Blue Box founder Jesse Proudman: Joining IBM was ‘best move’

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Jesse Proudman - smallBlue Box is now part of Big Blue. IBM today announced that it has reached a deal to acquire innovative cloud company Blue Box.

The Seattle-based startup helps its clients tap into its OpenStack-powered hosted private cloud service, which promises to fit with IBM’s ongoing emphasis on open cloud technologies like OpenStack and Cloud Foundry.

(Details: IBM acquires Blue Box)

We caught up with Blue Box founder (and 2014 Geekwire Young Entrepreneur of the Year award winner) Jesse Proudman to get to know his company better and find out where it’s headed now that it’s part of the IBM Cloud portfolio:

Thoughts on Cloud: You began Blue Box in your dorm room in 2003, and your work there has culminated in today’s news. What have you learned from this journey?

Proudman: That Elon Musk was right: Startups are like chewing glass and staring into the abyss. Seriously, the day-to-day challenges of building a company in a fast-moving, ultra-competitive tech space push you to your mental and physical limits—sometimes beyond.

With that backdrop as context, I’ve learned three things. First, people can help you, but no one will ever care as much about your company as you do. This means you’re going to do a lot of tasks yourself that you never imagined you’d do.

Second, there will be multiple times when your company is one spit of gravel away from sliding off the cliff. You learn, as a result, a new index for what is a legitimate corporate near-death experience and what is merely an annoying, transient distraction.

But the third thing is the most important. Building a company can wear you down emotionally. I don’t care what anyone tells you, there will be times when you want to walk away from it. For some entrepreneurs—myself included—those moments can be insanely trying. If you’re building a company and consistently feeling whiplashed by the emotional turmoil of startup life, I highly encourage you to seek help in as many ways as possible. Depression is far more common than most people think, and when mixed with building a company, it can be dangerous. Don’t mess around with that.

Jesse Proudman Blue Box TattooToC: What’s something that most people don’t know about Blue Box?

Proudman: I have the Blue Box logo tattooed on my left forearm.

Our office in downtown Seattle is two blocks from Pike Place Market, where my office door is completely covered with cloud-related stickers, and our team mostly works from our genius bar in the middle of the office.

The Manhattan is the preferred cocktail of Blue Box.

ToC: What was it about IBM’s cloud portfolio that convinced you this would be the best move?

Proudman: No organization says “enterprise IT” with more credibility than IBM. The company’s mix of services, SoftLayer’s reach and a philosophy of meeting customers where they are rather than convincing them to do something they’re not ready to do is a perfect fit for our product, which delivers a new, managed and dedicated private cloud in three days and capacity scale out in hours. Now that we can do this on-premises in addition to our data centers, joining forces with IBM was the best move because our pieces fit perfectly into their strategic puzzle.

ToC: Your product is based on OpenStack deployment, and IBM has been a key partner in contributing to OpenStack’s success. What role do you see open technology playing as cloud continues to evolve?

Proudman: Enterprise users who have figured out that they need an agile cloud infrastructure and DevOps culture to remain competitive have been pretty vocal about two things. First, they want to be able to consume infrastructure on their terms. Maybe that means building their own private cloud, using a distro, or signing up with a public cloud provider. More and more, however, they’re saying they want a managed offering. They want something that looks and behaves like public cloud, but that’s behind their firewall and under their control.

Second, they want a partner who can deliver the full value chain. They need portfolio analysis and long-term IT planning, data center design, hardware, software, integration, a single point of contact and a homogeneous infrastructure that does not require them become OpenStack engineering experts.

IBM delivers a global IT value chain, and it’s proven many times every day its ability to deliver real value for enterprises. Blue Box knows how to deliver OpenStack private cloud to enterprise buyers with a “click here to start” simplicity. It’s a piece of the overall IBM cloud portfolio that fits nicely with the other offerings customers have come to expect from Big Blue.


ToC: Being an avid car racer, do you see any parallels between the cloud computing industry?

Proudman: There’s a Zen to racing: a state of mind where you become one unit with the car, your pit crew, the track, and the cars around you. When you achieve that state of asana in racing, conscious decision making melts away. Your experience, senses and intuition meld into an environment where knowing what to do and doing it become one thing.

The cloud-computing industry can be like that. Technologies, methodologies, use cases, buzz, and competitors are all changing, evolving, becoming something else. It can seem like a senseless cacophony. But, from that noise emerges a music and rhythm. If you can find it and focus on it, something like a Zen state emerges. You just know where to take the product and the company to achieve your goal. It’s not always like that, but the parallel is real.

IBM Cloud

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