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What is 30under30?
30under30 is an Anthill initiative launched in early 2008 to encourage and promote entrepreneurship among young Australians. Each year, we invite our readers to nominate young Australian entrepreneurs deserving of recognition for their outstanding entrepreneurial endeavours. More.
What are Dual Drivers?
Many an outstanding business has multiple team members behind the wheel. This year’s competition saw a few such cases of young entrepreneurs on the same team. Rather than single out one talent, we felt a double profile — i.e. Dual Drivers — would be more appropriate for highlighting the impact of their singular Australian innovations.
Sheng Yeo and Alex Sharp, OrionVM (NSW)
Name: Sheng Yeo
Age: 22 (Born: October 1988)
Name: Alex Sharp
Age: 20 (Born: March 1991)
If 2011 proves to be the year in which cloud computing transformed from a growing techie trend into an integral component of our wired lifestyles, Sheng Yeo and Alex Sharp will have had much to do with it.
The two UTS mates co-founded Orion Virtualisation Solutions (aka OrionVM) in 2010 with a straightforward goal in mind: build the fastest cloud storage platform in Australia.
“We saw an opening in the market and went for it,” says Yeo, himself a repeat 30under30 winner.
While OrionVM’s storage platform prides itself on its Australian location, it now competes among the fastest platforms in the world.
Instead of a centralised system that can easily be overwhelmed by traffic, OrionVM uses a custom-made Distributed Storage system with server interconnections that can reach speeds of 40 gigabytes per second.
Equally impressive is another measurement of speed: how fast OrionVM keeps picking up clients. The team (which also includes a third co-founder, Joseph Glanville) hit profitability after a mere two months of launching; by the end of Month Three, sales figures tripled. The handful of Orion’s initial clients has since expanded into several hundred.
“We built a product that our users rave about, that is honestly better than the competition in ways that matter to our consumers and that people honestly love using,” says Sharp. “Being honest is the best form of buzz.”
This momentum, combined with a practical approach to making the cloud more accessible, has garnered publicity for the Orion team in the Sydney Morning Herald — “Giant-killers,” they were dubbed — and it wowed the maven judges in this year’s Anthill SMART 100 competition.
Yeo clarifies that their primary interest wasn’t “just to make money” in the beginning: “There is a sense of achievement and innovation that comes from working for yourself that you are not able to achieve by working for others, or just in the pursuit of money.”
Sharp also emphasises the autonomy Orion has provided. “Money can buy you many things,” he says, “but the most important thing it can buy you is the freedom from: freedom from work you hate. Freedom from doing things you don’t enjoy.”
Yet, as with most business ventures that begin in universities, funding the project was an arduous task. “Everyone said we couldn’t do what we had set out to do,” Yeo recalls, and Sharp notes that their young ages acted as a setback: “No one gives you a break.” Which only fuelled their determination further, leading them to turn to self-funding and resourcefulness to get Orion off the ground.
Today, in the space of two years, the challenge has paid off. Sharp, for one, couldn’t be more satisfied with the impact they are making: “It’s like being paid to eat chocolate ice cream all day whilst saving the world,” he declares.
Yeo sums things up thus: “We are a young company that has achieved what companies with millions of dollars aim to achieve.”
It’s no heady boast. Giants, beware.
Anthill asks: What gives you entrepreneurial cred?
Sheng Yeo: “The ability to make something out of almost nothing. Being a self-funded start-up in an industry requiring large amounts of cash, we have had to be creative in how we built the solution. I am best known for finding the cash to build a solution when there isn’t cash to be found, not through funding, but through resourcefulness.”
Alex Sharp: “Building the unbuildable. I’ve built ‘Intel-killing’ processors, ‘Google-killing’ search engines, and other just plain awesomely technical things during the course of my lifetime. I get my cred from a lifetime of high achievement.”
OrionVM Cloud Computing Platform
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To check out the full list of Anthill’s 30under30 winners, click here.