Continuum recently sponsored a local Boston event called TechJam, where the city helped bring together local bands and local companies, ranging from small startups to large enterprises, to enjoy music, food, drinks and networking.
I had the chance to walk around the event and interview some of the interesting companies I met, which I compiled into a special radio episode. While we've focused on a number of business issues on the show, I thought it'd be fun to take a step back and do something different. Given that we're all technology fans, I thought you'd enjoy hearing about some of Boston's most innovative companies, so tune into this week's episode of MSPradio!
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Nate: Hi everyone. Welcome back to another episode of MSP radio. I am your host Nate Teplow. We’ve got a really special episode lined up for you here today. We’re going to keep it a little more fun a little more casual. It’s going to be a little different than some of our other episodes but I will tell you about that in a minute.
Before that I just wanted to remind you to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. If you search MSP radio, you can subscribe there and for android users we are available via the Stitcher app. It’s a really cool app. If you go to the android marketplace, search for Stitcher, you can download it and once you are on the Stitcher app you can subscribe to our podcast again just searching for MSP radio.
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So for today’s episode I want to play you a few clips from a recent event that Continuum sponsored. It’s called Tech Jam. The event is just as the name suggests; there were a bunch of local technology companies from the Boston area, a bunch of local bands from the Boston area. They got together, they played a bunch of mini concerts and obviously it was a great networking event just to see what’s going on in the Boston community.
As I mentioned, a lot of really cool companies there ranging from large all the way to small. Log Me in was there, Constant Contact, Hub Spot; some of the bigger players in the Boston tech industry were there. But there were also some smaller companies and those were kind of the ones that I kind of looked for and reached out to. I wanted to get some cool clips to bring to you on MSP radio.
A lot of what we’ve talked about here on MSP radio is business tips, allowing you to grow your business and accelerate your business and that’s great but I wanted to kind of scale it back a notch. I think we are all technology fans here in the managed services community, in the tech community. Everyone is a fan of technology so I thought it would be cool to bring to you some cool tech companies, what they are up to and just again, keep it more casual in this week’s episode.
So first up I’m going to cut to a recording I did with really cool company, a really cool guy. His name is Ryan. He’s from a company called Sol Power, he’s actually the CEO. And Continuum actually partnered with Sol Power on this event; our whole theme for the booth that we had was “Recharge with Continuum”. We had some cool lounge chairs there. We had a bunch of Gatorade water that you could refresh with and on the sides of our stations we had these are some solar powered charging stations, really cool stuff. Again this is Ryan’s company Sol Power. This is what they do. They offer this really awesome product. So I’m going to cut to this interview I did with him. He’s going to tell you a little bit more about Sol Power, what their mission is and what to their company is so here is Ryan from Sol Power.
Nate: Hey there, Nate Teplow, your host of MSP radio here with an awesome guest here, Ryan from Sol Power. We are actually partnering with them for this event and they are providing solar powered charging stations for your phones, mobile devices. So Ryan, thanks for joining me here today.
Ryan: Yeah, no problem, happy to be here!
Nate: Awesome. So tell me a little bit about Sol Power, what you guys do and what your kind of mission is.
Ryan: Sure. So we are a startup based in Somerville and we are developing solar powered charging stations for cell phones. The real draw for our stations is they are an outdoor advertising platform where consumers like Continuum who we partnered with for this event can advertise on the station at outdoor fairs, festivals, concerts, anything like that and that’s really our value proposition, is to create a draw for our customers to their locations through our outdoor advertising platform that charges their phone.
Nate: You that’s great. We’ve had a ton of people walking by here and just like love to charge their phone. It’s cool, you’ve got like literally like boxes and codes there. So it’s not just like plug your phone in and it’s like “connect this power cord” it’s like it’s a cool system here. It’s a cool system you’ve got.
Ryan: Yeah. A lot of our competitor’s stations. You’ve got to plug-in and you’ve got to way there and it’s kind of awkward just waiting by the charging station, you can’t do the things you want to do. Our station has individual lockers so you can just plug in your phone, drop it off, lock it up and you don’t have to worry about it. You can go for bite to eat, you can go for a jog, you can go watch the band and you come back and get your phone after it had a chance to charge.
Nate: And you’ve got to the security they are to take care of your phone.
Nate: That’s cool. They are fun. It’s like you are setting to be part of something new. What gave you the idea of Sol Power and how did you get started with it?
Ryan: Yeah. So the idea that started as part of an evening MBA class that I was taking with the option of coming up with a feasibility analysis for ComTech company and the early idea for Sol Power was based around that. It was much different at the time. It was based on end-user pays, per charge and we didn’t have the advertising components, the station looked a lot different but the core of providing outdoor convenient charging was what the business was based off of. And so it came out of that class of apps.
