Another day and another previous winner of two awards at Tech Trailblazers who has written in to share their success story having gone on to greater things since winning. Today we’re catching up with Deborah Lamb, Business Development Manager at ioFABRIC. The company won both the Storage and the Male CxO Trailblazers Awards in 2017 – check out ioFABRIC in the list of last year’s winners here.
Could you give me a brief description of your company and what your focus is?
ioFABRIC is, at heart, a data management company. Whether you call that software-defined, or data fabric, or even data availability, that’s the category where we live. Our core product is ioFABRIC Vicinity. Vicinity automatically manages all the “neighborhoods” or zones where data lives, whether it’s on servers, VMs, containers, or clouds, so data is always accessible and always secured. Our team has worked together for more than 20 years through several successful startups that seem to introduce the right technology at the right time the market wants it.
How has winning the Tech Trailblazers award helped you?
Firstly, I want to thank Tech Trailblazers for not just recognizing our product but also our CTO and co-founder Rayan Zachariassen in the male CxO category. Rayan is a true pioneer in the industry, particularly here in Canada. He was the founder of Canada’s first commercial ISP and also developed one of the first internet firewalls. Rayan has been instrumental in developing new networking, software, virtualization, and storage technologies that people use widely today.
Secondly, I think this award came at an interesting time in the industry. We were, and still are, really, only at the beginning stages of seeing artificial intelligence in commercially-available enterprise technology. The idea is that these products run AI algorithms to configure themselves, operate themselves, and even fix themselves. Vicinity has a form of AI called swarm intelligence. Swarm intelligence uses logic to adapt to complex environments and then apply rules as needed. It’s key to how we contain the cost of capacity growth, because Vicinity learns to keep the data on the most cost-effective storage that still gets the job done. So this award recognized us as one of the first to use AI in this way.
What words of encouragement would you give to a company which is weighing up whether to enter the Awards?
These awards are selected by users of enterprise technologies, by IT professionals themselves, not by paid pundits. That makes it far more democratic, and allows recognition for vendors besides the usual Silicon Valley suspects. Nothing against the Silicon Valley business model, but it has a tendency to reward its own. So my words of encouragement are that your product is going to be judged by the people and the organizations that you are supposed to be serving. Either you’re confident your product serves that constituency, or you aren’t, and if you aren’t, you probably have bigger questions than whether to enter it for this award.
Are there any tips you could give a company to help them with entering the awards?
You need to network it. We went to all our users, our integrators, our business partner contacts, our Twitter followers, friendly journalists, and asked them to consider voting (for us). It may seem shameless but it was a nice exercise in terms of reaching out and touching all these supporters, and in the case of customers, making sure the product is still giving them value. And of course we were thrilled that people chose Rayan.
Do you have any advice in general for startup companies, trying to survive in the current economic climate?
I recently read that the most challenging lesson for a startup executive is to learn to celebrate half-victories. Maybe the big customer didn’t sign the contract, the reporter didn’t cover your product launch, the investor didn’t come through, the analyst gave you discouraging feedback. But we have to learn to appreciate what we did achieve. We got a meeting with that big prospective customer, as a startup company challenging an incumbent vendor! We got the attention of the reporter, the investor, the analyst, even if the answer was no. We moved the ball a little closer to the next milestone, and closer to the next victory. Sometimes half-victories are not easy, and we should be proud of those too.
How is the future looking for you? What’s next for you?
We are seeing cool things from IT service providers that provide systems integrating our software. We did a pilot project with one of our Australian partners, Aeontech, in a phone and screen-sharing session. The customer’s IT staff was amazed watching their data shift from one place to another, hot data moving to fast flash storage, inactive data moving to slower hard disks or the cloud, like magic. We have another partner, Xenium, that sells its customers a private cloud with Vicinity for built-in data management and security. Without getting too into the weeds, the way Vicinity handles data protection creates an unassailable defense against ransomware. Even though that’s only one of many features, it’s a hot one right now, and I think we’ll see organizations coming to us purely because they need to buy a point solution for ransomware. And then maybe we’ll be able to show them what else we can do for them, or, we’ll just celebrate that half-victory.