Don’t Read Tech Blogs: 10 Ideas from Backupify’s Rob May

You might know him as the founder and CEO of Backupify, one of the fast-growing technology startups around Boston. I know him as a guy who speaks his mind about many a tech topic. And that makes him a fine happy hour companion.

Rob May is a Kentucky transplant and a recent example of fresh tech talent migrating to New England and building something new. His Cambridge, MA-based company makes software for online data backup and management. Backupify started in 2008 as a consumer service for backing up social-media data. It progressed to helping small businesses manage Google Apps data. And most recently, the startup has moved into the enterprise market with software to help companies back up their data (more on this coming soon). Meanwhile, Backupify has grown to 25 employees on a little over $10 million in venture funding.

But this story isn’t really about Backupify. It’s about May’s broader thoughts on some big trends in technology. You might call it The World According to Rob. Any of these ideas could be worth a whole story in itself. Instead I’ll just give you the flavor, through a pretty strong whiskey filter:

1. Don’t read too many tech blogs. That’s what May tells his employees. Part of the reason, he says, is that many of the bloggers are 23-year-olds who haven’t built a real company yet, despite a lot of hype and followers. Plus the whole blogosphere is just a noisy and distracting place. (Xconomy is not a tech blog, by the way.) Which leads us to the next item…

2. The Web has made us all alike. At least in certain industries and geographies, we all read the same things and hear the same ideas, May says. There’s very little new and surprising out there; even scholarly references are narrowing. This is one of May’s arguments about the decline of innovation.

3. Incubators aren’t thinking big enough. There is a danger that small teams working with small amounts of capital are solving small problems. If you want to build something really big, May says, “three programmers and $50K isn’t going to get you very far.” He appreciates lean startups as much as anyone, but when it comes to disrupting big industries and building big companies, you need time and capital. (This raises the question of whether accelerator business models encourage quick flips and acquisitions for their startups, rather than building for the long haul.)

4. Dropbox is a unique case. This data-sharing rocket ship came out of the Y Combinator accelerator program. It got its first 75,000 users through clever marketing on Digg and ran careful beta testing. Then viral growth took over, with people getting their friends and collaborators to sign up to use the service. But now, May says, “consumer are getting numb” to the idea of signing up for new accounts. (Dropbox founder Drew Houston admits his strategy wouldn’t work for most companies.)

5. The best companies disrupt themselves. Take Apple, May says, with its iPad sales cannibalizing MacBook sales. Because tech adoption … Next Page »

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10 responses to “Don’t Read Tech Blogs: 10 Ideas from Backupify’s Rob May”

  1. Chris says:

    The title tags that show up on mouseover are off on your social media bar (Reprints E-mail +1 Twitter LinkedIn Facebook Hacker News Comment). LinkedIn comes up several times.

  2. Fake Caterina says:

    Dude, I stopped reading when you mentioned Fake’s new start-up as a potential Facebook disruptor…

  3. Thanks for the heads up Chris! We’ll fix it in our next site update.

  4. Sarah says:

    Ugh. Next time you profile someone, pick less of a tool. Why did you think anyone would possible care about this dude’s views on the world??

  5. Ken Appel says:

    There is some big-picture relevance to his blog. As a user of these tools, I see a snowball affect from the accelerated introduction of ‘disruptive’ technologies. They can be distracting to the point of losing my purpose for having them in the first place. I want intelligence that helps me in my work or play. Not many companies do a good job of integration, bringing tribal knowledge or previously held information from legacy tools into their world.

  6. This article seems to provide some great advice that should be quite beneficial to those of us who spend a lot of time reading online tech blog posts, social networking, & utilizing online e-commerce. I can see the relevance of the suggestions mentioned.