BizSpark Startup Featured on Azure - Zazzy

Bet you never thought you would see a marriage between Linux and jewelry.

Well, two big trends have heated up over the past three years -- online retail that is quick and easy and what many call the maker revolution, where people who are good with their hands and their creativity can make things and ship them at scale for the world population.

One startup we know is tapping into both of those with 3-D rendering and the cloud. 

Zazzy, a BizSpark startup out of the Netherlands, makes it possible to design your very own unique jewelry online. They make 3D printed jewelry super easy, as well as "sexy and personal," according to founder Gert-Jan Spriensma. 

"We use Windows Azure for our high-performance rendering framework running on a scalable cloud of virtual machines (Linux instances), as well as our main website, database, and storage," he tells us.


Here's our interview with Gert.

Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?

We developed for scale, but since we are now live we get in revenue as well.

Do you make reasonable predictions about how you are going to achieve revenue and then test them out, or do you start with a business model and deploy it, to see if it brings in revenue?

We have a very easy model; a typical e-commerce business model with a gross margin of about 50%-60%.

What questions do you think a startup non-technical founder needs to answer when considering a cloud architecture for his or her startup, and I am thinking specifically here during the business model generation period?

First of all, are we building a performance intensive platform that will need quick (up- and down) scaling at all? Then questions about privacy and other global-storage consequences follow.

What questions do you and your technical co-founder / engineering team feel are the most important to solve about the business aspects of your company?

We need to figure out the distribution channels. Obviously this is one of the most important aspects of each company. You can make great products, but you need to figure out how it is going to spread around the world. I my previous role at Appstore analytics company Distimo I saw some companies getting enormous traction without a clear distribution plan, but this are the exceptions I think.

Where do you include technical members of your team during the building of your business plan?

Everywhere, it is a mutual project. So non-technical founders need to be included in the tech part and techies need to be involved in every aspect of the business as well.

How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy and how much of it is based on technical challenges, or the ability to make something just for fun? In other words, where do you fall on the seriousness scale? For fun, for profit, for life?

We love to work on something that enables everybody to do something they were not able to do before, experience 3D printing in it full power (customized items), and that’s a whole lot of fun. I don’t think that founding a company can be done without enjoying it yourself. But we are not in the business for the fun, we are in the business to build a highly profitable company that impacts the life of millions.


When did you decide that you were “startup material”?

In university I founded a company, which was a *** load of fun to do while studying. During internships at large corporates I discovered that those kind of companies and jobs were boring. So after graduation I joined a startup (Distimo), but I wanted to start-up again! About a year I was brainstorming and thinking about it and then I realized I just have to do it, and did it. As for Martijn (tech co-founder), he has seen a wealth of innovative ideas during his studies, which has always been fueling the ambition to actually start a business making innovative ideas happen.

What impact or legacy do you hope to make in the market and in the business world?

Enabling everybody to experience the power of creation. Inspire them to go to the next level and start designing more complex stuff and as we grow and become more advance help them along the way.

What are some of the challenges you face as a founder or developer at a startup, when it comes to dealing with family life, or socially? Does working on a startup change the way you associate and interact in these areas?

As a founder, there are no limits given for work hours. Everything you don't do tonight is not done tomorrow. Limits need to be set artificially and time for relatives need to be reserved. Interaction with friends also tends to become more to-the-point with an eye on the next step in your business.

What characteristics do you possess that make you an entrepreneur? What makes your startup a startup?

The sole idea that you’re about to change the world.


Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?

Microsoft has been very instrumental in helping us with setting up the infrastructure that enables us to scale, no matter our (non-Microsoft) software preference.

Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?

Great help, good start-up deals and opportunity to get featured.


Tell us about your Azure based solution.

Technically, we automated the work of a 3D jewelry designer. This task requires a considerable amount of processing power, requiring a sophisticated cloud modeling & rendering farm set-up. The modeling & rendering cloud is using custom Linux virtual machines. Furthermore, we have an extra VM running our main website and database, plus Azure Storage for the designed jewelry.

How did you get excited about Azure?

The fact that Azure lets customers run a wealth of different software platforms combined with the BizSpark offer let us build a custom scalable platform quickly.

What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?

Automatic load balancer, scriptable VM spin-ups and spin-downs.

What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?

Think about what your company's product needs (instant) scaling for and identify your critical component to scale. Then decide which cloud service to use (Rackspace, Azure, AWS, Google Apps, Heroku) based on component requirements and pricing offer.

Gert-Jan Spriensma