Nate: It’s really cool. It’s awesome how ideas can just kind of transform into something like that. So a lot of our partners are small businesses. What’s been the most exciting part about starting a business like this?
Ryan: Yeah. Coming out of college I worked for a lot of big companies and it’s so easy to just kind of get sucked in and kind of focused on just your little piece of the pie. Being at the startup, you’re involved in everything and there are lots of balls to juggle and a lot of hats to wear. So the learning curve is just tremendous and you learn about all of the different parts of the business. What’s been the most exciting part is this getting to learn so much about things like sales and marketing while also working on how to bring up a contract manufacturer or how to develop a sales pipeline or how to hire on an intern or how to work through the compensation packages. It’s just a very interesting and dynamic work environment when it’s a small group of people.
Nate: It’s really cool. On the flipside, what’s been like the most difficult part for you in terms of getting this thing off the ground?
Ryan: Yeah so it’s tough when you’re getting started because you only have your vision. So you have this vision of what you want to accomplish and you’re the only one who believes this. So the hardest part in the beginning is to get people to kind of climb on board and believe in that vision.
So I liken it to in outer space when you have a bunch of dust that’s slowly coalescing into a planet or a star. At the beginning it takes a lot of effort just to get those first couple of particles together but once you get that kind of momentum and you get that critical mass, once you get that critical mass then things really start to take off. And we are getting to the point where we almost have that critical mass I think. Is that the core team on board that’s tremendous. We’ve got a product now that we can deploy and we’ve got customers; great customers like Continuum are coming on board to help us out and get us started.
Nate: You that’s also. I spoke to some of your engineers earlier, they are awesome guys. You can tell they are very smart, it’s cool. Where do you guys hope to be in let’s say a year from now and maybe five years from now?
Ryan: Yeah, so a year from now we would like to be more than just a temporary install model of a business. We would like to also be able to offer charging stations for permanent placements; in city parks, college campuses, outdoor shopping centers. So we want to break away from just being kind of a one-stop shop for rentals and then kind of even longer term than that, we’re looking to expand in the places where you don’t necessarily have connection to the grid. So in the US, you have grid connection all over the place and parts of South America, India, Pakistan, Africa; you don’t always have access to the grid and we want to bring our charging capability to those places.
Nate: Yeah. I mean that’s one of the awesome things about solar is that it’s everywhere.
Ryan: Yeah, and can go anywhere.
Nate: Yeah, that’s great. What you think… might be a little bit out of your knowledge range but what you think the future of solar is? I think it’s got great potential.
Ryan: Yeah. I think just in general with renewables is the concept is point of use power generation. So we have this big grid infrastructure that we’ve built up as a society and you don’t really need that huge infrastructure supporting every little power need. If you have point of use generation, you can really unload from the grid all of the electrical demand that’s on that grid. So our charging station is just one of those examples. We are completely untethered, we are a standalone unit that’s fully self-sufficient and generates its own power off the sun. And whether it’s solar, whether it’s when, whether it’s Hydro, the point of use power generation I think is the next big thing in renewables and that’s something that we are looking to kind of make a part of our company.
Nate: Yeah, that’s awesome, I agree with that. So coming back to Tech Jam here, what’s been the best part about Tech Jam for you so far?
Ryan: Yeah. I just think it’s been the unbelievable feedback we’ve gotten from end-users. I mean people see the charging station, they do a double take, they want to touch it, they want to feel it, they want to throw their phone in, they want to get it charged. We just had a really great feedback loop from the end-user as well as from the customer that the product works, they like it and so for us, that’s the most exciting thing and the most enjoyable thing is just seeing all of the hard labor come to fruition and actually turned into something now.
Nate: Yeah, that’s great. I mean Ryan, you’ve got the great business, you’ve got a cool product. It’s awesome, it’s been great partnering with you here on this. So if people want to learn more about Sol Power, where can they go?
Ryan: So our website is www.solpowerllc.com. That’s sol spelt S-O-L. So solpowerllc.com and we are also on Twitter. Our twitter handle is @sol_power_LLC.
Nate: Yeah, that sounds good; Ryan thank you very much for joining me.
It’s been all some having you guys sponsor our booth here and it’s a great event at Tech jam; so excited to have Sol Power, Ryan and all the whole team here at Tech jam 2014.
Ryan: Absolutely! Thanks for having me!
Nate: Yeah, of course.
Nate: All right, back here in the studio with Nate. You just heard from Ryan from Sol Power. As I mentioned, awesome guy, really cool startup, definitely check them out at solpowerllc.com.
We are going to take a quick commercial break. Coming up next I’ve got a few other shorter segments from some other companies we talked to at the event and we did one with Tower Stream, Ramp, Yotta, some really cool companies to hear from. They are doing a lot of innovative stuff here in the Boston area and beyond.
