Steve Papa said it takes having a different viewpoint and the persistence to turn a bad idea into a good idea. Andy Ory said it takes choosing the right market and problem to solve in the first place. Ash Ashutosh said that fast is the new big.
The translation from these successful serial entrepreneurs: building an enterprise-tech startup is hard work, but there has never been more opportunity than now.
At Xconomy’s Enterprise Tech Strikes Back conference this week, we heard from a star-studded lineup of founders and executives in areas such as data storage and management, cybersecurity, networking, telecom, and cloud. Those are traditional-sounding fields that are getting a makeover as emerging startups challenge big vendors like Oracle, IBM, HP, and (of course) EMC-Dell.
Huge thanks to our hosts, the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology; our gold sponsor, Cantina; and our silver sponsors, EMC and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. Thanks also to Keith Spiro Photography for the pictures above.
Here are five takeaways from the conference:
1. Boston has major strengths in enterprise tech—but needs to do more. Actifio’s Ashutosh said the East Coast accounts for some 40 percent of all enterprise IT. Plexxi’s Rich Napolitano, a longtime EMC executive, said “we need a better ecosystem here”—meaning more collaboration and mentorship in the enterprise-tech community.
2. The IT market is up for grabs. Whether you’re talking about primary data storage, backup, cloud networking, or wireless networks, no traditional vendor is safe. There’s just too much pressure from lower-cost, flexible architectures, and too many options for big companies when it comes to their infrastructure needs. “This is that weird moment where nobody owns it,” ClearSky Data’s Ellen Rubin said.
3. Data management is a huge problem. It’s not that data is big, it’s that it’s “scattered all over the place,” Carbonite’s Mohamad Ali said, adding that the average enterprise uses 57 different “clouds” (think Salesforce, DocuSign, Google Docs, and other software as a service). DataGravity’s Paula Long agreed that data has risk and needs to be better tracked. “Data is under siege,” she said.
4. Cyber insecurity is everywhere. Data breaches may be overrated, at least when it comes to their impact on companies’ brands. But it’s not just databases that are getting hacked. There are “going to be a lot more avenues of attack,” Rapid7’s Tas Giakouminakis said. With the rise of the Internet of Things, hackers may be able to access information and infrastructure through connected devices like cars, watches, and light bulbs. Intel Security’s Scott Montgomery noted that of the top seven faucet makers, all of them have Internet-connected products.
5. Power will be more distributed. Despite the Apples, Amazons, and Verizons of the world, the consensus seems to be that in IT, the landscape is flattening. Boston may need more big anchor companies for talent flow and economic reasons, but the rise of cloud-based apps means cycles of dominance are shortening and smaller players will have more influence. As Matrix Partners’ Hardi Meybaum hinted, a whole generation of entrepreneurs born in the cloud won’t have it any other way.
Jeff Engel contributed to this report.