What is Xcloud Networks all about and how did you start?
Alex: So, in order to explain what XCLOUD Networks is, let me introduce you to a few field-specific concepts first. Telecom operators, data centers, and tech companies all have a network infrastructure which consists of servers and network devices. Servers run applications. And the network devices help connect those servers with one another and with the users. The network part is usually produced by huge companies like Cisco and Juniper.
Years ago, Facebook and Google decided not to proceed with the proprietary, locking methods of Cisco and Juniper and they put big efforts to create Open Networking standard equipment which these days is becoming produced by many vendors such as HP, Dell, Edge-Core and others – together about 9 brands so far. XCLOUD Networks basically develops software and a whole infrastructure solution which works on Open Networking Equipment. Enabling what Facebook’s and Google’s type of infrastructure is but for every single company.
That sounds interesting! And who are your clients?
Alex: We are nearly two years old. And we have two customers. They are both based in Europe. One of them is a telecom operator with a huge network (that stretches from Central America to the Middle East). And the other one is an online gaming company with 25 million user base. The second one has swapped its Cisco/Juniper/F5 based setup with our solution.
Why would a company that large use your product/solution?
Alex: Formerly highly skilled network engineers were the only people who could change anything on the operational network infrastructure. That was leading to huge delays because tech companies or telco operators can require hundreds of such changes every day. With networks growing in size that was becoming a big problem.
With our solution, we fix that gap. As a result, every engineer can manage the network without asking the network engineer for additional help/management. Or the manager can log in to the intuitive web interface and grab all the interesting information. Or in some cases, their customers can go into the web interface and configure services they need.
Such an approach helps people to get what they need immediately instead of waiting for up to 3 days.
From architecture perspective there are advantages as well: traditional networks consist of 3 types of building blocks (switches, firewalls, load balancers). Our solution can combine these 3 functionalities into a single type of box which reduces costs and brings simplicity.
What is the most exciting feature you are working on currently? Or what are your goals for the nearest future?
Alex: We have started with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) like most of the startups do. And we then went on improving it. The first MVP was enough for a telecom company to become an early adopter. We made many improvements based on their feedback of course.
Then we created another MVP which brought the second customer which was from a completely different segment (online services). So, we have gathered different types of feedback from them. We have adapted our network solutions to fit the needs of two industries for now: the telecom operators and companies providing online services. And we are currently improving the existing features and adding new ones. The third direction could be ISPs – companies which provide network services in the corporate segment.
Every new release comes with improvements. In our upcoming release, we will be introducing the so-called “Telescope Dashboard” which will be the best commercial monitoring system for network infrastructures. The monitoring system will be very intelligent in providing relevant information in time to relevant people – without false positives, with capabilities to learn, effectively helping people not only cure failures but also prevent them.
We do experiment with AI algorithms as well. We anticipate that during 1 year time we will introduce AI based analytics which will be able to detect anomalies together with their causes.
How do you promote the product? How do you reach out to potential customers?
Alex: We found our early adopters through the personal network. It is one of the best ways of finding early adopters.
We put efforts on branding and identity building as well as on product’s look and feel. It’s good to create something worthwhile and it’s awesome if you add a nice look and feel to it. Our brand identity and our website are created by Marog Creative Agency.
There is no shortcut to excellence – and excellence is made from details.
So, did I get you right? Are you planning to find your customers through the personal network for the future too?
Alex: We are setting up a reseller network in the US and Europe. By partnering with companies who are offering server and networking products and solutions to their customers. This is a very common approach of getting leads in our industry.
How many people are working on developing the product? What do they do?
Alex: First, we were working with our small team of co-founders (3 people). And then we started gathering the team. We have both developers and network engineers. The developers are developing the product and the network engineers are working mainly with the customers.
I am the CEO. In a startup, the CEO is doing pretty much of everything including but not limited to business and product development.
What do you do if there are conflicts in the team?
Alex: We never have conflicts! (smiling)
Actually, we do our best to create a great company culture. As a startup, we have flexible working hours and a very open atmosphere. We often play guitar or board games. At the same time, our people work hard and it seems they really like what they do.
What was your greatest inspiration when starting Xcloud Networks?
Alex: I’ve been building network infrastructures for 17 years. I have built some large-scale networks as well for Orange (France Telecom), Ucom (one of largest Telco in Caucasus region). So I was in the shoes of Cisco/Juniper customer, I was able to see the shortcomings that these network solution providers have. And I have decided to come up with something innovative, something that would cut the long story short.
Can we say that your greatest inspiration when starting Xcloud Networks was to change something?
Alex: Yeah, actually these days infrastructures are growing faster than the number of specialists. And our long-time vision is that we will help humanity to manage infrastructures on the interplanetary scale by minimizing waste. And the humans will focus only on tasks which require their attention and not on repetitive tasks which are basically a waste of time.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur?
Alex: You have to allocate a lot of time to your startup. Be laser-focused at the same time do many things in parallel, try to be more efficient than most efficient people on the planet, learn and do things that you have never done and do that even better than some professionals. It’s definitely not a 9-6 job. And it’s really hard to establish the much desired work-life balance because family is still the most important thing in your life.
Are there any particular books you would recommend reading?
Alex: Reading, in my opinion, is the most crucial part of successful entrepreneurs’ never-ending learning process.
“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries – this is like entry point before doing entrepreneurship
- “The Art of the Start 2.0” by Guy Kawasaki
- “The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer” by Jeffrey K. Liker
- “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horovitz
- “From Zero to One” by Peter Thiel
If Guy Kawasaki is not your brother and you can’t ask him questions every time – you can read his books which is much similar to discussing things with him.
And lastly, what are the 2 pieces of advice you can give to entrepreneurs-to-be?
- If you really want to do a startup, start it! But know that it will be 20 times harder than you have imagined.
- Target big – target like Elon Musk does.