Posts Tagged 'Startups'

August 7, 2014

Deploy or Die

“Forget about being a futurist, become a now-ist.” With those words, Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, ends his most recent talk at TED. What thrills me the most is his encouragement to apply agile principles throughout any innovation process, and creating in the moment, building quickly and improving constantly is the story we’ve been advocating at SoftLayer for a long while.

Joi says that this new approach is possible thanks to the Internet. I actually want to take it further. Because the Internet has been around a lot longer than these agile principles, I argue that the real catalyst for the startups and technology disruptors we see nowadays was the widespread, affordable availability of cloud resources. The chance of deploying infrastructure on demand without long-term commitments, anywhere in the world, and with an option to scale it up and down on the fly decreased the cost of innovation dramatically. And fueling that innovation has always been raison d'être of SoftLayer.

Joi compares two innovation models: the before the Internet (I will go ahead and replace “Internet” with “cloud,” which I believe makes the case even stronger) and the new model. The world seemed to be much more structured before the cloud, governed by a certain set of rules and laws. When the cloud happened, it became very complex, low cost, and fast, with Newtonian rules being often defied.

Before, creating something new would cost millions of dollars. The process started with commercial minds, aka MBAs, who’d write a business plan, look for money to support it, and then hire designers and engineers to build the thing. Recently, this MBA-driven model has flipped: first designers and engineers build a thing, then they look for money from VCs or larger organizations, then they write a business plan, and then they move on to hiring MBAs.

A couple of months ago, I started to share this same observation more loudly. In the past, if an organization wanted to bring something new to the market, or just make iteration to the existing offering, it involved a lot of resources, from time, to people, to supporting infrastructure. Only a handful of ideas, after cumbersome fights with processes, budget restrictions, and people (and their egos), got to see the daylight. Change was a luxury.

Nowadays the creators are people who used to be in the shadows, mainly taking instructions from “management” and spinning the hamster wheel they were put on. Now, the “IT crowd” no longer sits in the basements of their offices. They are creating new revenue streams and becoming driving forces within their organizations, or they are rolling out their own businesses as startup founders. There is a whole new breed of technology entrepreneurs thriving on what the cloud offers.

Coming back to the TED talk, Joi brings great examples proving that this new designers/engineers-driven model has pushed innovation to the edges and beyond not only in software development, but also in manufacturing, medicine, and other disciplines. He describes bottom-up innovation as democratic, chaotic, and hard to control, where traditional rules don’t apply anymore. He replaces the demo-or-die motto with a new one: deploy or die, stating that you have to bring something to the real world for it to really count.

He walks us through the principles behind the new way of doing things, and for each of those, without any hesitation, I can add, “and that’s exactly what the cloud enables” as an ending to each statement:

  • Principle 1: Pull Over Push is about pulling the resources from the network as you need them, rather than stocking them in the center and controlling everything. And that’s exactly what the cloud enables.
  • Principle 2: Learning Over Education means drawing conclusions and learning on the go—not from static information, but by experimenting, testing things in real life, playing around with your idea, seeing what comes out of it, and applying the lessons moving forward. And that’s exactly what the cloud enables.
  • Principle 3: Compass Over Maps calls out the high cost of writing a plan or mapping the whole project, as it usually turns out not to be very accurate nor useful in the unpredictable world we live in. It’s better not to plan the whole thing with all the details ahead, but to know the direction you’re headed and leave yourself the freedom of flexibility, to adjust as you go, taking into account the changes resulting from each step. And that’s exactly what the cloud enables.

I dare to say that all the above is the true power of cloud without fluff, leaving you with an easy choice when facing the deploy-or-die dilemma.

- Michalina

August 6, 2014

Healthy Startups: HealthXL Global Gathering in Dublin

We’ve all heard nightmare stories about the health care industry. The combination of insurance companies, health care providers, government regulation, and literal “life and death” situations can make for a contentious environment. And with the outdated policies and procedures that permeate the industry, it’s a perfect opportunity for innovation.

When I met Martin Kelly of HealthXL a few months ago, I was intrigued by what he was building. He saw the need for innovation in health care, and he started looking around for the startups that were focusing on these kinds of issues. And while he encountered several groups with a health care focus, no one really took the lead to connect them all together to collaborate or strategize about how startups can really change health care. I mean REALLY change it.

