Ideas are eventually about execution, and execution is just a step-by-step process. You have to believe in the direction, have patience while developing it, and have a team that has faith in and can implement the idea.
With a rare understanding of technology, business, startups, and venture capital, Jonathan Ring brings over 33 years of experience to Caringo as founder and CEO. Prior to Caringo, Jonathan was an active angel investor advising a broad range of companies, and he has experience running both multinational development groups and research and development teams. He was also a vice president of engineering at Siebel Systems, where he helped grow sales to over $2 billion.
Considering his rich background in technology development, his understanding of requirements from the customer’s point of view, and his strong operational background, Jonathan’s passion and experience is shaping the future of the market leader in object storage.
Where did the idea for Caringo come from?
Two people, I worked with in the past, Paul Carpentier and Mark Goros, came to me with the idea of changing the economics of storage. We looked at the state of the industry a decade ago and realized that data growth was outpacing the rate of storage innovation and that data had to remain accessible over the internet for long periods of time.
What was needed was storage software that installed on standard servers, that could support the continuous evolution of hardware generations, and that was open, eliminating vendor lock-in. Above all, the software had to make the infrastructure and data stored on it simple to manage and access. This was important when organizations were storing tens of terabytes, and it’s a necessity now that they’re storing and accessing petabytes of data.
We invented a new storage paradigm, object storage, based on HTTP — the protocol of the web. Providing object storage as a service is now called cloud storage (though we didn’t call it that at the time). Amazon Simple Storage Service was announced at almost the same time as we announced our first product. Amazon S3 is also HTTP-based, which supported our approach and solidified the pseudo-standard interface for cloud storage.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
I like to get an early start on my day and scan email to see whether there’s anything that needs to be addressed immediately. Then, I sit down with my management team every morning to discuss wins, metrics from the previous day, and what priorities we have for the coming day that will drive our business forward.
I typically spend the rest of the day talking to managers, board members, customers, and partners. But if I find myself in an important conversation, I ignore everything else. Relationships, communication, and a commitment to our customers are the keys to running a business.
One of my primary tasks as CEO is to reduce interference throughout the organization so we can capitalize on the opportunities we have. I’m constantly looking for things that can cause us to diverge, and I work with my team to resolve those issues quickly so we can take the business a bit further every day. I believe in being action-oriented and always thinking ahead. It’s better to do something 20 percent wrong because it will still be 80 percent right.
To stay productive, I also try to work in exercise, good food, quality time with the people I care about, good movies, a little guitar-playing, and great conversations over a beer.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First, you have to have some vision of what you want the idea to be. It’s helpful to sketch it on a whiteboard or have a conversation about it. I look at an idea from every angle and get feedback from the team so we get multiple perspectives. What’s the market saying about the idea? Where do I see it going? You have to be able to see it clearly enough that it goes beyond an intellectual thought and becomes something you’re passionate about.
If it’s a good idea and destined to be brought to life, you’ll want to keep doing the next step. Ideas are eventually about execution, and execution is just a step-by-step process. You have to believe in the direction, have patience while developing it, and have a team that has faith in and can implement the idea. Bottom line: You can have all the ideas you want, but they’re nothing without execution and teamwork.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I love the idea of organizing and extracting value from data at scale. By replacing databases with metadata, you could completely change the way the application world works and create a major shift in every industry. Data is far more valuable than we make it out to be — it can do everything from cure cancer to make cars that drive by themselves.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
A great idea can come from anywhere. I read a lot — especially books and journals about science across all fields. I’m on the lookout for patterns in how people behave. I prefer to look into the future and contemplate how things can develop rather than get mired in the noise of today. I also give myself a 5- to- 10-minute transition between activities to let the brain rest because I need to let go of one context to move into another.
I trust in the process of taking in a complex problem and letting the brain work on it over a few days, knowing that the conscious and subconscious processes of the brain are at work.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I’ve never had a “worst” job, but if I did, it would be one in which I wasn’t productive. I either do the job at 130 percent, or I don’t do it at all.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
At Caringo, we were ahead of our time. As a result, we should’ve focused more on integrating with traditional storage interfaces from day one to make the process of understanding and using object storage less confusing.
If you make a big leap conceptually, make it easy for your users to transition to the new technology. Just because you understand it doesn’t mean everyone else does.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Keep coming up with ideas — don’t ever stop the creative process. Consume a ton of ideas and information, and don’t be afraid to combine a bunch of ideas into one.
Also, compartmentalize. There are times for ideas, and there are times for execution. Don’t let either stop, but keep moving forward with an execution in a focused and driven way.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
At the corporate level, we’re methodical in our planning. We have everything from strategic and quarterly goals to metrics, budgets, and rules for communication. Creating a clear understanding and constant communication of where we’re going together as a team has been vital in growing our business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Failure to execute an idea. In the pre-internet days, I worked on what was to become the web and recognized the need for a portal — an interactive “yellow pages” of the internet that eventually became the Yahoo! portal. I didn’t act on my vision and missed an opportunity, so now, I make sure I follow through on ideas that resonate.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Take the way we’re allowing you to store and manage data and use it to solve a problem for a vertical issue. For example, legal documents are structured in a predictable way. You could process the data as you’re putting it in and extract important metadata. Then, humans wouldn’t have to manually input because preprocessing programs would extract the knowledge so people could work on how it should be visualized instead. Information such as where police video is being taken could be broken down by map, car, officer, etc., and decoupled so you can independently build visual views of this information that can be updated dynamically.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
For a personal expense, I got my bike tuned up for $75. I use my bike a lot to exercise and give my brain a break. I also enjoy the great trails available in Austin!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read?
I recommend that people read as much as they can about the subjects that interest them and give them the most fulfillment. This includes articles, blogs, papers, and books. I read the general news, The New York Times, Phys.org, and articles about technology around data storage and management. I read a lot of articles and go in depth on varied topics to be well-rounded. The world is a cross-discipline, so we need cross-discipline thinking to solve today’s problems.
If I had to pick, it would be two books: “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. Both books are timeless.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Many people have been influencers in my life. Here are some of them:
Leonardo da Vinci fearlessly explored beyond the boundaries of current knowledge in so many fields.
Physics legend Richard Feynman was a great thinker who had a fantastic life outlook and a deep curiosity that made him a lifelong learner.
Albert Einstein brought deep social thinking to his field, showing more than one-dimensional genius.
Buddha taught about balance in life and nature.
Last but not least, Sir Arthur C. Clarke brought science and imagination together.
From these people, I learned that we are holistic, that lifelong learning is necessary, that we should refuse to be limited by the current boundaries of thinking and science, and that we can impact people and society with everything we create and bring to life.