Two serial entrepreneurs, John Hurley and Ben Timby, founded SmartFile in 2009. Their idea was to create a simple web-based FTP product, and in the fall of that year, SmartFile was released for public consumption.
Since then, SmartFile has served thousands of companies and has helped share millions of files in over 140 countries. Built on an open source API file-sharing platform, SmartFile offers business a secure, branded way to easily send and receive files. From Fortune 500 companies to the one-man enterprise, SmartFile has been the trusted platform chosen by customers to move big data in a secure environment.
MO: Can you talk about the development process of having the initial concept for SmartFile and then taking it to market?
John: The initial product took us about four months, but like all SaaS providers it is never fully put together.
FTP hosting was something we always did. We understood how valuable it was to setup a server so you could send and receive large files. In 2002 we registered ftphosting.net with the intent to start selling FTP hosting services on a large scale. Unfortunately, our web design business got in the way so the domain was left doing nothing. That was until 2008, when I put some analytics on the site to see what kind of activity it was getting. When I saw we were getting several thousand-page views, I knew I had to do something. That was when FTPhosting.net was created and we later renamed it SmartFile.
We spent the majority of the first year and even before creating our homegrown infrastructure. Rather than hosting our application and files with a 3rd party provider such as Amazon or Rackspace, we took a less conventional approach. We started with an open-hardware solution and then redesigned it to work with our needs. Our homegrown storage pods provide us high-density storage for a fraction of what it would cost using any other solution. This allows us to not only scale cheaply, but also control our cost and uptime.
Since the doors opened at SmartFile, we have practiced an Open Source policy that has enabled monumental growth and improved satisfaction. Allowing the Open Source community to develop and customize our API to fit their business needs has been a win-win. Each company can focus on their core competency and present a higher value preposition for their customers. API integration and Open-Source development have reflected the true power of collaboration.
As SmartFile continued to shift from a “SaaS “ to a “PaaS”, we doubled our team in the spring of 2012 to help out with the increasing success in the global market.
MO: What sets you apart from your competitors?
John: There are two features that really set us a part from our competition. The first is our rich branding. Our clients can customize and add their logo; color scheme, domain (files.yourdomain.com), and even the system emails to make it seamlessly integrate with their brand. The second thing that sets us apart is our 24/7 live support. Even if our clients don’t use our support, it is nice to know there is human on the other side of the screen.
When SmartFile was created, we promised to not handcuff our customers with limitations. We offer businesses the luxury of unlimited file upload size, users, admins, permissions, virtual links, folders and more. With SmartFile, users can upload any size file through any browser. For the more technically savvy, we offer full FTP support.
Our dedicated team works with current and potential customers to ensure we provide a tailored solution specific to their digital asset management and financial needs.
MO: Where does your strong entrepreneurial streak come from?
John: For me as long as I can remember I was passionate about business. I had several businesses before I entered high school, but what I didn’t know then, was there was a word (entrepreneur) for people like me. I believe a true entrepreneur loves creating something that people will get value from. I get the same joy today as I did as a kid when someone pays me money for a product or service that I provide.
MO: Can you expand on the college programming competition that you’re calling a “bake off?”
John: The official Bake-Off trailer video on Vimeo is a great reference > http://vimeo.com/57175987.
How does a relatively young self-funded company increase its reach within a saturated, competitive market? Pouring money into marketing and outsourced assistance is the first solution that comes to mind. But, the 2013 SmartFile Platform Bake-Off reveals how a forward-thinking initiative can increase channel awareness without depleting the budget.
In a forward-thinking initiative to build more channel opportunities and generate awareness for SmartFile’s new API, we launched what we are calling a “Bake-Off” for students to develop open-source tools and applications that connect to our API. The competition offers quite flexible bounds, with participants encouraged to pursue any kind of project, in any language, as long as it relates directly to SmartFile and has an open-source license.
With the Bake-Off coming to a close Tuesday evening (April 23), there are nine (9) teams left! Some of Indiana’s top business minds will help narrow down the top three (3) teams before those three (3) then pitch their web-apps to the Bake-Off audience, who will then vote on a winner! SmartFile will award the winning team a check for $10,000. The second place team wins $5,000 and third place takes home $2,000
For more information about the 2013 SmartFile Platform Bake-Off, please visit www.smartfile.com/bakeoff. Updates will be shared on Twitter at @SmartFile using the hashtag #SFbakeoff.
MO: What are some trends in your industry that you’re excited about and/or think that we should be paying attention to?
John: The biggest trend I see in online file sharing and storage is greater accessibility. With greater accessibility our phones and computers will be merely content viewers and not content creators. These devices will also become user-agnostic, meaning no matter what device I use when I login my apps, pictures, and other files will load in a virtual environment. Let’s say I forgot my phone or in my case lost my phone. I could use any phone and upon logging in my content such as my contacts, files, calendars and apps would appear in what looks like my phone. Business like ours will play a significant role in allowing people to do this easily.
MO: Can you tell our readers why you’re so excited to launch your new platform and what this development means to the direction and vision of the company?
John: Yes, I am very excited about our new platform. Every business, including online software providers has an element of file sharing and/or file storage and this is the part we do very well. Our new platform will allow businesses and other software providers to easily integrate this very important element into their online product or internal infrastructure. With a few lines of code, clients can start storing, sharing and searching files internally or externally. This saves developers time and illuminates the need for additional infrastructure, and ultimately saves businesses money. We will continue to offer our current product to customers, but this new product (The Platform) allows us to cater to the underserved development community.
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