So stay tuned for that, more recordings from Tech Jam after we take this quick commercial break.
Nate: All right welcome back everyone to MSP radio. We are in the middle of a very special episode here as I mentioned Continuum recently sponsored an event here in Boston called Tech Jam. During the event they went around interviewing some companies that were there, seeing what they are up to, talking about some of the cool things happening both in the Boston Tech community and in the overall Tech community. I thought since we are all technology fans here, it would be awesome to hear about what some of the people are up to.
So before the commercial break we heard from Ryan from Sol Power. I’ve got a few other shorter interviews for this next segment here and I am just going to string them back to back for you. But some cool companies to hear from. It’s interesting to see what they are doing. One of them is a video platform. There is another that is a website optimization, website performance platform. Some cool things to hear from some going to cut to those segments for you right now.
Nate: All right, Nate Teplow here, your host of MSP radio. Here at Tech Jam 2014. I am standing here with Nick and Dave from Tower Stream. So guys what is Tower Stream? Tell me a little bit about it what you guys do.
Male: Tower Stream connects businesses to the Internet without having to use the old proper infrastructure on the ground that it allows us to really get into the businesses that need more than one Internet connection. We’ve done a series, if there is ever an outage, Tower Stream allows you to stay connected and not have to rely on the mainstream Internet scenarios that are out there today.
Nate: Cool, cool. And who do you guys work with primarily?
Male2: In Boston we work with a number of startups, people in the scalable, symmetrical bandwidth, those are our primary customers, people that can’t afford to go down. Those are the major players that we deal with.
Nate: Yeah, interesting, interesting. So it sounds like a lot of the things we do as we talked to MSP’s a lot of MSP IT solutions providers, it sounds like this is an alternative to like it Compass or one of the big cable companies, is that correct?
Male: Yeah, it’s another way to get out and like I said before, Internet up time and Internet access is the lifeblood of every company today and it’s really important to make sure that you are up and running and you are not having an outage and having a bunch of people standing around the office not doing anything. It’s just another way to get out.
Nate: Yeah, you the school. And we are you guys based out of?
Male2: We are down in Newport Rhode Island.
Nate: Cool, and how big is the company at this point?
Male: About 200 people.
Nate: Great, that’s awesome!
Male: We are out there, we have been doing it for about 15 years now.
Nate: Yeah, that’s exciting, good stuff! And what’s the thing you are most excited about or enjoying here at Tech jam today?
Male: Just really getting to know all the new startups and trying to see where they are headed and if Tower Stream would be a great fit and just trying to kind of get a hold of stay on top of business.
Nate: Cool. And if people are interested in learning more about you guys where can they go?
Male: They can actually go right to Tower Stream.com or they can give us a call at 866-848-5848 and based on the market, they can navigate from there.
Nate: Cool, with Nick and Dave from Tower Stream thanks for joining me here today.
Male: Thank you, thanks for having us.
Nate: Hey everyone this is Nate Teplow from MSP radio here with Jared from Ramp. So Ramp is a video platform. Tell me a little bit more about Ramp and what you guys do?
Jared: Absolutely Nate, pleasure to meet you here and we help our clients to leverage video content more effectively. So we are finding corporate clients are adopting video content for use cases like corporate communications, training employee engagement, and video content marketing and as they try to adopt a video content, they have experience some growth pains around making it relevant to their audience. Organizing its and being able to use it in a way that doesn’t hurt to their network or their hardware.
Nate: Yeah, cool. So a lot of our clients are… All of our clients are IT solutions providers and not burdening their network I think is kind of applicable to them. Could you go a little bit further into that entire solution how it keeps your network a little bit more free and not so hard on our bandwidth?
Jared: So video has some very specific challenges when it comes to delivering it to the end user, to the actual consumption. First of all it’s a very heavy binary object. You’ve got to take into consideration your form factors; is it a desktop, tablet or PC mobile device? And then what’s the coding format? Is it going to be an iPhone or an android? A Mac or a PC? So you’ve got all these different permutations that create challenges in delivering bandwidth and transcoding and so we take care of that in terms of making sure that it’s always going to think about one, every device and then also we offer secure cloud and private cloud solutions to help our technology to help you carry the burden of delivering that video content.
Nate: Yeah, cool, that sounds interesting. The other thing about video is that it’s… I was saying earlier it was great for engagement. Video is exploding on the web. And something we’ve actually talked about in our show is using video as a marketing tool I think it’s pretty cool like what are some innovative ways that you’ve seen video being used on the web? I mean I know or partners are most focused on some of the basic stuff; getting some testimonials up there and just talking about their products but what are some cool video the ideas you’ve seen on the web being used to?
