 years, is positioned to remain the most powerful technology company in the world for the next century.

Now it's time to get to work.

-@lavosby

March 26, 2013

Should My Startup Join an Accelerator/Incubator Program?

As part of my role at SoftLayer, I have the opportunity and privilege to mentor numerous entrepreneurs and startup teams when they partner with us through our Catalyst program. One question I hear often is, "Should I join an accelerator?" My answer: "That all depends." Let's look at the five lessons entrepreneurs should learn before they decide to join a startup accelerator or incubator program.

Lesson 1: The founders must be committed to the success of their venture.
Joining an accelerator or incubator comes with some strings attached — startups give up between 6 to 10 percent of their equity in exchange for some cash and structured program that usually lasts around three months. Obviously, this kind of commitment should not be taken lightly.

Too often, startups join accelerator programs before they are ready or mature enough as a team. Sometimes, a company's idea isn't fully baked, so they end up spending as much time "creating" their business as they do "accelerating" it. As a result, that company isn't able to leverage an accelerator's resources efficiently throughout the entire program ... The founders need to establish a vision for the business, begin laying the groundwork for the company's products and services, and be 100% committed to the accelerator program before joining. If you can't say with confidence that your startup meets all three of those requirements, don't do it. Take care of those three points and proceed to the next lesson.

Lesson 2: Be prepared to leverage what you are given.
Many startups join accelerator and incubator programs with unrealistic expectations. Participation in these programs — even the most exclusive and well-known ones — by no means guarantees that you'll raise additional money or have a successful exit. These programs provide startups with office space, free cloud services, and access to mentors, investors, recruiters and media ... Those outstanding services provide participating startups with a distinct competitive advantage, but they don't serve up success on a silver platter. If you aren't ready work tirelessly to leverage the benefits of a startup program, don't bother.

Lesson 3: Take advice and criticism well; mentors are trying to help.
"Mentorship" is very tough to qualify, and criticism is difficult to take ... Especially if you're 100% committed to your business and you don't want to be told that you've done something wrong. Mentors in these startup programs have "been there and done that," and they wouldn't be in a mentorship position if they weren't looking out for your best interest and the ultimate success of your company.

Look programs that take mentorship seriously and can provide a broad range of expertise from strategy to marketing and business development to software architecture to building and scaling IT infrastructure. Then be intentional about listening to the people around you.

Lesson 4: Do your research and make an informed decision.
With the proliferation of startups globally, we're also seeing an evolution in the accelerator ecosystem. There are a number accelerators being positioned to help support founders with ideas on a global, regional and local basis, but it's important to evaluate a program's vision with its execution of that vision. Not all startup programs are created equal, and some might not offer the right set of resources and opportunities for your team. When you're giving up equity in your company, you should have complete confidence that the accelerator or incubator you join will deliver on its side of the deal.

Lesson 5: Leverage the network and community you will meet.
When you've done your homework, applied and been accepted to the perfect startup program, meet everyone you can and learn from them. One of the most tangible benefits of joining an accelerator is the way you can fast track a business idea while boosting network contacts. Much in the way someone chooses a prestigious college or joins a fraternity, some of the most valuable resources you'll come across in these programs are the people you meet. In this way, accelerators and incubators are becoming a proxy for undergrad and graduate school ... The appeal for promising entrepreneurs is simple: Why wait to make a dent in the universe? Today, more people are going to college and fewer are landing well-paying jobs after graduation, so some of the world's best and brightest are turning to these communities and foregoing the more structured "higher education" process.

Even if your startup is plugging along smoothly, a startup accelerator or incubator program might be worth a look. Venture capitalists often trust programs like TechStars and 500 Startups to filter or vet early stage companies. If your business has the stamp of approval from one of these organizations, it's decidedly less risky than a business idea pitched by a random entrepreneur.

If you understand each of these lessons and you take advantage of the resources and opportunities provided by startup accelerators and incubators, the sky is the limit for your business. Now get to work.

Class dismissed.

-@gkdog

December 9, 2011

Earn Your Bars

In less than six years, SoftLayer has grown pretty drastically. We started as a small company with ten people crammed into a living room, brainstorming how to build one innovative data center in Dallas. Now we have more than six hundred employees managing thirteen data centers on three different continents. It's insane to see how far we've come when you read those two sentences, and as I think back, I remember the sacrifices employees have made to help our business get where it is today.