Martin, a former IBMer, is super-passionate about innovation in technology for the health care industry, so he leveraged the IBM network and the relationships he built during his time at IBM to address a few simple questions:

  • What needs to happen in health care, through technology, to make the experience and the system better for us all?
  • What is the moonshot that needs to happen for true innovation to happen?

The group he brought together consisted of experts from enterprise companies like the Cleveland Clinic, ResMed, and Johnson & Johnson as well as startup influencers in the health care community like Aussie Jason Berek-Lewis of HealthyStartups and Silicon Valley Bank.

And when those different viewpoints came together, he realized the questions weren’t quite as “simple” as he expected.

Martin invited me to join the conversation for three days at the HealthXL Global Gathering in Dublin to hear what global leaders in the industry are saying about health care. And boy … was I surprised.

To their credit, these leaders (and their respective companies) are very willing and capable to innovate. They feel the pain of heavy administrative responsibilities, often involving duplication and triplication of work. They know how hard it is to track patients from different systems as they change jobs, insurance companies, and providers. They struggle with not being able to communicate effectively with insurance providers. And they fully understand how over-commoditized health care has become as well as its decentralization of focus from patients.

The bottom line: They feel the pain of not having the right technology to run more efficient, cost-effective, and patient-centered health care businesses. They’ve seen the finance industry integrate technology over the past few years, but they're somewhat unsure of what that could look like for them. This can only mean that there are huge opportunities for startups and innovative technologies.

I couldn’t help but consider of how nicely these conversations fit in with the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator powered by our friends at TechStars that @andy_mui and I visited in March. The conversations inside that accelerator are the missing pieces to the conversations that companies like the Cleveland Clinic and Johnson & Johnson were having. Those enterprises have the opportunity to invest in early stage entrepreneurs and born-on-the-Web startups to incubate technologies and solutions that would prove in time to make their businesses more profitable and efficient.

But the biggest opportunity is what that means for patients.

The most telling story to play out over the next 10 years will be whether the largest health care providers and other businesses will approach these market opportunities in pursuit of cultivating a health care system that prioritizes patients. After hearing the conversation at the HealthXL accelerator global summit, that’s the ultimate challenge.

The startup ecosystem is full of entrepreneurs and teams that can deliver on the goal of improving health care while secondarily (and in some cases indirectly) improving the way heath care businesses run. These efficiencies will result in MORE clients, customers, partners, and profitability in the end, but they may require some hefty changes at the outset. Will the industry allow itself to admit what it doesn’t know?

I am excited to see where this goes. In a few years, I think we’re going to consider Martin Kelly as a key builder of this movement, and more and more businesses will be turning to him for answers to the most important of all questions: “How do we do this?”

We’re excited to be able to support Martin and all of the health care startups in the marketplace today. What will the future of health care look like when these innovators and entrepreneurs are done with it?

The possibilities are endless.

-@JoshuaKrammes

May 29, 2014

Startups and BBQ – The New Memphis

BB King. Elvis. Graceland. Jerry Lee Lewis. Beale Street. Cotton. Shipping. Martin Luther King. Civil Rights on the national stage. All of these things come to mind when you think of Memphis, Tennessee. You can now add one more to that list: Startups.

Yep. That’s right. Startups.

Memphis has a long history of economic success. From the early days of its settlement, it was a shipping and trading hub for the early United States thanks to the Mississippi River. It progressed into one of the world’s largest cotton producers, even having a cotton exchange similar to the stock exchange on Wall Street. As our country grew, so did Memphis’ value because of geographic location. Today, more than 60 percent of the U.S. population is within a one-day drive of Memphis. It has grown into a logistics hub and houses several North American railway companies, as well as FedEx.

What’s awesome to see on my second stop of our 2014 small-market tour, is that there is an undercurrent happening in Memphis that is shifting the landscape of the economic success of the region to technology. And it’s happening through the leadership of folks like Eric Mathews and Patrick Woods. Mathews heads up StartCo, a regional accelerator with 20 startups, all of which have come to Memphis to develop their companies. Woods is in charge of a very unique program, started by A>M Ventures that helps early stage companies get the right message out about their products, who they are, and where they are going.

