Start-up’s cloud storage ‘adaptor’ aims to untangle web storage services

CloudDock allows easy access to the competing online storage options

Working in tandem: CloudDock’s (from left) