It’s hot in here
According to IDC, the current estimated market size for cloud storage is $23B. It is projected to grow at 13% every annum and reach $38B by 2017. Those are some pretty enticing numbers for any venture capitalists looking to cash in on their next big exit. Box recently just raised $125M in equity financing, bringing the total valuation of the company past $1B. Back in 2011, Dropbox raised $250M at a whopping $4B valuation from some very prominent VCs (e.g. Goldman Sachs, Benchmark Capital, and Greylock Partners). 2 years later, it is again seeking $250M, but at double the previous valuation. Other “smaller” start-ups are also getting in the game (e.g. Egnyte, SugarSync, Nasuni just a few). Beyond the start-up scene, Tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple all have their own cloud storage service and are marketing them aggressively to consumers and enterprises.
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Recently, I exited from Fleetbit, the company I co-founded right out of college. While the company didn’t turn out to be the kind of wild success we initially hoped for, I am still extremely proud of what my co-founders and I have accomplished over the past 2 years. The company is profitable and has a stable revenue stream from more than a dozen customers; our product is live and stable; and I think we helped push the taxi industry forward. Had Fleetbit not been around, I don’t think any of the existing dispatch software vendors would have embraced mobile as quickly as they did.
The past 2 years has been an amazing journey that was filled with both joy and disappointments. The company was featured on national press like Techcrunch, National Post, BNN, etc. I got a chance to go to China and pitch Fleetbit to prominent VCs and executives. Last but not least, the team drove all the way from Toronto to San Francisco then back, chatting with local taxi fleets in each city along the way.
Despite the modest success we achieved with Fleetbit, there are also deep scars on my back from this experience. They are my badges of honor, but those scars also serve as stern warnings for me and any other aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start a tech company. Below are the 3 key lessons I learned during the past 2 years.
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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like the ones offered on Courera, edX, and Udacity are all the rage these days, and rightly so. In my opinion, MOOC is the most important innovation since the dawn of the internet age. For the first time ever, we can distribute quality Ivy League education content to everyone with a desire to learn..for free. What’s more amazing is that unlike other industries where incumbents are generally fighting against disruptive changes, the elite education institutions (i.e. Harvard, MIT, Stanford etc.) are actually leading the movement.
However, don’t mistaken MOOC as a platform that simply allows millions of people to watch lecture videos online. This is merely the first step, the first hour of the first day in God’s work. To get a glimpse of how technology can fundamentally change the way we learn, watch Conrad Wolfram’s TED talk here.
However, before MOOC gets there, there are still massive problems to solve. Currently, their immediate focus is on refining their core infrastructure. For example, how do we streamline the course production process to help reduce its launch time? How can grading be done effectively for assignments that doesn’t have a clear answer? How do we reach people in China when Youtube is blocked by the government? These are the problems that aren’t sexy to solve, but are mission critical elements that will make or break the user experience.
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