Silicon Valley Tour With The Rackspace Startup Program

The Space Cowboys from the Rackspace Startup Program were in Silicon Valley for the last couple of weeks visiting startups and helping spread the word on the next generation Rackspace Cloud.

It all started with a star-studded event hosted by Robert Scoble at the Rackspace office in San Francisco discussing open cloud with startups Nicira and SOASTA. “Everything that we do in cloud computing came from an open environment,” say Tom Lounibos, CEO of SOASTA. “It has advantages that go well beyond the simple term open.”

Next on the agenda was the OpenStack Design Summit & Conference. Developers and OpenStack aficionados from Rackspace, NASA, eBay, Citrix Systems, Dell, Cisco and more discussed governance policies, collaboration tools, networking, scaling applications, open sourced clouds and a plethora of topics relating to OpenStack. And the Space Cowboys were there to answer any next gen cloud questions for startups.

From the OpenStack Design Summit, it was on to the Mama Bear Family Technology Conference organized by Dave McClure of 500 Startups. Mama Bear is a series of practical talks from entrepreneurs working within the family market. The keynote speaker at the conference was LeVar Burton, formerly of television series Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Burton, who is currently working on his own startup, stated in his keynote, “We need to do a better job of teaching a child what media literacy is.”

The visit continued with stops at Founders Den, ChartBoost and The Hub Bay Area in San Francisco. Founders Den is a shared office space and private club for experienced entrepreneurs and their friends. At ChartBoost, a direct-deals mobile advertising marketplace startup, discussions revolved around getting involved in an upcoming hack-a-thon. At The Hub Bay Area in San Francisco, we met the founder and president of KCITP – Kansas City IT Professionals, Mike Gelphman, who encouraged us to “visit the Midwest, get involved in and help blow up the rust belt startup movement.”

Within the startup community, there are accelerators that focus on the niche. San Francisco is home to a couple of those. Upwest Labs is an entrepreneur in-residence program founded by Gil Ben-Artzy and Shuly Galili that supports Israel’s best startups. The highly competitive and dynamic environment is designed to ”level the playing field” for Israeli entrepreneurs seeking to successfully innovate and grow their startups. NewME Accelerator is a place for minority led startups which calls The Hub Bay Area home. Founded by Angela Benton and managed by Wayne Sutton, the mission of NewME is to accelerate, educate and inform underrepresented technology entrepreneurs around the world. We had the opportunity to visit with teams who were refining their company pitches for the NewME Demo Day which happens this week at Google’s headquarters.

Heading up to Mountain View, we spent time with the current 500 Startups class. 500 Startups launched in 2010 under the guidance of super angel investor Dave McClure as an early-stage seed fund and incubator program. It invests primarily in consumer and SMB Internet startups and related web infrastructure services. It also produces numerous conferences, events and world tours including Geeks on a Plane, Warm Gun, Inbox Love, The Lean Startup SXSW and SMASH Summit. The current 500 class, including a couple of international startups from the UK and Italy, are working diligently on their ideas in anticipation of Demo Day coming up in July.

Rolling back to Palo Alto, we were amazed at how many programs are housed at AOL. First is StartX, the Stanford University student startup accelerator founded by Cameron Teitelman with senior managing director Jeff Mounzer. The mission at StartX is to accelerate the development of the highest potential Stanford founders through experiential education, enabling them to create serious impact. Next is First Floor Labs, founded by former Facebook expatriate Maisy Samuelson and Adam Smith from AOL Ventures. First Floor provides office space and support for startups to help overcome the challenges inherent in starting a company for a six month period and encourages collaboration with startups at StartX.

Our tour ended at Imagine K12, where the belief is that technology is transforming K-12 education. Imagine K12 is a for-profit enterprise looking to invest time, experience, energy and resources in entrepreneurs who have a passion for education and the technical know-how to create their vision. We visited with Tim Brady, managing partner of Imagine K12, while teams from the spring 2012 cohort worked on refining their final presentations which will be shown to the world this week.

So there you have it – a taste of what it’s like to tour Silicon Valley with the Rackspace Startup Program. Many thanks to all of the groups we were able to spend time with; the entrepreneurs from such diverse backgrounds creating what they believe will disrupt the space they are working within; and to the leadership at Rackspace for allowing us to evangelize the startup movement. Are you an entrepreneur with a startup idea? If so, the Space Cowboys would like to hear from you on how we can help you build and promote your next big thing.

John McKenna loves startups and is a Space Cowboy with the Rackspace Startup Program. He also crafts customer stories and produces 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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