Our team met Woods at SXSW in 2013. Over the past year, we have worked together to help Woods’ outreach efforts by building a bridge from Memphis to Silicon Valley and through other early stage startup communities. We connected with Mathews at SXSW this year through one of our strongest partners, the Global Accelerator Network. Mathews was very convincing. He not only showed me a startup community that was thriving, but he also fed me world-class BBQ at the same time.

Did somebody say BBQ? You don’t really have to ask @KelleyHilborn or me twice. Our Pavlovian response kicked in and we had our flights booked before you could flip a coin.

Last week marked the annual celebration of Memphis’ BBQ Fest – one of the largest festivals of its kind in the world. It also marked the first week for the StartCo teams, and we were there to welcome them with some SoftLayer Catalyst goodness (as a side to that BBQ).

We met with all of the teams and were greeted by folks from all over the world. Teams from NYC, Europe, Silicon Valley, and even local Memphis were made up of entrepreneurs who were eager to hear about Catalyst and how we could connect them to our community. From big data companies, to analytics companies and even a company that manufactures a chip for your dog, these teams definitely have the smarts and character to disrupt and succeed.

Our office and mentor hours provided us a strong foundation to connect with the startups one-on-one. BBQ Fest and events with A>M Ventures, StartCo, and our friends from Keen.io gave us an opportunity to spend two full days with the entrepreneurs, getting a higher sense of where they hoped to take their businesses.

The teams in Memphis are just as hungry, innovative, capable, and smart as any we work with in our startup ecosystems around the world. What we loved most about our time in Memphis was how welcoming the local leaders were, and further how open-minded they are to making a positive impact on this world. The leadership that is building this tech ecosystem from the ground up is doing so in an open, communal, and giving way, which all tech ecosystems need to be built upon.

Because of this philosophy, they are ensuring their success. They’re creating a community based on collaboration and mutual success. It reminds me of cities like Boulder and Portland. These cities were built on the same principles, and they enjoy greater success than many other larger markets.

And SoftLayer was there at the beginning. We’re excited to watch this ecosystem grow, and to continue collaborating to help support people like Mathews, Woods and many others in Memphis who see the forest through the trees.

Next stop on the small market express…Kelowna, British Columbia. Our very own @gkdog will be delivering a keynote and sitting on a panel, instilling our community and strategic philosophies on his home Canadian turf.

-@JoshuaKrammes

April 3, 2014

Sprint Accelerator Spices Up Silicon Prairie

As part of the community development team here at SoftLayer, I get to travel the world and reach into cities to help local, born-on-the-Web communities grow and prosper. Last week, my travels took me (and my rock star team) to Kansas City, where we were invited to mentor startups in the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator powered by TechStars (PBTS).

I know when you think of KC, you might not think of a technology startup community. As part of Silicon Prairie, where startups and tech are thriving, KC is taking its place amongst US tech communities, as companies like Sprint, Garmin, H&R Block, and Hallmark are investing in the local startup community.

Through the course of the days I spent in KC, we talked to 10 startups and held technical office hours. What we learned is that the startups in this accelerator had all of the qualities we hope to find: grit and determination coupled with brains and insane talent. (And some of the teams we met with are growing so quickly that they even have open positions.)

What struck me most from my trip was the sheer fact that even though I live in the epicenter of all things tech startup, I can see with my own eyes that the rest of the world is catching up––and they are doing so quickly. Most of the teams at Sprint PBTS are not from the startup mega cities like New York and San Francisco. They are from places off the beaten path. I’m happy to see it, and I’m even more excited for my trips later this year to other parts of the country like Memphis, Detroit, and Okanagan, where I’m sure to be as impressed as I was with KC.

True, for the time being the venture capital and investment communities will likely still steer startups toward the Bay Area, but I’m not convinced that is a trend that will continue forever. I’m more and more certain that as we advance technologies—and as SoftLayer maintains its edge in building the best platform on which to create them––geography will become a secondary factor in the success of startups.

Our Catalyst Startup Program provides that platform for early stage startups around the globe. Members have innovative concepts that need reliable infrastructure to support their growth from idea to enterprise. Recently, I sat down in front of a camera to share an overview of the program and it's benefits from the perspective of Catalyst member HAUL. Here is a crash course on Catalyst:

I believe in a year, a few of the teams from the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator will combine forces to create one company that will eventually become a household name. Their evolution will be fun to watch from the beginning to end. And we are going to watch them closely. They’re going to do it, and we are going to be with them every step of the way.

-@joshuakrammes

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