Straight Up Startup…Featuring Rami Essaid, CEO And Co-founder Of Distil Inc.

Straight Up Startup is a new feature brought to you by the Rackspace Startup Program in which we interview entrepreneurs and upstarts to get their insight on starting a business. Here, startups give  you straight up insight on lessons learned, challenges and wins along the timeline of building a business.

Rami Essaid is the CEO and co-founder of Distil Inc, the first cloud-based data and content protection network that stops malicious web scraping and content theft. With over 10 years in communications, network security and infrastructure management, Rami has advised enterprise companies around the world, helping them embrace the cloud to scale their businesses and brands.

His first entrepreneurial venture was Chit Chat Communications, which he sold only a year after he graduated from college with a degree in Computer Engineering. His professional path then took him to companies like Learning Tree International and Neustar, prior to co-founding Distil Inc., which was part of the inaugural class of 2012 at TechStars Cloud in San Antonio.

A true entrepreneur, learner and startup builder, Rami took the time to talk to the Rackspace Startup Program about what it takes to get a cloud-based business to scale in the real world. He has seen what it takes to build a successful company, and turn it in a short period of time at a young age. What follows are Rami’s thoughts on the essentials of building a startup:

How was Distil Inc. funded?

We reached out to our entire network of advisors, vendors and friends for introductions to different venture capitalists and went to about 50 different pitch meetings before finding the right set of investors we were comfortable taking money from. It was more than just getting money; it was about finding the right partners to work with.

What is the product development strategy at Distil Inc.?

Every month the entire technical team reviews the product roadmap, checks off what has been accomplished that month and what new things take priority.

What was Distil Inc.’s biggest lesson learned?

The biggest business lesson to learn is that things will always go wrong. How you handle yourself and the company when they do will determine your success.

What challenges did you run into?

The largest business challenges have been technical, dealing with issues of scale. We grew faster than expected and quickly had to re-architecht how our systems handled the growth. Since first experiencing growing pains, we relied on partners and industry experts to help us build a more robust platform.

What were the ‘What to Do’ and ‘What not to Do’ that you learned while building your business? 

Make sure there are no loose ends. You need to have tough conversations up front to make sure there are no disputes later on. This means being up front and honest with any current employers about what you are working on. This also means that each founder needs to be clear on their role and equity in the business.

What wins has Distil Inc. achieved?

One of our best wins has been graduating from the TechStars accelerator program. It provided unmatched mentorship and business development.

What was the Good, the Bad & the Ugly of establishing your startup?

The best part of it all is seeing the culmination of your hard work in a product that people use and love. The bad are the sometimes excruciating long hours making the product work. The ugly is when it breaks.

What straight up business advice would give to a startup?

The thing I tell everyone starting a business is to make sure they do it because they love it, never for fame, glory or money. Startup life is not easy and I could not imagine getting through it without genuine passion.

The Rackspace Startup Program thanks TechStars Cloud alumni Rami Essaid for taking the time out of his busy schedule to pass the torch of business knowledge and great advice for entrepreneurs considering a startup venture. For more insight on hosting your startup on the Rackspace Cloud platform backed by Fanatical Support™, contact the Space Cowboys today.

To get more insight from startups, check out previous posts in our Straight Up Startup series.

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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