Thursday, November 6, 2008

BYOS - Build Your Own Startup: Slideshare, a Successful Startup in the Cloud

In this episode, Bernard talks about a cloud computing company. True, it is not his, but his friends', so it should also count. 

Everybody is in the cloud, where is the common man?

Hardly a day passes by without a dozen articles about the cloud. Microsoft promised Windows clouds called Azure, and Google and Amazon already provide clouds of computers to hundreds of thousands of developers.But what's in it for the people?

Bernard Celebrates The Successes of His Friends

Bernard:  Hi, Pleemo, I have not seen you for ages, it looks like you've been hiding, and I suspect I know why. You have not gone too far with your prototype on the Google App Engine!
Pleemo: You are correct, Bernard, but I in turn have not seen you anywhere. I think I know why you haven't shown up - you could not come up with a business idea of your own.
Bernard:  You are also correct. I have a surprise for you though, but first tell me if you accept your defeat.
Pleemo:  I do. I could not keep up all my other projects and develop my prototype at the same time. Which proves that you were right and I was wrong: with all the excitement about the cloud, you still need a human to program it. And all programming projects take longer than planned.
Bernard:  Okay, Pleemo, don't be all that upset. Rather, look at what I have to show you. Admittedly, it is not my own idea and not my own startup, but that of my friends. Do you know SlideShare?
Pleemo:  I've heard about it.
Bernard:  Well, then you may know that this is an online place to share your slides, in formats such as Microsoft PowerPoint or OpenOffice Presentations. What you might not know, however, is that this is a high-profile startup which runs completely in the cloud. 
Pleemo:  What is high-profile about it?
Bernard:  First of all, it's the team,from whom I know some people. Here is the CEO, Rashmi Sinha, with Jon Boutelle (the head geek), and Guy Kawasaki (Garage Technology Venture, "The Capitalist Manifesto", remember?) you must have heard of at least one name! And yesterday a SlideShare application became available at LinkedIn. I call this a success, with 800K visitors monthly and 300% growth in the last year. All of that was possible because they run completely in the cloud, as Jon Boutelle would tell you. And BIG NEWS, they have recently got funded - they tell you about it in slides, of course!
Pleemo:  You've got me entranced. I knew part, but not all, of the story. 
Bernard:  Aha! That is the power of being connected with the right people. Thank you to my friends!
Pleemo:  But how does the cloud come in?
Bernard:  For that, look at the EC2 cloud, which has made the whole world talk about clouds. Steve Ballmer recently said that Microsoft was working on the cloud at the time that EC2 was released, measuring time in EC2 milestones.
Pleemo:  I'm all ears.
Bernard:  Here's the scoop. Slideshare would not be able to pull it off without the EC2 cloud. They do a lot of data crunching and data storing. When a user uploads a new slide show, it has to be converted to the SlideShare format, for best viewing. They use EC2 computers to do it. And when the user wants to see the show, it gets downloaded directly from the Amazon cloud. The SlideShare computers do no work - instead, they give it to Amazon's S3 (Simple Storage Service).
I have heard John Boutelle talk about "Bootstrapping SlideShare with Amazon Web Service and using S3 to avoid VC." You, Pleemo, should also read about how they use Ruby with Amazon S3 to speed up development - and they share the lessons they learned!
Pleemo:  So what do they gain?
Bernard:  A lot! S3 automatically scales up, so that when more people want the shows, S3 just adds capacity. S3 also backs everything up, so SlideShare does not have to. And of course, SlideShare only pays for what it uses. In fact, it was called the YouTube of slides (good marketing shtick which led to financing). Here is my friend Richard MacManus giving you his thoughts on their success.
Pleemo:  I will upload my next show there. You have beaten me and you have taught me a lesson. Beware, though, I have a great thing to tell you next time.
Bernard:  What is it?
Pleemo:  I am talking to a company which builds cloud applications for others. They are also a great success, and they have a unique approach of helping their clients succeed. So while you have found a great example, I may find a whole bunch of examples next time! Arrivederci!
Bernard:  Tot Ziens!

Pleemo and Bernard failed. They have not invented any new ideas. It is not that easy! But, it is okay to celebrate the successes of others and learn from others. What am I to do with such brilliancy? I will just keep listening and recording what I hear.

If you have your own questions or answers, leave your comments or join the discussion.

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