Photo: Manny Ruiz
For any startup founder, the first few months are an uphill battle.During this time, it’s crucial to develop a solid infrastructure that will protect your intellectual property, manage complex data systems, and ensure that you can scale up without any major glitches. It’s a daunting task.
To get some insight, we’ve reached out to Manny Ruiz of Intelligent IT, who offered to answer a few questions on how to successfully launch a startup.
Below is a slightly-edited transcript of our conversation:
Many startup founders are on a shoestring budget. Is it OK to do some of the basic tech work in-house at first?
When you have limited funds, people do two things. An operations person does the tech work, or a sales person does it, and you feel your way through. Don’t do that.
If you’re not going to hire a tech person, get a free consultation. It’s not worth it to have a cheap Linksys router that breaks when you’re setting it up. It’s better to get 3 hours from an expert versus 20 hours from someone putzing around. Get a team of experts, and build your company right.
What are some of the biggest challenges startups face?
Before handling anything related to tech, first establish this: what is your business and what business function you have? Do you want to be able to open an office, work from home? And what do you want to provide your clients? Technology will be a deliverer of these business solutions.
The big challenge is risk mitigation. Do you hire someone versus a consultant? You’re losing money every day you’re open, and it’s key to do it right.
What have you learned working with startups in Silicon Alley?
The biggest concern among these startups is culture. They want to establish themselves as different, but without the investment in tools and the right people, it could be chaotic. If you have 30 people in New York, 30 in San Francisco, and IT is an afterthought, how do you expect to support explosive growth without centralized management? How do you manage your assets, grow and scale effectively without affecting your culture in a rigid way?
What’s your best advice to startup founders?
Go with the cloud. It mitigates risk. It’s a redundant methodology that applies to data centres. It encompasses data, voice, video, email. The cloud makes sense when storing, processing and transferring data. You need inventory and centralized management, and you don’t want bulky infrastructure. The cloud delivers platform and software as a virtualized service.
When you have limited funds on the business side — say, you’ve raised $6 million in a seed round — you’re bleeding money. You’re going to hire 20, 30 people, and the company may die in a year. The cloud is pay as you go. Almost all startups are using the cloud. Anything hosted on the Internet is the cloud.
How would you advise companies as they scale up?
When you have a company that gets to a certain size, you should look beyond the cloud. Custom applications won’t work if don’t have a dedicated server. If you’re steady and growing, create a private data centre, and use the cloud if there’s a fire, so there’s minimal or no disruption. Day to day, use the processing data centre. Costs can get very high to maintain the cloud. Midmarket folks will also shift away from the cloud over concerns with IP, performance issues, control and analytics. In the cloud, you have a limit on the analytics you can run.
Are there drawbacks to using the cloud?
Some people have strong feelings about putting data on the cloud. You are letting [the host] copy and replicate data. Google has the most transparent licenses, where they say, “Hey, it’s your data,” but others are more ambiguous.
What other new developments are you seeing in the startup world?
There’s a great new social company that connects startups who need capital with investors. It’s this broad new ecosystem. Everything is really social right now. Going social means that we’re moving well beyond the primary method of communication, which was email. Now communications between companies will be really group based. It’s going to be topics and subscriptions, where you have circles or groups of influence. You can post private or public messages. People no longer have to consciously send information.
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