In the early days, we were taking out loans and tapping our bank accounts to buy servers. When customers started asking for more features and functionality in the portal, developers coded non-stop to make it happen. A lot of those sacrifices aren't very obvious from the outside, but we wouldn't be where we are today without them. One of the biggest sacrifices SLayers make is when we need to build new data centers to accommodate customer demand ... A "Go Live Crew" of employees moves away from their friends and family to those facilities to make sure the new SoftLayer data center meets our high expectations.

In the military, a soldier will "earn his/her stripes" by doing something that shows that he or she deserves a particular rank or position. The more stripes on the sleeve of your uniform, the higher your rank. As you've probably gathered from pictures and videos around the office, SoftLayer employees don't wear uniforms, but SLayers love to wear SoftLayer swag, and this "mechanic" shirt has been one of the most popular sellers in our company store:

Earn Your Bars Shirts

We wanted to recognize the employees that have given weeks (and sometimes months) of their time to join a Go Live Crew for a data center build-out, so we took that popular shirt and added a little flair. Following the "earn your stripes" idea, these employees have "earned their bars" for each data center they help build.

Earn Your Bars Shirts

Every employee who was on a Go Live Crew in Seattle, Washington, D.C., San Jose, Singapore or Amsterdam will get shirts with location-specific graphics to recognize their contribution, and their most recent shirt will have the "bars" you see in the picture above.

As a bit of added recognition, here are the shirt recipients for each data center location:

Earn Your Bars Shirts
Seattle Go Live Crew
John E., Edmund G., Robert G., Joe H., Brad L., Charles P., Joshua R., William S., Zane W.
Earn Your Bars Shirts
Washington, D.C. Go Live Crew
Troy D., John E., Reed F., Edmund G., Robert G., Brad L., Charles P., Joshua R., Zane W.
Earn Your Bars Shirts
San Jose Go Live Crew
Kalin D., John E., Chris F., Hector F., Edmund G., Robert G., Tim L., Russ M., Edward R., Brent R., Brandon S., Joshua Z.
Earn Your Bars Shirts
Singapore Go Live Crew
Chris F., Joshua F.. Ryan G., Robert G., Hao H., Tim L., Russ M., Todd M., Kyle S., Eric V.
Earn Your Bars Shirts
Amsterdam Go Live Crew
Raul A., Brian C., Elijah F., Hector F., Edmund G., Robert G., Sydney M., Stephen M., Michael P., Goran P., Mark Q., Edward R., Jason R., Brandon S., Sopheara S., Joshua Z.

And if you happened to compare the names between all five teams, you'll notice that Robert Guerra was on every crew. You know what that means?

Earn Your Bars Shirts

He has a brand new wardrobe.

CBNO.

-@lavosby

December 8, 2010

Cultural Leanings

Culture is important. It is important to individuals, to countries and to companies. Sometimes a culture is nuanced and difficult to get your arms around; sometimes it is in your face leaving you no doubt. Think of Joni Mitchell and Slayer. Nuance versus a ball peen hammer to the forebrain.

Over the past 18 years, I have worked for a number of companies in a number of geographies. I have spent time in smaller, ego-driven companies and time in large organizations that have years of cultural baggage to weigh them down. I have worked in Japan, the UK, France, Spain, and Germany where country specific nuance has a great impact on company culture. In all of that time, across all of those geographies, I have not come across a corporate culture as strong as SoftLayer’s.

When newly minted SoftLayer employees arrived at the Alpha facility, it was a curious thing to observe because (being relatively new, myself) I could not tell the difference between old and new employees. Everyone was decked out in the unofficial SoftLayer uniform – a black SoftLayer shirt and jeans. On the official move in day, a tattoo artist was on site to ink people. In the two days he was there 15 people were tattooed, including a couple of people who did not work at SL, but were married to someone who did.

The proviso was that each tattoo had to be SoftLayer related. I am still awed by this – I have never seen this before. I cannot remember anyone from anyplace else that I worked making the suggestion, never mind actually going through with it. And if I think about it for a second, no one would have done it even though we all professed pride in the company and what it represented. Either we BELIEVE in where SoftLayer is going, and are proud to be a part of it, or we are all a little off-center, crazy even.

Think of it in terms of chickens and pigs – a chicken is involved in the breakfast process. The pig is committed. We are committed to making SoftLayer succeed.

The guy who applied the ink is now the official SoftLayer tattoo artist. He will be back and I suspect that he will have a line up as long as he had previously; perhaps longer given we now have 13 souls who wear the battle scars resultant from conversations with wives and girlfriends to explain what was done. Those who sit in the chair next will have the benefit of lessons learned from those conversations – they would be better prepared to successfully navigate them.

-@quigleymar

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