By Glen Tona
I’m fortunate enough to live in Silicon Valley’s Rainbow Mansion, a community of driven, international and passionate people trying to change the world through technology. On a daily basis, I share chores, meals, open discussions and projects with my housemates and a revolving roster of guests, who hail from some of the world’s most progressive institutions: NASA, Tesla, Google, IBM, UC Santa Cruz, Stanford and various startups – to name a few.
Unlike the other residential startup incubators of the tech community (a concept you might recognize from HBO’s recent parody show Silicon Valley), our goal at the Mansion is not to necessarily launch the next big “it” company – though, admittedly, we wouldn’t mind doing so.
Rather, we want to cultivate an environment of socially aware people who turn big, global ideas into reality – whether at their current company or starting a movement within an entire industry. Some of the most important contributors to OpenStack, for example, were residents at the Mansion during OpenStack’s creation – collaborating to create one of the most significant milestones of open source and cloud computing of our time.
This is why I’m working to accelerate the notion of cloud-first business models to Silicon Valley, through both my residency at the RainbowMansion, as well as my job as a consultant in IBM’s Bluemix Garage at Galvanize, a startup hub in downtown San Francisco.
I was able to work towards this mission last weekend, as we opened up Rainbow Mansion to Startup Weekend: Space, which brought together some of Silicon Valley’s brightest developers, hackers and entrepreneurs to foster business ideas which could bring about the next Space Age.
Using the Business Model Canvas and the lean, agile principles of a Minimum Viable Product (borrowed from Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup), nine teams were thrown together to form, develop and pitch their ideas over a three-day period to a panel of judges, which included IBM’s own John Wolpert, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur and new addition to the IBM Watson team.
Personally, one of the best parts of the weekend was introducing these teams to the advantages of building their business on the cloud from the moment of its conception. Using Bluemix, IBM’s open cloud development platform, we were able to demo to entrepreneurs how cloud platforms give them instant access to the infrastructure and tools needed to bring their idea to market, both rapidly and affordably.
Take the winning team, Space Cube, as an example. Space Cube’s team wants to bring biology research to the extraterrestrial level by launching microorganisms into space, tracking them and then bringing them back to Earth to analyze growing patterns, as well as radiation effects which could shed light on how similar exposures in humans could be used to treat diseases.
The potential for Space Cube to use cloud to build mobile and Big Data apps into its business model is enormous – if not critical – to its success. Cloud-based Big Data and analytics apps will be vital in ensuring the accurate storing, tracking and organization of the team’s research data, as well as critical in drawing the compute power needed to help spot patterns or deviations in data which could significantly alter the team’s conclusions. And using cloud-based storage and analytics means the team can more easily manage a larger pool of information on a smaller budget, helping not only their bottom line but also allowing them to spend more time in the field, instead of behind a computer crunching numbers. If the team also uses the cloud to build a mobile app for its researchers – allowing them to track and record data from anywhere – this also means more accurate, frequent and timely research.
As part of Space Cube’s prize, they’ll receive free IBM technical help and six free months of hosting on Bluemix to help build critical parts of their business such as these. As the Bluemix platform continues to gain momentum within the Silicon Valley community through events such as these and our Bluemix Garage lab, I’m honored and thrilled to play a role in the growing critical mass of businesses thinking cloud-first, from the moment a potentially world-changing idea moves from a dream into a reality.