Jared: Went absolutely, figure is the most potent communication medium and when we are content marketing is the approach of these days using that potent information medium is really attractive value proposition to marketers. Where they are having challenges is getting the ROI, getting the juice for their squeeze and their efforts there. We help them get more value out of that is a discover I engage and convert. So you’ve got to compete for your audience’s attention; how would you have them find the right content which is relevant to what they are looking for? Once you’ve got that they are how do you keep them there? How do you engage? And then the call to action; what do you do as a result of having seen it?
So that’s the high-level view of how we help marketers to take their video offers to the next level by getting more eyeballs in front of it, keeping them there and getting them to take action.
Nate: Yeah, that’s cool. I think there’s a lot of great things; you can do a video, adds some authenticity to your message and the things you’re doing.
One last thing here was the best part about Tech jam so far for you?
Jared: I am really excited to network with a lot of other professionals in the Boston area and share our message of what they do and see what’s out there. I think there is a lot of smart people in the world and is very cool when they all can come together and mind share.
Nate: Awesome! Well Jared, thank you very much. If some of our partners want to learn more where can they go for Ramp?
Jared: Great question! They can go to ramp.com thank you very much.
Nate: Awesome, thank you very much, thanks Jared.
Nate: Hey there, Nate from MSP radio. I am speaking with David from Yottaa. So David, you have been telling me about your product is pretty cool, can you tell our audience more about Yottaa and what it does?
David: Sure. So we do website performance optimization. So basically we are software-as-a-service solution. So what we do is we sit in between the customer and the end-user. Basically what we do is we require a small DNS change from the customer’s website so that we point to them and they point to us and any traffic that goes to them will go through us and what we do is we optimize the website on the fly. So we do network optimization and we do client-side optimization.
So what we do is we improve the time to start a render and we also improve the perceived performance on the website. So in addition to improving the time to start render, what we do is a lot of optimization which make the website appear to interact a lot faster. So what the user can do through us is they can choose the order in which different content loads.
So for example if you have like a Facebook widget or a twitter widget which is not necessarily the most important thing to load immediately, we can have that load after the page is rendered. So essentially the user will go to the website, they will see the most important content first and then everything else that’s kind of secondary will load later as the user is looking at the website. So the website appears to load a very, very quickly and this keeps users interested in the content.
Nate: Yeah, that’s very cool. It’s a smart way of loading websites. That’s a big problem especially I’d imagine with like mobile devices and tablets and 3-D connections, this is a more and more important need for small businesses correct?
David: Yeah and thinking of mobile, one of the things that we are doing with mobile is basically choosing what to load on a mobile device. So there may be things that you want to load on a desktop website but you don’t necessarily want to load on a mobile device and so what we want to be able to do is to choose what the loads on mobile and what doesn’t because the connection speed on a mobile device may be slower than what you get on a desktop browser and a lot of the stuff is not essential to the mobile experience. So you want to be able to let people pick and choose what loads on the mobile device so that experience is a lot happier.
Nate: Yeah, that’s cool. So Yottaa, how did you guys get the name? It sounds kind of funky. It’s Y-o-t-t-a-a. How did you get the name Yotta?
David: This may be an urban legend. So I would say I was responsible for the naming of the company but what I have heard is that one of the cofounders wanted to name it Yoda after the Star Wars character but we were told that he couldn’t because of trademark reasons so we came up with Y-o-t-t-a-a which actually Y-o-t-t-a-a is 1027 so basically we handle large amounts of data and 10 to the 27 is a very big number. That was one of the reasons why we chose Y-o-t-t-a-a.
Nate: Cool, interesting. So David, what are you enjoying most about Tech jam so far?
David: It’s really fun to see what’s going on in the Boston tech community. It’s very easy as a working as a startup developer to become very, very engrossed in your work and not really pay attention to what is going on. It’s because developers are really only focused on their own codes so it’s really fun to get out into the community and see what’s going on in Boston.
Nate: Yeah, that’s awesome. It sounds like you’ve got a great product there. I mean website speed is an awesome thing to have. It’s more and more important so thanks for joining me here. If people want to learn more about Yottaa where can they go?
David: They can go to www.yottaa.com. We have webinars, all sorts of content on the website that you can learn more about what we do and the website optimization that we do, different optimization techniques and everything can be found at yottaa.com.
Nate: That’s awesome, alright well thank you David very much!
David: Thank you!
Nate: All right we are back here in the studio with Nate so that was our recap from the Boston Tech Jam event which Continuum sponsored. We had an awesome time of the event. A lot of cool stuff was going on, great bands, great companies, good food and drinks as well so we really enjoyed that.
Hope you all enjoyed our recap and hearing from some of these companies. I think they are doing some really innovative things and really awesome work and some awesome products out there.
So thank you all for tuning into this week’s episode of MSP radio. We hope you kind of enjoyed the different take on it but I thought it would be cool to bring to you all.
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