(Note: I asked Andy K to write up a post about his Eastern European microISV because while there’s some excellent microISVs based in that part of the world, they seldom get the attention U.S.-based businesses do. Andy wrote this up as a post about his partner, Pavel Bondarchuck, and it’s a bit “markety” for my tastes, but has some useful points. And since Andy is working for someone else still, he has not shared his last name with me, or anyone else online.)
By Andy K
CloudBerry Explorer for Amazon S3
After managing software development teams for computer multinationals for 8 years, Pavel decided to switch gears and do a start-up of his own. Now – 6 months later – his head is “in the clouds”, his micro-ISV – CloudBerry Lab is quickly gaining traction, their first tool – CloudBerry Explorer for Amazon S3 – is among the most popular freeware tools for Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3), and they are quickly expanding their product set with more Amazon and Twitter products and services.
Going into Clouds
Just a year ago Pavel was managing a regular programmers’ team at a big software vendor, and then things changed.
“For a long time I felt that everything in the database world was already invented ,” – he recalls – “Then, all of a sudden heard about cloud storage promising resources on demand, unlimited scalability and pay-as-you-go model, no installation, no configuration… Just start using it when you need it and pay for as much as you use it. This sounded like a new promising technology for me and I set out to start a new adventure.”
What’s in a Name?
Picking a company name is not easy these days. One can spend hours doing WHOIS searches only to find that .com domains for any words and acronyms coming to mind are already taken. To make things even more difficult, Pavel and his team wanted to have a meaningful and properly spelled (!) name, ideally starting with the word “cloud” – that’s how CloudBerry Lab came into being. And although Pavel still has to dismiss RIM’s Blackberry-related questions every now and then, CloudBerry Lab brand is starting to get some visibility of its own.
Having a database background, Pavel got quickly attracted to Amazon’s S3 service. The biggest stumbling point he got was the command-line interface as the only option. There had to be a better way to manage your files regardless of where they are – and that’s how CloudBerry Explorer for Amazon S3 freeware was born.
The explorer is a nice two-pane file manager that lets you easily copy or move files between your local hard drive and S3 drives (called “buckets”) out there in the cloud. With all the friction gone, S3 now literally becomes a simple extension to your local storage which anyone can use.
CloudBerry Explorer quickly went up the S3 tools charts, encouraging CloudBerry to further expand their Amazon presence. CloudBerry Online Backup which is currently in beta (worth signing up now by the way, as every tester is promised a free license once the product is out) is built on the same proven technology and makes personal data backup and restore easy and automated.
Living on a shoe-string makes one consider grass-root marketing as the number one way to make the business visible – and that’s where Twitter came in handy.
Pavel ‘s partner Andy signed up as @cloudberryman, set up a search for “Amazon S3” and started reaching out to anyone having trouble with the service which CloudBerry’s tools could solve.
“We notice that if you respond instantly there is a huge chance that people respond immediately and download the product.” –Pavel says – “In fact, we have been able to find some good friends this way who help me to make the product even better.”
This Twitter activity proved to be very successful. These days Twitter is in CloudBerry’s top 5 referrer’s constantly driving traffic to their web site.
Engineers see the world as a place which can always be made better. Same thing applied to Twitter. It did not take Pavel and his friends long to realize that there were Twitter tools they wish they had.
They developed a Twitter browser plug-in that helps users post quotes from the websites they visit and together with short URLs to the pages. Select the quote you want to tweet, click the plug-in button – and your tweet goes live – as easy as it can ever get!
One of CloudBerry engineers has developed IE plug-ins in the past and was able to hit the ground running in no time. It took CloudBerry Labs just a week to make the first working alpha version of the plug-in. Another week to straighten things up, to put all graphics in place, and fix a few nasty issues – and the IE add-on was out on the web.
Firefox was a bit more tricky. No one on the team had necessary background so Pavel went to the web and found a freelancer with Firefox extension experience. CloudBerry delivered all the necessary design documents, sketches, graphics, Twitter API calls; freelancer wrapped this into Firefox extension code; and they worked together to test and stabilize the plug-in. This flexible mixed approach was a great way to quickly expand into a new technology area with limited development resources.
Now plug-in is available for both Internet Explorer and Firefox.
Twitte.la – is CloudBerry Labs latest child. The online service allows to quickly and easily see keyword popularity trends on Twitter. Pick either one or two keywords and see how much they were mentioned by the Twitter community lately. A great tool for any company’s marketing department including CloudBerry Labs itself.
Despite the early success Pavel believes that CloudBerry Lab still has not found its ultimate killer product. However, he truly enjoys the mISV path he has taken after quite and stable global ISV life.
“I feel like a child about to open a box with the gift,” – he jokes – “And, as wise men say, if you never try it you will never be able to say if it works for you or not. “