It sounds like a start-up fairy tale: Three students hatch a revolutionary tech concept from their dorm room. They launch an office in Silicon Valley, and take out the title of Best New Product at the American Business Awards (ABA).
But for Sheng Yeo, CEO of cloud platform provider OrionVM, hard work supersedes the fairy tale.
“I can’t think of a definitive point where we went from being a scruffy start-up to a successful multinational company,” says the affably modest Yeo.
“It doesn’t happen overnight. It really takes years to get somewhere. The only thing we have over our competitors is perseverance.”
Yeo, a UTS Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Science in IT alumni, founded OrionVM with a group of Information Technology students in 2010.
Since then, their revolutionary wholesale cloud infrastructure company has disrupted a market previously dominated by giants like Google and Amazon.
OrionVM’s success has been signposted by a string of accolades, including the ABA, a Rising Star award in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 and a mention on CRN magazine’s Coolest Cloud Computing Vendors. Not to mention the fact their first backers included high-profile Microsoft luminary Gordon Bell and Steve Baxter of Shark Tank and Pipe Networks fame.
“We didn’t expect the success we’ve achieved,” admits Yeo. “When we started the company in 2010 the concept of a start-up was in its infancy in Australia. It was a different time and place so we weren’t sold this grand vision.”
Today Yeo and his co-founder Alex Sharp, a former University of Sydney student, operate their cloud infrastructure company from Silicon Valley.
The pair spent two years hopping between Sydney and San Francisco, before being lured into a permanent move by the prospect of big-name clients and risk-taking investors.
“When you’re young and you’re in a start-up you always want to end up in Silicon Valley,” says Yeo. “There are a lot of start-ups that believe all your problems will go away once you end up here.”
The reality for OrionVM was fierce competition and high living costs, not to mention culture shock.
“The biggest problem Australians have over here is tall poppy syndrome,” Yeo reveals.
“An Australian will never tell you their product is great, while an American will tell you their product is the best thing ever invented. You need to adopt that attitude or people will instantly look down on your product.”
But with global clients like America’s largest telco AT&T and computer networking giant D-Link, OrionVM’s product speaks louder than words.
“Going out to market and talking to people who say, ‘That’s exactly what we are looking for, nobody’s done it like that before’ is a pretty big success in our regards.
“When we first started the company I was worried about committing to a thousand dollars’ worth of costs per month. When I look at the numbers today we’re talking about millions of dollars a year. I do sit back and think, ‘how did I get myself into this?’. It’s all pretty cool really.”