This week I had the good fortune to speak with Vanessa Wilson, CEO and Co-Founder of StorReduce, the first cloud native, on-demand global inline deduplication software for unstructured data stored in an object store, like Amazon S3 and OpenStack Swift. StorReduce’s engine is able to transparently deduplicate data inline at speeds of up to 900 MB/s and typically achieves 97% deduplication on backup data. Now based in the US, the company is recommended, and winning paying clients, over large legacy players like EMC & NetApp through many of the largest object stores.
How did you develop the idea for StorReduce and what drew you to this problem?
Hugh Emberson one of my Co-founders and I were running a business that backed up small to mid-size enterprises. The underpinning technology which Hugh had created was world leading. Thanks to our mentor from the Advance Innovation Australia program we got in-front of the US CTO of one of the largest storage companies (EMC, now DellEMC). He confirmed that the storage technology we used (deduplication for object storage) was world leading and could move data off on-premises appliances like EMC’s Data Domains, to cloud. We decided to change our technology to handle massive scale and to sell it to the US enterprise market. We then got in-front of Australian and international technology heads thanks to Heads Over Heels and Innovation Bay. They confirmed they would want to buy our proposed software to move data to cloud.
How did you find your co-founders?
Hugh, Mark & I (the 3 co-founders) are all in the same group of friends and have all known each other for over 15 years. Hugh and I were running another company together. Hugh & Mark were competing for top spot in Computer Science at University.
What are some of your strengths that really helped you build the company?
Really it’s our team that is amazing. Everyone works incredibly hard and smart in globally dispersed locations and is excited to be changing the object storage landscape.
My personal traits that have helped are:
- Tenacity. Things take longer and are harder than you expect. Being a founder I am naturally optimistic and tenacity balances that out.
- Curiosity. I don’t assume I know the answer for ‘why’ buyers may want our product — I always want to know why and what we can add to make it better for them, which has kept us ahead of the market so far.
- Apparently I am also quite a hustler.
What was the catalyst that made you take the plunge and start StorReduce? What would you be doing if you hadn’t started it?
I knew Hugh was very talented at technology through his success at Cameron Systems (an Australian startup that produced software that more than 2% of global equities trade on). I thought that was a handy skill I should put to our joint advantage. I had spent years setting up an international limb or a new product line for companies and wanted to start something up for myself. The timing was perfect for us to start StorReduce as cloud had recently come in and enterprises needed a way to get massive amounts of data to cloud and make it useable once there.
If I wasn’t doing this I’d probably still be setting up a part of someone else’s business, which I always enjoyed.
How did you get your initial funding to get StorReduce off the ground?
Hugh and I self-funded for some time whilst he built the initial technology. Then I presented at Head over Heels, an Innovation Bay Angel dinner and participated in the Springboard program. Our initial investment came from those connections. We’ve been really lucky to have such great investors from the start!
What resources have been most helpful to you in starting up?
Some of our advisors, like Ben Kepes quickly connected us to incredibly successful founders in the US cloud eco-system who like what we’re doing, so they meet with us and give great advice and introductions. Ian Gardiner has shared great connections throughout Amazon Web Services and the wider business community.
Springboard was a great help on fundraising and people like Topaz Conway and Bill Trestrail have been extremely generous with their connections. Renata Cooper of Forming Circles Global has been great at social media advice.
For many areas other than just legal, our US lawyers Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati have been invaluable.
What has been the most surprising part of running your own company? What were you not expecting?
Despite planning and strategy, timing and being in the right place can still be essential to your biggest breaks. When we got a notification from our website that one of the creators of Cleversafe had just downloaded our whitepaper, we were in the correct timezone and emailed asking him to have a call which he was happy to do and it has lead to great things (Cleversafe is the object store that IBM acquired for US$1.3bn). We’ve had countless breakthroughs from ‘being in the room’ at the right time. I had underestimated just how much it would quicken our company by relocating to the USA.
Who have been your greatest mentors in this journey and what are the key things you’ve learnt from them?
We have a great network of amazingly talented people who offer us specific advice in specific situations. Typically founders who have exited successfully, or are still CEO of their company and people on the boards of listed companies pro-actively offer us advice and want to see our team do well. They have shared a lot of their experiences on building their teams, go to market, funding strategies, plus strategies around cloud, private object storage and channel sales.