56: How Repeat Entrepreneur Ellen Rubin Launched a Latency-Killing Cloud Storage Solution
Today we have the CEO and co-founder of ClearSky, Ellen Rubin. Ellen built a career on finding people with outrageous idea and launching companies that help bring those ideas to fruition. Her first entrepreneur endeavor, Netezza, revolutionized data warehousing before it was purchased by IBM in 2010 for nearly $2 billion. Her second company, CloudSwitch, was named a “Cool Vendor” by Gartner before being acquired by Verizon. She’s been on an incredible journey, lots of adventures and a wealth of experience in the tech industry.
You’re often labeled as a serial entrepreneur and have enjoyed fantastic success. I love the fact that you built a career on finding people with outrageous ideas and launching companies that help bring those ideas to fruition. Can you share any memories from back then?
I’m drawn to the early stages of creation and innovation and also to the people who live in that world. In particular people who are inventors, hard core technologists, people who like to think about a problem that seems like an unsolvable problem and then go let me figure out if I can solve it. I’ve now done three different companies like that and been part of another company that I was in from the earliest stages.
I have no end of stories but very briefly the company that was part of Netezza I joined before there was product and stayed through post APO and ultimately the company got bought by IBM. We built that company to about 130 million in revenues and global, profitable public it was a really exciting ride. But in the early days you don’t know any of that. What was compelling to me was the idea that we were trying to do something that sounded a little crazy which was to take on Oracle and IBM and EMC and all of the really established vendors and essentially say we were going to provide 10 times the performance for data warehousing and analytics at half the cost.
It was huge leap and we were doing it in a particular way with a new model, a new category we created called data warehouse appliances and it was just extremely out there.
Can you tell my listeners a little about what ClearSky offers?
We’re a venture back company in Boston. We’re about two years old and we’re just now in the market. We have a managed service for enterprises that are really far along in trying to figure out their transition to the cloud.
What do you think is holding back some companies from Cloud adoption and could this lead to them eventually getting left behind?
There’s a huge change since my last company to now Clear Sky in terms of seeing how much adoption has already taken place. There’s definitely a philosophy out there of cloud first. If I’m going to do something new. If I’m going to build a new application or new line of business I’m going to look to the cloud model as the way to develop my applications and I will only do something more traditional if I can’t make that work or don’t believe it would be a good fit.
Security used to be the reason people didn’t want to move to the cloud but I don’t think that’s the reason anymore. I think the cloud security capabilities that have been checked and audited and the compliance stuff that’s been put in place is really excellent and in some cases better than what customers had on their premises environment.
For anybody listening to the show that could have that crazy idea or even be half way down the road on their journey towards a tech entrepreneur, what’s the best advice you could give them?
I do a lot of mentoring and advising with people who are at earlier stages. This particular focus on the customer and having that hands on experience with the customer is something I see very often. Being an entrepreneur is hard and it’s not quick and easy in terms of “I’m going to be Mark Zuckerburg and everything is going to be a billion dollar this and unicorn that” a lot of what you have to do takes a long time and it can be getting up every day and saying “this is working and this isn’t and how are we going to move forward?”
You have to surround yourself with a group of mentors who can help you with different aspects of things and skills you don’t have or be there as a sounding board for you. I always encourage people to invest part of their time on a weekly basis if not more often to building those relationships.
What’s next for Clear Sky?
The goal is to continue to expand. We just brought New York and Washington D.C online in the last couple months and we’re planning to expand more this year. I would hope over the next year or two you will see us across North America and starting to expand globally.
What’s the best way to find out more about Clear Sky?
We’re on the web at www.clearskydata.com. I’m active on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook so it’s easy to find me there. If we’re not in the city where you are we’re coming to a nearby city soon. We do a lot of local events and reach out to people to tell them more about our story and find out the kinds of things they are interested in doing in the cloud.
Check Out Neil’s Column at INC. called Tomorrow’s Tech
Please also see check out the related article from my column: How This Repeat Entrepreneur Launched a Latency-Killing Cloud Storage Solution