Hightail: A True Renegade Of The Storage Business

Apr 12 2014, 10:32am CDT | by

Hightail: A True Renegade Of The Storage Business
Photo Credit: Forbes Apple

In Silicon Valley, being a revolutionary is about taking down industries, raising and burning huge amounts of money and engaging in full-on PR. If you want a classic example of this, just take a look at Box (or, to be more specific, its S-1 filing).

Now there’s an irony about all this: Many startups are doing essentially the same thing.

So how can they really be revolutionaries?

To me, a truly standout company goes against the grain – and one that fits the bill is Hightail. Like Box, the company operates a cloud app that helps people manage their files. But there is also a strong focus on control and security.

So yes, I had a chance to talk to the company’s CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, and the discussion was refreshing. In fact, it was actually ….normal. I did not hear the seemingly endless use of buzzwords like “disruption,” “scale,” and so on…

OK, what were some of the takeaways? Here’s a look at a few:

Microsoft is not evil or doomed.

The reality is that the company is a huge cash generator and can still pump out great software (it’s launch of Office for the iPad is a good example). The other undeniable fact is that Microsoft technology is embedded in organizations across the world. It seems rather fanciful that all this will suddenly disappear.

Instead, the massive footprint is an opportunity for a company like Hightail. After all, it has been integrating its app into various Microsoft products, which has helped to boost distribution. There are currently about 45 million users.

#2 – A “platform” is often a dirty word for customers.

Brad says it is a euphemism for lock-in. And CEOs and CIOs definitely understand this.

“We do not live in a ‘one cloud’ world,” said Braid. “We live in a world with many clouds. We have one with Gmail, one with Evernote and so on. Companies want flexibility.”

#3 – Healthy financials matter.

Again, if you take a look at Box’s P&L, you’ll see a flood of losses. They are actually downright scary.

But of course, Brad is much more conservative. Keep in mind that he has spent 17 years in the Valley and has first-hand experience of how the tech industry can go from boom to bust — in an instant. Consider that Brad has worked for companies like Yahoo!, @Home Network (which is dead), and AOL.

Being thrifty with capital is not easy to do right now. There is intense pressure to spend with abandon./>/>

Yet Brad has remained disciplined. “We have a more boring approach,” he said. “I believe that hype and reality will always come into equilibrium.”

It’s definitely good advice to consider, especially in light of the grueling sell-off of cloud stocks lately.  After all, even the top-notch players — like Workday and SeviceNow — have not been immune.

Tom Taulli (@ttaulli) is an advisor of tech companies and author of books on venture capital, M&A and IPOs.

 
 
 

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