Rackspace Startup Program Insider with John Engates

Over the last year it has truly been a privilege to share stories with you about some of the companies, partners and events that the Space Cowboys have attended within the Rackspace Startup Program. The technology world is buzzing with brilliant entrepreneurial minds creating new ways and improving on old ones, making our planet a better place. This innovation makes the stories easy to tell.

This year I want to bring you behind the curtain and give you an inside look at some of the people right here at Rackspace who work hand in hand with the Rackspace Startup Program and are startup evangelists to the core. Introducing the Rackspace Startup Program Insider, stories from stakeholders within Rackspace who understand the importance of the startup revolution that is driving the future of technology. After all, we were a startup not that long ago.

When Rackspace opened the San Francisco office late last year, we executed a most excellent webcast wrapped around a panel discussion hosted by Robert Scoble with special guests Eric Ries, entrepreneur and author of the popular book The Lean Startup, and John Engates, Chief Technology Officer at Rackspace. The hour long discussion emphasized the impact that the startup community is having on fueling the modern economy and the growth of Cloud Computing. This event was the inspiration for the Insider and who better to kick off the series than Rackspace’s own tech guru, John Engates.

What is your job at Rackspace?

Be a visionary for Rackspace. Spend time with customers and Rackers and help them understand where our technology is heading.

What do Startups mean to Rackspace?

Startups are the life blood of Rackspace. We love to work with startups because it becomes a partnership rather than just a vendor-customer relationship. They don’t usually have a big IT staff so they really rely on Rackspace for their infrastructure needs… including help with the architecture design and day to day operations. Many of our largest and most exciting customers are, or at least were, startups. They have very different needs and usually push us to go faster and do more for them.

Explain the Entrepreneurial Spirit within Rackspace?

Rackspace is like a giant startup. We’ve lost a couple of founders over the years, but most of the original leadership team members are still around and continuing to run the company in much the same way we did in the early days. The idea of Fanatical Support™ is to make sure that Rackers on the front lines have the ability to interact with their customers as if they were a small business owner. A small business has a relationship with its customers and does what’s right. That how we want Rackspace to feel.

What is your favorite Startup story within Rackspace?

Hot or Not. It was originally called AmIHotorNot and it was a website where you could rate the looks of girls and guys via a website on a scale of 1 to 10. The site started on the end of a cable modem or DSL line and was quickly so popular that the company hired Rackspace to install 20 servers over the weekend to transition the site to an infrastructure that could handle the load. There were many more stories over the years exactly like these… YouTube and Funny or Die were two video sharing sites that experienced similar challenges and turned to Rackspace. There are countess examples of startups that got their start on Rackspace and many are still going strong 10+ years later.

Why was the Rackspace Startup Program conceived?

To demonstrate Rackspace’s commitment to helping startups grow. It’s a bit like raising children. The investment in love, care, education and attention are so important in the early years of a child’s life. If you get them off to a strong start, they’ll finish strong. Rackspace and Fanatical Support™ are the equivalents for a startup… a good foundation to grow into real, long lasting businesses over time.

What does Fanatical Support™ mean to a Startup?

Fanatical Support™ means that a startup can treat Rackspace as an extension of their team. A team is only as strong as its weakest member and you wouldn’t allow a weak team member to drag down a small team. By that logic you wouldn’t hire a second rate hosting provider. You want a specialist… the best. Fanatical Support™ gives you instant access to the best expertise in the industry.

What advantages does Rackspace Cloud Computing provide for a Startup?

The cloud allows startups access to the same technology available to the big guys. It also allows the infrastructure to grow and shrink in proportion to the traffic. If you need more servers, just turn them on. You only pay for what you use. It democratizes the access to technology and gives startups a level playing field so that the cost of getting started doesn’t eat up all the seed funding in the first week.

What is the best advice that you could give to a Startup?

Think big. Right now I’m reading Steve Jobs’ biography and it’s very inspiring. Steve used the slogan “think different” so I won’t rip him off on that one, but I think small teams who think big can accomplish way more than they think they can. Some of the best startups I’ve come across were two guys and a big idea!

If you could launch a Startup right now, what would it be and why?

If I could launch a startup right now, it would probably have something to do with Nanotechnology and its potential to be used as an alternative to traditional medical treatments. Nano scale technology is going to change everything. I know this is way out there, but it’s in our future and the technology is not that far away.

There you have it. An Insider view of how important growing startups are to Rackspace with our in-house technology chief, John Engates. The Rackspace Startup Program thanks John for all he does in educating our entrepreneurs on advancing technologies in Cloud Computing and his enthusiasm in helping cultivate the startup movement inside Rackspace! Get all of the Insider information for your startup by contacting the Space Cowboys today.

John McKenna loves startups and was a Space Cowboy with the Rackspace Startup Program. He also crafted customer stories and produced really cool videos for the Customer Reference Program. John enjoys telling stories through his writings…and loves the beach, the ranch, his dog Blue and most of all his three beautiful daughters.


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