Cleversafe founder Chris Gladwin summed up why he started the company with this profound vision: “to store the world’s data”. And he’s not afraid of the size of its proposition.
As the world’s data use has grown, so has Chris’ proposition. Check out some of the highlights Chris shared during our February Chicago Founders’ Stories event, or view the full video interview below.
“[MIT] Changed Me”
Have you ever met a twelve-year-old who optimized their paper route based on density? You have now. Even at a young age, Chris’ mind focused on big things (check out the discussion at 08:30). He’ll tell you himself that when he attended MIT as an undergrad, he wasn’t aware of the value that his schooling would bring him. “I really didn’t realize until after I’d left, in some ways, how transformational that was for me. It changed me into a person that really had perspective, and marketable skills, and could do these kinds of things like build a system to store all the data in the world.”
“You don’t just wake up one day and know how to do that. A lot of people had to teach you a lot of things to get to that point.”
An Industry in Transformation
In the beginning years of Cleversafe, the team knew that wireless network computers were the way of the future. The company was selling more wireless network computers than its contemporaries were selling wired. “The fundamental proposition was the industry was going through a change,” Chris said (see the segment at 18:50).
But one thing that’s true is that you can never push your market. “Do not be too far ahead of the product. You can have a product and a technology that’s just light years ahead of everyone and just better, but if the market is not ready to take it and adopt it, it doesn’t matter. And you can’t really push the market that much.”
There’s Always Another 90%
Cleversafe’s early days were filled with two things: focus groups, and Chris’ own coding to show that the concept could actually work. But even after passing those points, there were miles of ups and downs on the road to Cleversafe’s success. “You can get a bunch of really smart people, and they’ll scope out the problem and make a project plan…and what happens is, you get 90% of the way done, according to your plan, and at that point of the time, you see the second 90%…and that’s a challenge.” It’s being able to push through this “second 90%”, and even the “third 90%” that arises after that, that makes the difference for a young company.
This year, Cleversafe celebrates its first decade of operation. And if you didn’t guess it already, Chris’ vision for Cleversafe 10 years from now is extensive. “What’s going to happen in the next ten years is the amount of data that the world’s going to create and store is 100 times what it is today,” he says. “The systems and the methods that that industry has used up until now are really going to fall apart, and so Cleversafe and potentially companies who do what we’ve done are going to become leaders (43:30).”
Check out these highlights and other words from Chris in the full video below:
We hope you enjoyed this interview with Chris, and look forward to the next Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871 with OkCupid founder Sam Yagan onApril 28th! Click here to sign up for the event now. We’re expecting a sold-out crowd so reserve your ticket early.