Alen Peacock is the Co-Founder leader of the technology team at Space Monkey, a service that takes the cloud out of the datacenter to make online storage cheaper, faster, bigger, greener, and more reliable.
We’re building core technology, so getting really skilled engineers with the right experience on board early was critical. We optimized for this by emphasizing how hard the problems we were working on were to solve, how much impact, autonomy, and ownership contributors would have, and imbuing these roles with purpose. Coupled with a rigorous interview process, we haven’t had trouble finding the right people.
We decided to attend the Launch Festival in San Francisco, CA shortly after receiving some initial angel funding and ended up being crowned “Best New Startup.” We offered pre-orders in conjunction with that event, generating tens of thousands of dollars in revenue in just a few days.
We view ourselves primarily as a software company, but we have a hardware component. We’d originally hoped to outsource the hardware to an ODM or be able to source most components already assembled. We found out relatively early that this wouldn’t work, but had serendipitously hired a great hardware guy into a software role. With the help of some outside firms for actual production, we’ve been able to do most hardware design in-house.
I’ve worked in several sectors in the software industry (Fortune 500s, Finance, National Research, and Academic Research), but the most fun and biggest impact I’ve ever had was at a startup. We wanted to build a place where people could come to work to make a real difference in the world, and our company mission is to do just that: change how the world stores data, forever.
Expect lots of rejection. We pitched more than 40 times before someone was willing to write the first check in our angel round. This was in stark contrast to our seed-series financing, where more money wanted in than we had room for. We eventually brought Polaris, Google Ventures, Venture51, Morado and other great individuals on board.
Asking for help and advice can be incredibly energizing. Our software stack was built heavily on a labor of love that I developed alone over several years. Gradually letting go of complete control over the code base was difficult for me, but I’ve learned that when I trust and place responsibility on others’ shoulders, they often not only rise to the occasion, but produce better results than I ever could have alone.
Ideas are easy. Constantly reminding myself that anyone can have a good idea – even the one I may be working on right now – is motivational to actually building something. And building something is where the real value begins.
I was finishing up a stint at a previous startup, Mozy, where I had initially met my co-founder, Clint Gordon-Carroll. He had left the company a little while after it was acquired, but we’d kept in touch, occasionally pinging each other with ideas we could develop into a company. If it weren’t for his constant encouragement, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to quit and jump into the startup waters. I highly recommend finding a good friend and co-founder like Clint.
Because we value employee autonomy so highly, we’ve tried very hard to defer to employee decisions regarding technology dependencies and architecture when it makes sense. Sometimes, this has worked out great. Sometimes it has been a mistake. Finding the right cultural balance on how consensus is reached and how decisions are made is always challenging, but we’re getting better at it.
We’re swimming against the current by claiming that storing customer files in cloud data centers is inherently expensive, slow, inefficient, vulnerable, and bad for the environment. Instead, we should be putting storage assets close to the user. You have to be a little crazy to try to turn an entire industry on its head like this, but it’s also the most compelling part of our story.