Start-up Stories: European start-up with $bn global ambitions shelves server farm in favour of the Cloud.
What if you decided to sell off all of your servers and move to the Cloud? Sounds like a big step but that’s exactly what Cloudpage did, and they’ve not looked back since. We spoke to Ian Collins and Ekin Caglar to find out why…
Their story started in 2010. Like a modern day scene from the film Casablanca, two Turks and an Englishman sat cradling laptops in a dark corner of a smoke filled room in a café on Istiklal Street in Istanbul, frantically tapping keyboards and intermittently debating the next big Internet opportunity. Little did they know that three years later, their fledgling idea would have the potential to seed the next big Internet phenomenon, and, for Europe, its first truly global Internet businesses.
They were the founders of Sibilo, a pan-European software house that has a 12 year history and an impressive customer list. “It was a hard decision but we decided to pivot and focus on our game-changing idea” recalled Ian Collins, one of the founders.
The company describes Cloudpage as a new type of online publishing solution that gives you a place to publish stand-alone pages of information and share that info via social channels. It’s conceptually new and very different to software for developing websites or creating a blog.
“We saw a gap in the market for people who wanted to publish rich content that doesn’t easily fit in a social post, on a blog or in a website. It’s effectively about publishing a stand-alone page of information – an open letter to the world, your own take on a recipe, a dissertation, a project update, a sales promotion, a single page site and so on. You get the speed and immediacy of a social app coupled with the power of a premium website builder, and with Cloudpage it’s all free.
We launched a private beta earlier this year and the response was so fantastic we knew then we were onto something big. That’s when we decided to spin-out Cloudpage into a stand-alone business and put in place the infrastructure to support a rapid, high volume global operation. Naturally, we thought long and hard about which cloud service provider to go with and in the end we chose Windows Azure for a number of reasons.” Ekin Caglar, Cloudpage founder and CTO, explained why this was the case:
“Cloudpage is completely run inside of servers in the cloud (the clue is in the name!). After brainstorming our needs and looking at solutions in some depth, we came to the conclusion that Windows Azure was the best option for us because of the ‘Platform as a Service’ idea – it means we don’t have to worry about the infrastructure behind the scenes, and in addition we get a complete package of dev tools, services and systems that let us scale quickly in response to customer demand. We kicked off some proof of concepts and did a bit of restructuring to make it work, but basically within just a few days we were up and running. It meant we had the pleasure of auctioning off our servers, based in Manchester, removing all of that extra maintenance, which is a great help for us. Our whole infrastructure is being hosted in the cloud, with databases, website instances and blob/table storage being kept online and without the constant management that an on-site server demanded.
We also now get all the latest software and updates automatically, which is another thing off of our plate – so we can focus on the exciting stuff like building our business.
Overall, cloud services are priceless in terms of the time you can save. They’re hands free and no hassle, which is essential for a start-up.”
The company soft-launched Cloudpage at the Dublin Web Summit back in October 2013 in front of 10,000 attendees. “That was really exciting but boy was that hard work” commented Ian. “We had decided to kick-off a competition at the same time to help raise our profile and because of our own business experiences, we wanted to do something really meaningful for the 800+ start-ups at the event. That’s why we created Start-up Story Competition - an opportunity for start-ups to tell their story, gain some great publicity and of course, win some fantastic prizes. An added bonus is that the judges are all representatives from major tech or start-up related companies, so entrants had the chance to meet some key influencers in the industry.
The competition ran until the end of 2013 by which time we received a huge number of submissions. Entrants used Cloudpage to share their story; talk about the ups and downs, as well as their experiences and learnings and I can reveal, there are some really great stories! The results of the competition will be announced at an awards event and on the competition website in January.
Of course, every start-up needs some strong partners –and at the Summit we were fortunate enough to meet some amazing investors who bring far more than just money. That’s so important for any business but when you have plans for rapid growth in a market space which is dominated by US players, the networks, reach and advice of investors is truly invaluable. So watch this space, we’re in talks at the moment and 2014 is set to be explosive in a number of ways!”
We also grabbed some more time with Ekin about what should be top of mind when making the leap as a start-up.
1. “Do your homework - make completely sure that you are fully prepared for what you are letting yourself in for. Do you understand all of the technology you’re using? Do you know how much it’ll cost? Can your team be as flexible as you?
2. Do some tests – Running tests is important in making sure that the basis for your project is structurally sound. You don’t want anything you can test for to become a roadblock later down the line.
3. Try your hand at a small project - Working on a small project could be exactly what you need to get used the paradigm shift of PaaS. It’ll help you to prepare for your core project while discovering any issues you may run into along the way. It’s also a great eye-opener – you may discover something that helps you in the long run.
4. Make connections – With a simple introduction, Ian was able to schedule a lunch with a Microsoft representative to talk about some of his ideas for Cloudpage. Keep looking for new contacts by approaching anyone and everyone at events. You never know who might become the help you need.
5. Get started – Use everything that you’ve learned up to this point and put your best behind your core project. The experience you’ve gained and the connections you’ve made should make a key difference than simply jumping in at this point.”
We’ve every faith in Cloudpage, and believe they’ve the potential to become something great in 2014, we wish them every success for the New Year!
We hope their story has given you enough inspiration to start considering Windows Azure as the perfect cloud provider for your business.
If you’re a budding start-up, here’s a few reasons why Cloudpage chose Azure:
· Paas – So that they could focus on developing their solution and not worry about infrastructure
· Redundancy – Azure’s built in load balancing features help Cloudpage to be highly available
· Auto scaling– Cloudpage is growing rapidly and this (beta) feature allows the solution to keep with growing customer demand and scale down at quiet times.
Still considering which cloud provider to use? If you’re a startup less than 5 years old and earning less than $1m in turnover, BizSpark gives you credits to Windows Azure, enabling you to try it out for free for 3 years. For more information on BizSpark, visit here.