Startup clouds must have the growth gene

Opinion Adrian Bridgwater Nov 21, 2012

Startups are a good fit for the cloud but there's still a danger of going down the wrong route

There's plenty of debate about the right time for enterprises to move to the cloud, there's argument about the benefits for small businesses but there's one group for whom cloud is an obvious way forward, I mean, of course, startups.

These are the people with no legacy to worry about and who are least likely to spend money on infrastructure. Cloud and startups are such a natural fit that Rackspace has put some money behind an initiative in this area and has launched the Rackspace Startup Programme over in the UK.

The first meeting was held last night at the Google Campus London building and featured a ‘Boost Your Start-Up’ networking event and power discussion, in support of the Rackspace Startup Programme. The idea is to provide low cost cloud hosting and support services to startup incubators and has helped 850 startups since launching in the US two years ago.

With Robert ‘Scobleizer’ Scoble performing a logical role as chair and moderator, speakers also included Rackspace founder and chairman Graham Weston, founder and CEO of Ariadne Capital and Entrepreneur Country Julie Meyer, as well as mayor of San Antonio Texas Julián Castro.

After Meyer and co had repeated the words belief, belief, belief several times, she reminded the audience that they need both serendipity and chutzpah if they want to secure their first round of venture capital funding.

Castro was not fazed by Meyer’s push for an open approach to government data in what she called a "reciprocal" framework, where individuals have more access to information and power. Indeed, Mayor Castro talks of a new America and with his incredibly modest Hispanic roots he is currently being hailed as the ‘next Obama’ by many commentators.

The event highlighted the fact that in 2009 nearly 250,000 VAT registered businesses started in the UK. So the argument goes, given the cloud model’s inherent flexibility and elasticity, plus the fact that it requires minimal capital expenditure up front and its ability to scale, it could be an essential differentiator for many fast growth businesses. 

No lastminute clouds
For Rackspace VP of technology Nigel Beighton, there are longer-term considerations for startups attracted by the ‘allure’ of apparently lower cost cloud models. Beighton speaks of his time at the tech helm of lastminute.com and says that short-term plans often preclude more prudent long-term considerations.

"Startups often view a cloud Platform-as-a-Servce (PaaS) layer as a quick and easy way to get going with the intention of re-architecting later. But very few startups ever get the chance to start again, so you need to start with an open framework that you intend to grow with," he said.

Beighton unsurprisingly advocates a cloud model that is based on open standards. But more refreshing is the fact that he insists upon a cloud that is so open that it can be ported across platforms, devices, international geographies and, yes, even, cloud providers.

"Startups choose what they know, not what they know they can scale. Any venture capitalist will always ask if a business model scales. Entrepreneurs should not allow themselves to be pushed into a technological corner by the promise of a quick route startup," added Beighton.

Does Rackspace know what it is talking about? The company did start out as as a ten man entrepreneurial venture itself back in 1998 and Graham Weston is half English by birth, plus Beighton did say that startups should chant the open mantra to keep the door open to ‘any’ cloud provider.

Scobliezer had the final word for entrepreneurs as you might expect saying, “I don’t want to read your press release… if you can’t explain your start up idea to me in one minute then you’re dead.”

Thanks Robert, we love you too.

Adrian Bridgwater

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Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist specialising in cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects of software engineering and project management. With over two decades of technology media experience, his journalistic creed is to bring forward-thinking, impartial, technology editorial to a professional (and hobbyist) technical audience around the world. His mission is to objectively inform, educate and challenge - and through this champion better coding capabilities and ultimately better software engineering.

Email: adrian_bridgwater@cloudpro.co.uk