Startup City Magazine

Make it Simple and Easy

By Tom Buiocch, CEO, Drobo

Tom Buiocch, CEO, Drobo

San Francisco based Drobo, develops automated storage products designed to ensure data is always protected, accessible and simple to manage. The company has received a total of $43 million funding from Greylock Partners, RRE Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Focus Ventures.

I've been fortunate to have been in the tech industry for almost 30 years now, in big companies and small, in various roles that have led me to live and work in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. And you know what strikes me as the most compelling, common, differentiating, and everlasting benefit of successful products? They make things easier for you. Not cheaper, or sophisticated, or bigger, or faster, but easier. Why is this benefit so important? Because easier usually means you save time and hassle, which in turn saves you a lot of other things. One is usually money, and another is peace of mind, which also leads to a lot of good things. Think of the original PC, the Apple Mac, HP printers, the Internet, and now the new smart phones. All these breakthrough products have had a pervasive and long-lasting impact on their markets. Then think of the million other cheaper, faster, bigger products we’ve all seen in that time. Which ones paved the way? Which do we rely on every day of our lives? The easier ones. The others come and go. Today there is a need for easier storage for your digital information. For example, consumers are now demanding their entire data including music, pictures, videos, computer backups, and work information to be stored and accessible easily. Never has the need for easy, affordable, and reliable storage been so high. Large enterprises are covered – they spend billions of dollars on the most expensive and sophisticated gear, and then add teams of dedicated specialists to manage it. But, what about the 72 million small businesses worldwide? They also depend on digital storage, but they rarely have the budget, staff, or time to do what the big enterprises do. They need something EASY. But easy without compromises, easy with the right features, the right automation, the right price, easy to buy, set up, use, , maintain and expand. Sadly (and predictably), most of the folks that provide storage to this demographic follow the “cheaper, bigger, faster” formula. Their solutions are very forgettable, and they are not easy.

Two of the newest technologies helping to drive breakthroughs in the storage industry are the cloud and solid-state storage devices (SSDs). Although they are still in their infancies and are quite expensive, these technologies promise to make storage faster, more reliable and (ahem!) easier in the long run.

But, what about the current scenario? Interestingly, demand for digital storage is growing fastest among small to medium size businesses those that spend less than $25,000 for complete storage solutions. How can such businesses extract immediate benefits from the power of these two storage mega-trends without having to become expert at all of the technical and economic tradeoffs? Without an offshore bank account and a team of storage PhDs? Perhaps a solution that automates storage usage and provides an easy-to-understand user interface can package the power of the cloud and SSDs in a way that is ubiquitously understandable and beneficial – so they're no longer reserved for the elite domain of the largest and richest enterprise customers. Interestingly, the market segment with the fastest growing demand for digital storage is the "small-medium" customer segment – those who spend less than $25,000 for complete storage solutions for their business. There’s a great opportunity here for a company to become the "Apple of storage," and we certainly think it can be done.

My advice to entrepreneurs mirrors the messages above – think simple. You'll make a big difference, your customers will pay for your solution, and you will be thanked and rewarded in the long run.


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