… system failures or hard-drive crashes. Yip himself was looking for a way to preserve his digital life, be it photos or Word documents. He wanted a cloud-based solution to avoid the threat of data loss.
That’s when the proverbial lightbulb moment occurred. He’d develop a way to sort and store files and give it away for free as a “gateway drug,” a term Yip uses liberally when talking about BitTitan’s business strategy. To make money, he’d build an application marketplace ecosystem and charge for the services. In 2007, AWS had just debuted S3 the year before and made EC2 available in unlimited public beta. Dropbox was founded. File hosting and sharing was starting to become mainstream. To Yip, the timing was perfect.
It took about a year for him to build the technology, including a proprietary infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). But then he had to recruit beta testers, and he realized it wasn’t going to be as easy of a sell as he’d anticipated. When trying to convince his brother’s friend to sign on, he found himself trying to explain to the potential customer that just because his photos were on the cloud didn’t mean anyone could see them.
“I’m like, ‘That’s not how the internet works, man. You gotta log in. It’s secure,’” recounts Yip. “I just couldn’t convince him how the internet works.”
He had no sales team and no proof-of-concept or case studies. The cloud was brand new, and no one understood it. Yip was trying to sell a product more suited for five years down the road. He couldn’t get anyone to bite.
Yip’s troubles were compounded exponentially when the housing crisis hit. Not only was he trying to build a business, he was also trying to just live. He was burning through cash fast and already worried when Bank of America called, saying it needed to reevaluate Yip’s home equity line of credit (HELOC). Essentially, he was facing a total loss of assets.
He was standing on a ledge.
Yip needed something he could monetize, and he needed it yesterday. His old buddies back at Microsoft were working to build on the success of the company’s Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, an initiative that would soon result in Office 365. Yip realized that with a small pivot, he and Microsoft could create a win-win partnership. With its new cloud-based applications, Microsoft was facing looming giant headaches when it came to migrating customer data from on-premises, and it needed an easy migration tool. In the year Yip spent building his IaaS and PaaS, he’d learned his way around cloud applications and saw a way to apply that code to solving Microsoft’s immediate need. In exchange, he’d have access to Microsoft partners, essentially solving his sales problem.
“I’ve never, ever run a company before, and I’m thinking, ‘Let’s build a channel. God, why don’t people do this more often?’” Yip laughs at his younger, more naïve self. “Looking back, I realize building a channel is the hardest thing to do, but I didn’t know any better … I didn’t know what I was getting into.”
With the Microsoft partnership, Yip gained access to …