An Interview with Rachel Jacobs, Brand Manager, Cloud With Me
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been around for quite a while already and the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) service for virtual servers in the cloud is a leader in the field. While it has been successfully adopted by many large organizations, it has been more challenging for smaller players to get it up and running. As we hear from Rachel Jacobs, the tools from Cloud With Me have come to the rescue to make AWS cloud servers easily accessible for organizations of any size.
HostAdvice: I’d like to start by asking you to tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
There isn’t all that much to tell. I am originally from Northern Ireland, and have worked in public relations, marketing and advertising, across a variety of industries in different countries.
The story of how I started with Cloud With Me is far more interesting. I applied for a completely different role, met with the CEO (Gilad) and we very quickly hit it off. As soon as I started working, I quickly realized that I was responsible for managing the whole project – which was fine with me!
Six months later and I now have a team based in our HQ office and a remote team. Working for a startup, it is essential that you are capable of wearing many different hats, whilst also juggling a lot of balls at the same time.
HostAdvice: I saw on the web site that the founding of the company itself is also an interesting story.
It sure is. Gilad wanted to get one of his existing websites hosted on AWS (Amazon Web Services) and asked one of his tech guys to do it for him – but he said that it was too hard!
Gilad started researching the whole issue and then about a year ago he had a chance meeting with our CTO. The two of them, who did not know each other previously, started talking technology and commiserated with each other over the difficulties of migrating to AWS once you’ve outgrown shared hosting.
They realized that it was not a problem unique to the two of them, but that it was a challenging issue for many entrepreneurs and business owners. After some more research and brainstorming they came up with what they saw as the best solution to this problem and got to work building it.
HostAdvice: So what exactly is the solution that Cloud With Me offers?
Let me first lay out the problem for you. AWS in general, and the cloud server platform in particular, is a great and very powerful platform. The problem is that with all of that power comes complexity. Configuring servers on Amazon Web Services is not for the faint of heart – and that includes technical people. The existing tools are great for large deployments, but not for SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses). The standard AWS console is meant for AWS experts, not for your average user. The average larger AWS client probably spends 60 – 80 million dollars a year. Amazon is not really interested in the low end of the market of startups or small and medium size businesses.
What we have developed is our own software and management dashboard to make it simple to configure and manage your AWS servers. We have mastered all of the complexities of AWS so that the average user doesn’t need to. It is not just a simple piece of software, we had 4-5 developers working on it for almost a year before it went live earlier this year. Of course, we are continuously adding new features and capabilities.
HostAdvice: I couldn’t find any pricing information on your web site – why is that?
We want to emphasize that the basic account is free. When you sign up for a free account, we don’t even ask for any credit card information – we only ask for payment if you choose one of our add-ons.
HostAdvice: So, can you explain your pricing/business model to me?
Sure. As I said, we offer a free account for up to 5 servers. If that is all you need, then you can happily continue on the free account. If you need to manage more than 5 servers, or want to include any of our add-ons, then there is a monthly fee which is $3.99 per add-on.
By far, our most popular add-on is WordPress, which isn’t really surprising. We have been working on an analytics add-on, which goes way beyond our current Google Analytics add-on, and is now live. It intuitively reads all data within your Cloud With Me dashboard without the need to manually configure each one..
HostAdvice: How would you describe your typical client?
Our software speaks to a wide audience since it allows them to get into the AWS cloud very quickly and easily. There is no typical client, however our solution can be particularly useful for the likes of SMBs or developers. SMBs recognize the need to move their business to the cloud, but they don’t have the time and/or resources to understand and configure AWS.
Developers on the other hand are very technically savvy and experienced, but are not necessarily familiar with AWS and realize that there is quite a steep learning curve involved. This segment of the market offers very exciting prospects for us in terms of further developing our solution, which might explain why we just got such a great write-up in TechCrunch.
HostAdvice: How many active users do you have today?
