StartUs Presents: CloudFleet

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Christoph Witzany is not only the founder of CloudFleet but also Admiral of the Clouds. We spoke to him about the impact of secure communication in every day life and how the startup's solution will help get back your privacy.

Describe CloudFleet in 50 words or less.

CloudFleet is you private data center. It will make it possible to communicate securely and privately and will develop into a personal assistant, that serves you and not some corporate overlords.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

I strongly believe that the world needs a solution that allows people to communicate securely and take control of their own data. Luckily I found other people that shared my vision. With this team I just felt to have the responsibility to materialize the idea.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

Is there something like a typical working day for a startup founder? For me there isn’t. An exemplary week looks like this: Securing a studio space for our crowdfunding video and write a blog post on Monday, hunting down a bug in our build system on Tuesday, preparing slides for a lightning talk at a conference on Wednesday, going over the business plan on Thursday and planning the social media activity for the next week on Friday. The only constant is the great team we have at CloudFleet, that is still going full steam towards our mission.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

Currently the Internet suffers from a heavy centralization. Services millions of people rely on every day are controlled by just a handful of companies. But like the advent of the personal computer changed the landscape of computing by giving people access to their own computer, where only centralized mainframes had ruled before, the personal data center will give people access to an infrastructure that allows to redecentralize the net. We believe in data autonomy and in the right to privacy, and by rallying the people who believe in the same values (a free internet and ownership of our data), it’s possible to change not just the way people value and understand the information they give out to corporations in exchange for free services, but also to change laws that give us access to what’s ours. In seven years time, we hope to see a bigger percentage of the world’s population have control over their own data.

Already pivoted? Did customers use the data center like you imagined it in the beginning?

Our mission did not change at all. We still want to create an easy and affordable way for people to host their personal data center for their private data. Having said that, talking to as many people as possible was invaluable for finding the best entry vector into the space. And while it does not always make sense to follow the wishes of your customers verbatim, their feedback will tell you how you can create the best possible product.

Why did you decide to create a hardware device instead of a web service?

Only if you own the hardware your algorithm runs on, you are really in control of your data. To make sure that nobody can read it, you have to host it at your premises. That’s why we decided to go the extra mile and create a solution that includes dedicated hardware.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

One way for us to measure our success — at least in the next few weeks — will be how many people decide to back our crowdfunding campaign. Of course, metrics and analytics are important, and we monitor those on a regular basis; but what we’re also interested in is starting a conversation. Privacy should be something that people talk about; seeing people engage with us on the topics of surveillance and data autonomy gives us the strength to focus on what’s important, namely to create a product that is made by people, for people.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

Until now our fuel is the mission. All of us work on CloudFleet on the side and even put in money for conferences, marketing material and infrastructure. As I said, our next milestone will be our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. After that we might go for a modest angel round, to be able to speed up the development of new features and to increase our marketing efforts.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

Well, we are mostly driven by our mission, not primarily by the desire to make as much money as possible in a short period of time. We are confident that people will increasingly come to see the value in having control over their private data. Whenever they do, CloudFleet will be the first address to go to.

At this time most new companies still go for centralized solutions as they are easier to engineer and give more possibilities to capture and lock in customers. The audacity of CloudFleet to do it the hard way will give us an edge when people start to realize what they got themselves into.

What do you look for in team members?

Any team member of CloudFleet must understand and buy into the mission of changing the world by giving back the control over private data to the people, where it belongs. They also have to have the technological knowledge to understand our architecture or the desire to acquire it. As representants of CloudFleet they must be able to explain the advantages of CloudFleet to both technical and non-technical people. And of course every team member must be great in her or his primary role at the company, be that Designer, Social Media Manager or Developer.

Why would a talent join your team?

Joining CloudFleet means to be part of an effort that will change the world. Not change the world like a new chat application or another dating platform. CloudFleet will change the way we look at the Internet and how we communicate digitally. So if someone wants to go to a place where she or he really makes an impact, CloudFleet is the place to be.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

Shooting our IndieGoGo campaign video was a pretty memorable moment for us. We shot the scenes over several days, so not everyone was present every time; but for the team scene, we all had to be there. Even though most of the team meets on a weekly basis, our designer doesn’t actually live in Vienna. This means we are a partly distributed team and occasions when we’re all together in one room are rare. The video shoot was a way to bring us all closer, and we had a lot of fun.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

I think the most important quality of a founder is perseverance. The famous quote of Ben Horowitz “As a start-up CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every 2 hours and cried.” is something many founders can probably relate to. To withstand the pressure it is very important to have a network of people that support you.

Try to simplify your life outside the startup. Every decision you have to make takes energy. Decision fatigue and the inevitable setbacks of a startup can drive you into a burn out pretty fast. Make sure you leave time for activities that take your mind off work and provide enjoyment and little successes, that balance out the frustration. Going to the gym every day for 30 minutes will not reduce your productivity, but you will get fit without having to take decisions.

StartUs Presents: CloudFleet-Indigegogo


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