Hadoop. Spark. The Cloud. At Cloudera I had broken out in a cold sweat at memories of extreme computing at uni (or maybe that was the kidney infection). But there was no escaping big data as next we headed off to IBM to talk with startup veteran James Barry, now City Leader for the IBM Silicon Valley Cloud Ecosystem Team. He was there to let us know about some of the programs IBM runs to help startups. Of most interest to us was the Global Entrepreneur Program , an alternative to an accelerator offering mentoring, networking, access to IBM connections, credit for IBM products and marketing support. Of course it’s not entirely selfless, to participate you have to use IBM software. If you grow, they grow. It’s nice that it’s open to Australians, although most in-person sessions are held in the US of course.
I found it interesting that James is back at IBM. Even after working at a number of successful startups including CollabNet, Partsearch (acquired by Best Buy), Jabber (acquired by Cisco), the startup lifestyle of high stress, uncertainty and always having dips with no revenue took its toll and his wife requested a change. Having a family requires stability, something that seems quite rare in the startup world.
Next was an introduction to IBM Bluemix, an alternative to AWS. As technical difficulties slowed down one of the talks, the effects of the startup weekend started to become apparent. 20 youths with little sleep and short attention spans started to become restless. People began to notice, and wanting to avoid an international incident, Peter wisely suggested a break.
There is such a difference between tech talks and advertising/recruiting talks. The best companies managed to do both. Enthuse us about their product, convince us it would be great to work there and give us valuable information for starting our own companies. Unfortunately, I’d have to say that IBM was one of the failures in that respect.
However, the product itself is worth talking about. In my opinion, it’s a lot more user friendly than AWS. Products have names like “Application Server on Cloud” instead of “Elastic Beanstalk”, “Object Storage” instead of “EBS”. You don’t need to read pages of documentation to figure out what service you’re looking for. They’re also quite open about prices, it’s easy to estimate the cost of your app. Plus, they have Watson! Machine learning and analytical tools for you to use without needing to be an expert on either. Although AWS has a far larger scope and can provide more services (and if you are a large company with millions of users and multiple applications I would choose AWS without a doubt), if you want to get an app up and running I would definitely consider Bluemix.
Thanks to IBM for giving up time to talk to us, apologies again for the uncontrollable giggling at the Visual Recognition Demo labelling Tex a reptile.