Outside the Box: Jeff Flowers of Storiant
Boston Business Journal
Jay Fitzgerald, Special to the Journal
At the age of 60, no one would fault Jeff Flowers if he decided to coast a bit in life.
After all, Flowers has had a highly productive technology career over the decades, helping launch six startups and picking up numerous industry accolades along the way, such as being named CTO of the year by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council in 2009 for co-founding Carbonite Inc., the publicly traded Boston cloud-storage company.
Yet there’s no coasting when technology opportunities abound — and Flowers believes he’s discovered yet another tech niche to mine. His new Boston-based firm Storiant, started two years ago and previously known as SageCloud, is focusing on so-called “cold storage,” or cloud data that’s not frequently used by large customers but still needs to be easily accessible for use when somebody needs it. Storiant, which employs 30 people, is hoping to target financial firms, federal government agencies and even service providers, like Carbonite, as customers. Storiant has raised $13.2 million in funding from investors that include Braemer Energy Ventures, Matrix Partners, and David Friend, the CEO of Carbonite.
Flowers recently spoke with BBJ correspondent Jay Fitzgerald.
Why the name change from SageCloud to Storiant?
The company’s old name was definitely conjuring up images that we didn’t want to convey. People we talked to thought it implied the “public cloud.” They didn’t want that. They want their (data) stored on their own “private cloud.” Our company is ultimately about storage, and that’s what the new name suggests.
Does it get easier or harder as the years go by to start companies?
That’s a really common question that I get. The answer is: In some ways, it’s easier. You clearly have things going for you in that you’re more experienced. You also have been successful and you can walk into someone’s office and point to your successes with companies. Venture capital people and other investors love a track record of success. But it doesn’t get any easier coming up with the business ideas and the plans. Just because you came up with a plan that worked yesterday doesn’t mean it will work today.
Do you think your current company, Storiant, can grow larger than Carbonite?
Yes, obviously, it can. The market that we’re in for storage is estimated to be $20 billion to $25 billion in three to five years out. I think Storiant could be a billion-dollar revenue company, easily.
Do you find it hard to explain the “cloud” to people who might not know what it is?
Most of the potential clients I deal with and talk to are very sophisticated, technologically, and run data centers. They have a terrific grasp of the cloud. If I run into someone that doesn’t understand what I’m talking about, then I know I’m not talking to the right person.
How big do you think the entire cloud industry will get?
Oh, my goodness, it’s already billions and billions and billions of dollars. It’s just enormous. I think most everything one day will be on the cloud. It’s going to be huge, simply enormous.
What’s your pet peeve?
It probably deals with the world at large and politics. I think people are angry with our politicians and yet we keep electing those politicians and not holding them accountable. It really seems the (political) system has degraded over the years and we’ve degraded it by not holding our politicians responsible for their actions and accountable for results.
Do you have a technology mentor or hero who you really admire?
If I put aside the technology aspect, clearly one of the people who most shaped my career has been David Friend, the chief executive at Carbonite, a longtime business partner and a great friend. We’ve known each other for 32 years. People say, “How do you do so many startups with one person?” But we trust each other and we have skills that complement each other. I’m more into the technology and he’s more into marketing. It’s been a great partnership. David’s still on the board at Storiant.
What do you do for vacations?
We tend to go to a lot of very interesting places. We went to Barcelona last year and the year before went to Italy and Florence. They were terrific. I tend to do a lot of traveling. I plan to do a dream vacation one day. My ideal vacation would be during the winter months, January through April, and start off in Hawaii and then jump off to Australia and then New Zealand.
What book are you currently reading, or recently read, and what do you think of it?
I just started reading a book called “The Four Agreements” (by Don Miguel Ruiz), which is about your internal self. I’m into a lot of Eastern philosophies. I do meditation. I do yoga. And I do Qigong. I’ve fallen into a lot of these types of practices.
What’s your favorite all-time book?
Probably the book that influenced me the most, as I look back on it, is the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey, which had a great set of principals to live by and which I still live by. You have to have principals in life to guide you, if you’re going to succeed.
What do you do to relax?
Meditation, yoga, Qigong and all those other Eastern things, for deep relaxation. If I don’t do that, I like going to dinners. My wife, Laurie, is a terrific cook. We host a lot of parties and dinners at our home.
What, no Block Island?
I’ve been to Block Island! I’m a boater. I’ve been to Block Island a bunch of times. I’ve also boated through Maine. I love Maine. And if you want a different view of New England, you can always cruise down to the Cape and islands. I love New England for two and a half seasons, but not the winters, not the cold months.
Name: Jeff Flowers
Title: Chief executive officer and co-founder, Storiant
Education: Bachelor’s degree, 1975; master’s degree, 1976; information and computer science, Georgia Institute of Technology