Tech startup stories are legendary. Whether it’s two guys in a garage or a college kid in a dorm room, the grit-to-growth startup tale makes regular appearances at holiday parties and anytime a newbie joins a team of salty veterans. Not to beat a well-worn path, but Carbonite™ has its own version of the venerable Silicon Valley cliché. And there’s no better person to tell it than Vice President of Product Management, Jamie Zajac. We sat down with Zajac to retrace Carbonite’s roots, contemplate its future and learn a little about what makes a “Carbonista.”
How did Carbonite start?
Sometime around 2007, Carbonite founder David Friend’s daughter was writing a term paper on her laptop. Her laptop died and she lost the paper. David knew this situation was something countless students and business professionals experience on a regular basis. He also knew there had to be a better way to protect yourself from this common form of data loss. At the time, online storage was still relatively new and a bit complicated. The standard at the time was to back up to an external hard drive and keep that in a fireproof safe. That isn’t exactly a user-friendly solution. The genesis of Carbonite was making a fairly technical task very simple and accessible to everyone. I like to think that this is still what we do today.
From a product standpoint, what are the biggest differences between Carbonite at its inception and Carbonite today?
Carbonite started with a single product that it sold mainly to consumers. Today, we have taken those principles of simple, secure and accessible solutions and brought them to many other customer segments and products. For example, our small business server backup products, cyber security, data migration and high availability solutions. All of these solutions make enterprise-level features and functionality easily accessible and affordable for smaller and midsize businesses.
In terms of customers, their pain points and the solutions Carbonite provides for them, what are the biggest differences between then and now?
When Carbonite started, backup to the cloud was quite new. In many ways, we had to educate customers on what the cloud was, how to use it and why it was safe. Now, the use of cloud is more accepted, and we focus on simplicity, security, privacy and the increasing threat landscape. Ransomware, for example, is a much bigger threat now than in 2007. And so, our solutions have adapted to cover these challenges.
What were some of the bumps in the road the company needed to overcome to get to where it is now?
We’ve had to grow up as a company in terms of how we do business, how we secure customer data with the best practices, all while keeping up with the pace of rapidly evolving technology. As we’ve entered new markets, we’ve had to add certifications such as SOC2 and HIPAA compliance to serve more regulated industries.
What are the characteristics of the company and the people who work for it that enabled Carbonite to overcome these obstacles?
Carbonistas – as we have been known – are resilient people. Our company has changed a lot and our team has always adapted. People have moved around in roles, changed product lines and sometimes moved across the world. But they remain focused on our mission.
Another characteristic is teamwork. When I look back on some of the challenging times for Carbonite – whether it was a big deadline or a large customer we were helping – it’s always been the team members you work with who you really come to respect. Carbonistas come together to make great things happen, especially when it comes to delighting a customer. Fun fact, we have over 20 employees that have been with us for over 10 years. For a 13-year old company, that is a lot!
In terms of its corporate identity, who or what is Carbonite today? How would you describe what the company does? What is its purpose and mission?
Carbonite protects important data for everyone – the digital life of an individual and the digital identity of a business. For businesses, we give them comprehensive data protection for all the different systems in their environments. There are numerous threats to business data these days. Malicious insiders, external hackers and simple human error. Ask anyone in IT, something always goes wrong. When adverse events put data at risk, we give you the tools to bounce back with as little disruption as possible. We call that cyber resilience and it’s our primary mission and purpose today.
When you think of success stories pertaining to cyber resilience, what stands out?
When a Carbonite customer calls support, you can hear the fear in their voice. We get calls when someone lost something and is just hoping that they had it backed up and can get it back. When we help them execute a restore, it’s an amazing feeling. In a matter of minutes, they can go from completely panicked to relaxed and relieved.
On the product team, we know when people use our software to restore data. Each one of those moments, we understand and appreciate that we helped a customer and gave them that sense of relief. Providing this relief is what Carbonite is about and the people who come together to make that happen.
What do you see as some of the greatest challenges ahead and how is Carbonite positioned to navigate them?
There are two converging trends. First is the amount of data that we store online. We are mostly digital people these days and we rely on our computers for just about everything.
Second is the increase in cyber-criminal activity. We’ve seen more cybercrime this year than in any year in recent history. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity for us. We must get it right because if we don’t stay ahead, our customers will feel the pain. That motivates all of us to make sure we can defeat the attackers and keep our customers secure and protected. With our integration of Webroot and Carbonite, we are uniquely positioned to solve this problem. With Carbonite and Webroot combined, we can not only secure our customers devices and networks but also ensure there is a backup in place for scenarios where antivirus won’t protect you, like hardware failures, natural disasters, and accidental and malicious deletion.
When you consider Carbonite’s founding, could you have conceived the evolution of the company into its current form? What does that journey say about the company?
I’m not sure anyone could have predicted the twists and turns but I’m glad that we got here. A lot of our evolution has been customer driven. We’ve listened to customers ask for more functionality, more system coverage, faster recovery time objectives, and we’ve delivered. Each step in our history has been based off this tight interaction with our customers. In a lot of ways, you could say that our customers have really defined our direction.
What does the future of Carbonite look like under the umbrella of OpenText? What synergies exist that you think will help Carbonite achieve its goals and expand its mission?
With OpenText’s leadership in Information Management, we can learn and incorporate a lot of their expertise. There are many synergies in terms of managing and protecting content and networks where we can learn from each other. We now have access to a wide portfolio of technology solutions to continue to march down our roadmap and deliver value to our customers. And they can leverage our principles of simple, secure and accessible products to delight their customers as well.