For almost four months, Ontario-based money transfer startup Remitbee was having an incredibly frustrating experience with the Microsoft Azure cloud. Through no fault of its own, Remitbee’s entire application on Azure would randomly reset, and customers couldn’t complete their transactions.
Remitbee’s technical staff had barely wanted to use the Azure cloud in the first place, says co-founder Pra Theepan. The 25-strong company are mostly “Mac guys” who said that Microsoft were “dinosaurs.”
That perception wasn’t helped by the fact that all of their support requests to Microsoft went totally unanswered.
Microsoft Azure is Redmond’s entry into the huge-and-growing cloud computing market, where you can swipe a credit card and get access to essentially unlimited computing power. It competes with the likes of Amazon Web Services and Google Compute Engine.
It was Theepan, a self-professed “Microsoft fan,” who convinced Remitbee to go with Azure, and so it was Theepan who got blamed when these issues seriously interfering with its business. Even his co-founder started to get in on the blame game, Theepan says. The team started seriously considering scrapping Azure and moving to Google instead, which would have been a major disruption.
Finally, one day last month, Theepan had a thought during his morning shower: If Microsoft’s usual support system wasn’t working, why not go to the top?
At 8:30 AM local time, Theepan shot Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella a brief email explaining their issues, saying that he loved Microsoft but this issue might lose them Remitbee’s business. (Microsoft’s email addresses aren’t hard to guess, once you know the pattern.)
Around 10:00AM, an hour and a half later, Nadella replied, apologizing for the issue.
“Really sorry about this. I am copying [Executive Vice President of Cloud and Enterprise] Scott [Guthrie] and [Corporate Vice President of Azure] Jason [Zander] to directly followup. We are very committed to improving here and hopefully we can earn your trust back,” Nadella wrote.
It meant that Theepan had some good news for the team when they rolled into the office.
“Everybody was dumbfounded,” Theepan says.
One conference call with Guthrie, Zander, and Azure support techs later, and it turned out that Microsoft already had a fix for the issue that it just needed to apply to Remitbee’s account.
“Bam, bam, bam,” Theepan says, and Remitbee was back up and running with no problems by 5:30.
Guthrie promised Theepan that Remitbee could always reach out to him in case of future troubles, and enrolled the company in Microsoft’s BizSpark program for startups, giving them some free credits on the Azure cloud.
Now, Remitbee’s developers are pretty happy, and nobody’s talking about moving away from Azure.
“I don’t hear the complaining anymore,” Theepan says.
Nadella is a busy guy. But Azure was one of his biggest success stories before taking the reins at the head of Microsoft, so Remitbee’s story must have hit him in a soft spot.