April 9, 2011

Valley company offers storage, organization

A Scottsdale startup that offers data storage, syncing and organization services has a notable benefactor: Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Schmidt, who has made a career out of organizing and distributing information, is a major investor in the company, a cloud-technology startup that launched this year.

Schmidt's investment firm TomorrowVentures, in cooperation with Hanna Capital, financed the company, Cx.com.

Cx.com CEO Brad Robertson said the Arizona office could reach 100 employees as the company grows.

Cx.com provides a way to back up, sync, access and share files from any device or operating system - for example, Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android or BlackBerry. Using cloud technology, the business allows clients to access videos, documents, photos and a variety of other files from any of their remote devices, even if it's not the device on which the file is stored. This technology is also meant to protect information should the original device be damaged or destroyed.

Cloud technology involves using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data, rather than a local server or personal computer.

"'Cloud' is a buzz word," said Robertson, whose beta version launched in early January.

Robertson, a 20-year veteran of technology startups, served as the chief operating officer and chief technology officer of Colorado-based Intern Inc., a company also in the TomorrowVentures portfolio. Robertson, 40, also co-founded and was CEO of Bizavo, a deep-web-search engine, which launched in 2008.

He is enthusiastic about the emerging cloud-software market and the opportunities for the new company.

"The space is pretty well open for whoever wants to grab it. At some point, there will be market consolidation, and it will boil down to a few key players," he said.

Since its launch, Cx.com has reached about 100,000 users and is acquiring about 15,000 more each week, using a free 10 gigabyte storage service as an attraction. Within a month, Robertson hopes to begin adding more features to attract more users.

The company has online advertising campaigns, including advertisements on Yahoo and Google. Ultimately, Robertson plans to charge for features and possibly for additional devices that users register for the service. For now, he just wants to get costs down and continue to improve the design.

TomorrowVentures, which has offices in Palo Alto, Calif., and Buenos Aires, Argentina, plans to expand the Scottsdale office. Robertson said that adding 100 jobs in Scottsdale "is a very achievable goal," and that there were a number of advantages to being in Arizona.

"In the Bay Area it's so competitive and there are a million people doing the same thing," he said.

Critics of cloud technology have cited privacy concerns, an issue Robertson has tried to address. Cx.com allows the user complete control of all files and information and allows users to block the company from seeing anything. Cx.com is still able to monitor activity but won't necessarily have access to user files.

However, concerns about information safety do still exist. In a 2009 survey by Information Technology Intelligence Corp., 85 percent of corporate customers around the globe said they would not implement a cloud-computing infrastructure in 2009 because of fears that sensitive corporate data cannot be adequately secured.

According to a report from Alcatel Lucent, a technology company, cloud computing is considered a form of outsourcing and could pose threats to existing structures within companies and people's jobs. Because of this, many enterprises are faced with internal resistance to adoption, the report said.

Others offer great optimism that the technology will take off.

Merrill Lynch dubbed 2011 as "the year of the cloud," and estimates the market value of the technology will reach $113 billion.

"We believe that Cx will change the way that people interact with their multiple devices with all data stored in a central location," said Court Coursey, managing partner of TomorrowVentures.

"We believe Cx has the potential to capture large market share in this growing sector with the potential to be a multibillion-dollar stand-alone company."

Some of the key players in the area now are Microsoft and Dropbox, an online hard drive service. Cx.com hopes to differentiate itself because it is open to all platforms and product lines.

"We will be your digital command center, through which you can take control of all your files from any 'net' device," Robertson said.

by William D'Urso The Arizona Republic Apr. 8, 2011 03:13 PM

Valley company offers storage, organization

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