Don’t Reinvent the Startup Wheel

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You’ve probably never heard of this company but Clustered Systems proves that not trying to “reinvent the wheel” may just be the way to startup success for small businesses.

If you were in the computer business and you knew that your small startup company was about to go head to head with companies like IBM, would you be a little apprehensive? This David and Goliath story played out at the Chill Off 2, an 18 month event evaluating cooling technologies from many of the data center industry’s largest vendors.

If you own a laptop computer, you may have noticed that with prolonged use, the computer gets warm, sometimes even hot. This problem is magnified many times over in data centers around the world. Data Centers are simply warehouses that run large amounts of computer servers that power the internet and company computer network.

These data centers get extremely hot which can cause individual servers to heat up and quit working. In the past, traditional air conditioning units have been used but small business startup Clustered Systems came up with a different way. They ran coolent through cold plates that directly cooled each server.

Two engineers with just $20,000 started the company. Phil Huges, chairman and CEO of Clustered Systems says,

“At the height of the telecomm boom I founded a company that raised over $110M. Only $2M was actually spent on developing our core competence. The rest was spent on reinventing the wheel and noisy promotion of the company. For this I had to sell about 95% of the company to its investors and over 120 employees.”

With Clustered Systems Hughes made a commitment to not try and do everything. This time around he focused on making a quality product and let the product speak for itself. He hired people to help market and distribute the product but he has stayed largely on the engineering side and the product has taken off.

He has used no venture capital funding and just landed a $3 million government grant. He believes that a large advertising campaign, an overloaded employee base, and a lot of noise promoting a less than refined product is a losing proposition for any small business.

And how did Chill Off 2 turn out? Clustered Systems had the best cooling metrics of any other company involved including IBM!