In less than six months we have in excess of 20,000 signups, of which more than 10% are active AWS users. When we shared these numbers at a recent AWS conference, the AWS guys were absolutely blown away and said that such a rate of new AWS signups was unheard of! Once you define your target audience and market to them using the right methods, you can reach every continent very successfully, as long as you are prepared to put in considerable effort of course!
HostAdvice: How do you normally reach all of these users?
Every day we review our analytics to see who is coming in from what sources (i.e. Facebook, Google, etc.) and from what countries. Of course, different markets require different strategies and tactics. For example, popular social media marketing might not work as well in particular markets, so we need to reach out to them in more creative ways.
HostAdvice: Instead of going with a standard .COM domain, you use CloudWith.me. While that is cute and memorable, have you found any downside to it? Do people get confused or try to enter CloudWithMe.com?
We are not aware of any issues or confusion with the domain name. For a startup, it is all about building brand awareness – that comes through advertising, marketing and fundamentally an excellent product.
HostAdvice: How do you see the cloud computing marketing evolving in the next 2 – 5 years?
Current research suggests that within five years 75% of SMBs will be hosted on the cloud. There are two mainly two issues that these businesses are concerned with: (1) Security and (2) Customer Service. Security has always been the number one priority for AWS, so they have that covered. Cloud With Me has manages customer service via our custom dashboard, FAQs, support page and via chat support.
HostAdvice: Even though the name of your company is generic, you are betting it all on AWS. Why is that?
We started with AWS because it was the hardest of all of the platforms and it has never been addressed before. Once we have “conquered” that, we can set our sights on the other cloud platforms. Having started with the hardest one, the others will be a piece of cake. We have actually received some interest from other cloud providers who are keen for us to create the same solution….so watch this space!
HostAdvice: What are your projections for Cloud With Me’s future growth?
This year we are focusing on fine-tuning our product. That includes perfecting the main product, developing more features that our users need, and developing our own community. We want to make our service accessible to other audiences which means we need to keep our focus on constantly optimizing our solution according to our growing user base. For 2017 we are working on making our service available for other major cloud server platforms.
HostAdvice: Last week I read a report by Morgan Stanley that surveyed CIOs and found that they’re more likely to use Microsoft Azure compared to Amazon Web Services in the coming years. Do you agree? What does that mean for you and AWS?
Yes, I read that – it was a very good article. However, that trend won’t really affect us because we are targeting very different segments of the market. We are targeting the lower end of the market, mainly startups and SMBs. We are not targeting the large enterprise end of the market which is normally very Microsoft oriented. Besides, as I mentioned before, we already have plans for making our tools available for other platforms besides AWS, in the future.
HostAdvice: How many hours a day do you normally work? What do you like to do when you are not working?
Let me preface this by saying that I am very blessed and grateful to not only have a job that I love and am passionate about, but that I have the pleasure of working with such an amazing team. As anyone who has worked in a Start Up before will know, there is no such thing a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5! I am involved in every aspect of the business, so it requires a considerable amount of time, and managing a team (remote and inhouse) can offer its own elements of surprise.
As our users are international with a wide variety of time zones, I usually get started very early in the day before I head to the office. I also spend a few hours in the evening on conference calls with my remote team to ensure deadlines are met, and results are achieved according to schedule.
My number one key to success is "healthy body = healthy mind" - starting the day with an intense workout, followed by good nutrition throughout the day is what helps me maintain laser focus. When I am not working I try to spend quality time in the kitchen as this is the place where my mind is free and I can totally switch off and relax. I love to experiment with nutritious and healthy recipes for my husband and I.
HostAdvice: If you were asked to give the graduation address to the class of 2016, what would be your message to them?
Always outline a clear strategy, and make sure each method is simple in order to achieve measurable outcomes. I always follow 3 steps: Plan, Implement and Analyze.
Finally, dream big and never limit what you want to do based whether or not you might fail!