Business Review has launched a new campaign called #makeithappen. Every day, for a month, we will present 30 inspirational entrepreneurial stories of Romanians who turned passion, hobbies and knowledge into successful businesses. We will present the stories of entrepreneurial initiatives of all sizes in all economic fields, underlining the diversity and creativity of the local business environment. Through this campaign, Business Review is strengthening its commitment to be the go-to source for inspiring stories of Romanian entrepreneurship.
Today’s story is about Bigstep, a Romanian startup with a global DNA offering big data services in cloud. Operating on a global market that’s expected to grow from USD 12 billion in 2017 to USD 57.6 billion by 2021, Bigstep is the only company that brings the full stack service from the infrastructure to the big data managed services as well even helping the customers with selecting use cases and technology choices.
In 2013, when Alex Bordei (34) had the idea to start Bigstep, he was working in for Hostway, whose Bucharest subsidiary was at that time the largest hosting company in the country. A graduate of the Faculty of Automation and Computers, Politehnica University Bucharest, he has been working in R&D for over 10 years. In his transition from development to product management, he created and built various products from video streaming services and cloud hosting to big data products or high performance systems.
After developing a prototype for what he describes as “a universal cloud,” as part of the research for a hosting product, he and his team presented the business idea to the company’s CEO, Lucas Roth, who came on board and decided to create a company. Having already managed to attract a USD 10 million funding, Bigstep proved once again that, when a timely business idea meets the right team of developers, success stories can emerge on small markets and, riding the trends, take on the global market.
“The idea behind Bigstep was inspired by the fact that there were two mega trends that were happening: the rise of big data and the move to the cloud,” Alex, the startup’s product and business development director, recalls. “Companies are gradually moving more of their computing needs to the public clouds. At the same time, companies generate lots of data and it has become feasible to analyze those data through big data technologies such as Hadoop and Spark. Bigstep offers its own cloud product specialized on big data (large sets of data that can be analyzed through different algorithms in order to identify patterns, trends, correlations),” he explains.
At that moment, Alex says, Hostway’s CEO Lucas Roth was looking to invest and create his own company. Moreover, “as the product was totally different in the market and difficult to be developed within the same company, a new company was created. So Bigstep is basically a spin-off from Hostway Corporation. The direction to big data came as a part of this process of spin-off and a decision to go on a niche to be different than the competitors,” he adds.
As for the role of their US-born CEO in the startup, according to Alex, “Lucas came with an important mix of capital, startup expertise and global management experience which was vital for the initial steps.” Founder and CEO of Bigstep, Roth is also the founder and non-executive chairman of Easyhost and Affinity.com. He founded and served as the CEO of global web hosting company Hostway Corporation, until its sale in 2013. Prior to founding Hostway, Lucas was a computer scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. An author and holder of several patents, he has a PhD in computer science from Colorado State University.
From idea to prototype to highest performance cloud in the world
The prototype was developed in half a year, then the team moved to London where they developed everything from scratch. “We attracted large customers, we proved our product was viable and then Lucas Roh decided to bring angel investors and then institutional investors. The investment fund helped us also complete our portfolio,” Alex says.
Initially, Bigstep was funded by Roth and other investors were brought on over time. “All together we have raised about USD 10 million so far, in 4 years. The investment was important for the development of our own solution of infrastructure automation which becomes more and more necessary under the current circumstances of collecting and generating larger and larger data quantities,” the entrepreneur explains.
Bigstep’s flagship product, the Metal Cloud, the company argues, is currently the highest performance cloud available on the market. “It is the highest performance cloud in the world and data shows that it provides up to 500 percent better performance than virtualized public clouds,” the product’s description reads.
Big market for big data
While it is difficult to estimate the level of the market without official figures in Romania, at a global scale, the market for machine learning and artificial intelligence, the technologies that enable big data to be more than simple statistics is expected to grow from USD 12 billion in 2017 to USD 57.6 billion in 2021 (IDC).
Therefore, the company’s growth potential is big. “We are talking about tens and hundreds of terrabytes of data generated only by the Romanian users. The quantity of data, per se, is less important than the pieces of information there which correctly analyzed, can highlight usage patterns, interesting correlations or multi annual trends. For instance, there are retailers that have the whole shopping history of information registered in all shops around the country from the beginning of their business,” Alex argues. ” Other companies save all the interractions the users have with their websites or e-commerce shops. Regarded individually, a saved piece of info doesn’t have too much value, but on a long term, analyzed in a context, enable us to build very precise predictions patterns which can be used by companies later for the best marketing strategies, for user profiling etc. A simple analysis of a retailer’s shopping history will tell us how many products of a kind sold in a time frame. But applying machine learning we can predict how many units of a product will sell in a day, in correlation with other products, based not only on the weekly, monthly or annual seasonality but also on the external factors like weather,” he explains.
“Deloitte predictions are that the number of big data pilot programs will double in 2018 compared to 2017 and will double again until 2020. Our own perception is that the Romanian market is two to three years behind Western Europe on big data, but the distance is decreasing fast,” Alex says.
Overall, Alex adds, “we feel the market for big data is still at a relatively early stage. We see the need for companies to leverage their data to bring insights to filter down from larger companies to small businesses over time as well,” he concludes.
Bringing Bid Data Week to Bucharest
Having organised three editions of Big Data Week in London, Bigstep brought the event to Bucharest this year for the first time. “Big Data Week events have raised the awareness of big data and other related technologies, from artificial intelligence to Internet of Things (IoT), in many communities,” the entrepreneur says. “We organized it for the past 3 years in London and we felt that now it is a great time to bring this event to Romania, as there are many companies that can leverage the power of big data. Our goal is to help raise awareness among the Romanian companies to adopt these technologies and best practices, as they are now much more accessible and affordable and the advantages of managing the large sets of data correctly for the business environment are huge. ”
Read other stories in our #Makeithappen series: