When I Knew The ‘Cloud’ Was Going To Be Big

I ran across some notes the other day I had prepared for an Entrepreneur Magazine interview I was doing with regards to launching Post.Bid.Ship. and using the cloud. Because the interview was going to include how I came to embrace the cloud, I decided to write about the moment I knew the ‘Cloud’ was going to be big.

The reality of the ‘Cloud’ came to me well before the word “Cloud” was yet being used. That moment occurred in 2006 when one of my clients at my company Think Outsource named TheHopeLine, a non-profit Christian ministry, was looking to invest in a more robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system as well as expand their current Avaya phone system (both were sold as on-site installations at the time and there were no reliable cloud offerings then). After evaluating the choices of potential vendors including Oracle, IBM, Avaya and Cisco, I honestly felt my client who had done well would to that point was not yet able to properly meet the financial and staffing requirements needed to manage such powerful and robust systems.

After great debate, I strongly felt there should be a company that could acquire this great yet expensive technology and lease it out to several companies and make a return on the investment by providing the services to multiple tenants at a reduced cost compared to owning it. This would save companies who used this type of purchasing known then as ‘Hardware as a Service’ (HaaS) and ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) the upfront cost of buying the technology as well as lower their total cost of ownership by sharing the cost of maintenance and upgrades across several organizations.

I felt so strongly such a company should exists, I invested $75,000 of my own money and open a new division within Think Outsource, Inc. to provide such ‘leasing’ services. I would later secure $1,200,000 in capital to grow that division and later spin it out as a stand-alone company while at the sametime selling a majority interest of that company to a private equity firm.

Yep, it became clear to me after that experience that the ‘Cloud’ would be a big thing (it wasn’t called the ‘Cloud’ back then). I decided after receiving that investment to stop selling on-premise servers, network systems and CRM systems and eventually exit those businesses all together in 2007 because I strongly felt the future of technology delivery was going to the ‘Cloud’. I no longer wanted to sell on-premise systems because I felt those systems were going to be obsolete soon due to the cloud and I just was not comfortable selling products I no longer believed in.

Several friends and experts I had for years worked with and I trusted for guidance in the hardware and software industries would often debate me on those then uncommon views. My response to them was “I feel it is 1908 and I am making horse shoes. Then all the sudden a Ford Model T goes by the front of my horse shoe shop for the very first time. I have a choice to make: 1) I could choose to continue making horse shoes or 2) I could retool and adapt with the changing time. You, my friends, can choose to continue to make horse shoes but for me, I am going to work on Model T’s.”

Realizing that the ‘Cloud’ should play a dominant role in my future, in 2010 I decided to start a web-based company built 100% online. That company, Post.Bid.Ship., Inc., I along with my team built using only cloud-based systems proving to myself and the world that owning servers and software was no longer required. (To read why I later stepped down as CEO of Post.Bid.Ship., click here. To see the new CEO of Post.Bid.Ship. on CNBC talking about the future of the company, click here.)

I remember thinking back in 2006, I can see us eventually getting all our digital and software services whether for personal or business use much like we get our electricity today, from a utility provider. Since then with companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix  and Apple, our digital services almost now come almost exclusively via the cloud. My vision I had in 2006 is indeed coming true. Having on-premise servers and other equipment like phone systems and network switches will be to our kids much like owning a coal burning generator or using oil burning lamps are to our generation now. Yes, it is true some companies do still produce their own electricity but they are the exception and not the rule, few and far apart. Welcome to the cloud!

Note: To read the Entrepreneur Magazine article that appeared based on this interview, click here.