Storj Labs, the blockchain cloud storage startup headquartered in Atlanta, has brought on a new interim CEO with a long history of building cutting-edge computing companies. Ben Golub most recently served as CEO of Docker, an open-source software giant that he led from a handful of employees to unicorn status.
Golub, who will also become Storj’s Executive Chairman, is stepping into the startup during a major growth period. Founded in 2014, Storj’s cloud storage network now counts over 70,000 customers. Storj enables “farmers”, individuals or organizations that have extra hard drive capacity, to rent their storage space to those that need more data capacity in exchange for an Ethereum-based token (one of the more popular and stable blockchain ledgers).
By creating this decentralized storage network — now the largest ever-formed — Storj allows independent farmers to provide the same quality of object storage services, coupled with increased privacy and security, as large (expensive) data centers. They raised $30 million in an ICO last year and have been on the fast-track ever since.
Golub says that, though he has been serving as an advisor for multiple startups since leaving Docker mid-2017, Storj’s product and team stood out from the rest.
“While many have asked me to join as CEO, Storj was uniquely compelling, both because of the quality of the team and the fact that they are addressing such an important problem that is part of a huge technology shift — one that is so critical to the world we live in,” he says.
Golub has been present through — and helped drive — several of those technology shifts. Before Docker, he was president and CEO at open source storage company Gluster, which was acquired by Red Hat in 2011, and CEO at Plaxo, acquired by Comcast in 2008.
Shawn Wilkinson, Storj’s founder, explains this experience is what Storj needs to realize its full potential at this critical stage.
“Ben brings an ideal skill set to his new role at Storj Labs. His combination of business and technology acumen is exactly what Storj needs during this pivotal moment of growth,” Wilkinson said in a statement. “Our work today and in the coming months will result in a new platform that will help customer build and deploy decentralized apps with decentralized storage. Now is the perfect time for Ben’s important contribution to our work.”
In a blog post, Wilkinson explained that he’s taking this time to step back from the day-to-day of scaling a business, which will let him focus on the tech.
“Having Ben in this role is helpful because I can confidently hand over organizational duties to a proven leader, the best person for this job, and that allows me to focus more on the technology, which I’m passionate about,” said Wilkinson.
Golub took Hype a little more in-depth into his background in computing revolutions, his respect for Storj’s team and their business model, and what he’s focusing on for the next year.
Why did you decide to join the Storj team?
I’ve been part of several major technology shifts, including client server, Web 1.0, Web 2.0, cloud computing and containerization. When you combine a massive new technology shift with a large community and ecosystem and a very talented founding team, the opportunity becomes very compelling. I think we’re on the cusp of a major new shift driven by a fully-decentralized cloud and by new decentralized models of trust and security, such as blockchain and distributed ledgers. When I first talked with Storj, I was intrigued by the team, by the fact that they already had a robust platform, and their passionate community. After several meetings with the founders and a deep dive with the broader team, I realized they were on the cusp of something big.
I am also excited about Storj, because it doesn’t fit the “Silicon Valley” model of a Bay Area startup — founded by Stanford engineers, headquartered South of Market, and backed by tons of VC cash. This is a company based in Atlanta and Salt Lake, founded by a brilliant guy out of Morehouse, and grown efficiently and bootstrapped its way without taking much VC money. While the token sale last year provides a large base of capital for future growth, we are already generating revenue on a fundamentally sound business model.
How will your previous experience leading high-growth startups lend itself towards this new role?
In many ways, this looks like my early days with Docker. At Docker, we used to talk about building a programming layer for the internet, allowing people to build applications and services that could run seamlessly across different infrastructures and leverage the huge diversity and scale of on-premise, off-premise, virtual and physical servers. The impact Docker made was largely driven by building a huge community and turning that into a compelling business model.
Storj is similar in that it is building a storage layer for the internet that will leverage the huge scale, diversity, and hyperlocality of storage that the users of the internet provide. And, like Docker, we are doing so by embracing the community — of developers, of open source companies, of farmers, etc.
What are your main goals for the next year for Storj?
Long term, Storj will aim to be the storage layer for decentralized applications, providing economics, availability, and security properties that traditional cloud providers cannot.
Most of our usage right now is for archive and small developer projects. But we have a plan for expanding into higher value-add storage markets, including CDN. We already have a lot of interest for providing CDN-like capabilities, given that we have nodes in more than 200 countries as well as hundreds of cities, letting us be very close to the edge for content distribution.
For example, a video streaming company could never afford to build a cloud storage facility in all 50 of the top metro areas across the world, but through Storj, they could easily store their most-watched content in each of these cities. Interestingly, Storj can blur the line between archival and CDN. There are many different needs within the storage market and the combination of our security model and the blockchain integrity model can actually help us create new storage use cases to meet these needs.