Interview with Paul Ford, future How to Web speaker & Startup Spotlight jury member

Paul Ford from Softlayer is one of the most creative tech strategists we’ve had the pleasure to meet. You’ll find more than 5 jobs, all current, listed on his LinkedIn profile and if there’s one thing you should know about him it’s that he never stops innovating.

Paul is Vice President of SoftLayer Technologies, Inc., and he’s also in charge of Ecosystem Development and Community Development. He also mentors tech startups at various accelerators and mentorship programs, such as: TechStars, TechStars Cloud, TechStars Austin or Patriot Boot Camp. His specialties include some of the most exciting tech fields out there: cloud computing, ecosystem building, advanced computing infrastructure, computer graphics and visualization and many more. And the best part is that he’s coming to How to Web in just one month from today!

Paul will be talking about the essential role of innovation in the tech world, and he will also be a member of the jury that will evaluate the 32 Startup Spotlight finalists, so we’re all excited to have him on board. Because of his widely spread, cross-discipline experience, we wanted to pick his brain for some valuable info on cloud infrastructure, partnering with a well established, long lasting corporation and leveraging a startup’s best assets in order to get an investment. Enjoy his insightful answers:

1. Bigger countries obviously understand the benefits of cloud infrastructure. Why do you think that other countries, such as Romania, are having a hard time adopting this solution?

Actually, I’m not sure that they actually ARE having a hard time with Cloud Computing. I think that the “Cloud Awareness” issue lies in the maturity of the technology market in any geography, which, in my opinion is largely driven by innovative early stage startup scene participants.

For quite a few years, the relatively low cost and high quality coders in Romania were seen by bigger markets as a cost effective way to outsource technology development. People didn’t really look at Romania as a place to go and start a company. But, as the tech scene in Romania matured, the highly skilled engineers who were once the workers in other countries outsource movements have become the startup entrepreneurs of Romania today. As with many countries that have experienced the same shift, people finally realized – “Hey, why am I writing code for other people all day when I could be getting ahead writing code for myself”.

Entrepreneurs are masters at getting the most done for the least cost. That’s not the result of some “grand design” of startup entrepreneurs, its because we do whatever we have to do to see our dreams and visions of creating kick ass (and profitable) technology companies actually happen. Because Cloud is a pay-as-you-go consumption model, its really great for startups who only want to pay for what they need, when they need it. The cloud lets everyone scale up when there is high demand, and back down when things taper off. You only pay for what you need, and what you use. Perfect for the cost-conscious entrepreneur who is coding their dream 23 hours a day!

2. What are some key lessons that you’ve learnt after partnering with IBM?

IBM acquired SoftLayer to become one of the core components of their global Cloud strategy. I’d say this is pretty strong validation that what we’ve built over the last six years is really good. The IBM acquisition is only a few months old, so the future is wide open for our continued success. I think that we both have a lot to learn from each other and I’m looking forward to seeing where this next phase of our journey takes us.

3. What was your main asset when you raised millions of dollars from angel, seed, venture capital and private equity companies? What do these all have in common?

My main asset in raising money has always been a great team, and a drive to succeed no matter what.

I work with over one hundred accelerators globally. I’m a Mentor at TechStars, 500 Startups, Seedcamp and more. I also work closely with hundreds of VC’s and funding sources everywhere. To say that I’m privy to a lot of deal flow would be an understatement. There are a couple of things regarding raising money that I’ve found to be almost universally true – especially now having experience on both sides of the table.

1 – It’s all about the Team. Are they smart? Are they good? Can they execute on whatever crazy thing it is they are trying to do? These are the questions that everyone on the money side of the table will be asking themselves during those first meetings. Trust me!

2 – Does this idea driven by this team have a plausible chance of success? Everyone in the funding scene knows that whatever you start with as a startup is rarely what you will end up with as a “final” technology or product. Can this team pivot and grow and change with market conditions and the evolution of competitors and other outside factors that they have no control of? If the answer is yes, you have a pretty good chance.

Also remember: VCs generally never fund business plans. No one cares or believes them anyway. They fund teams who they believe can deliver results.

For a front row seat at Paul’s keynote at How to Web, make sure to get your ticket and book November 20 and 21 in your calendar. It’s gonna be legendary!

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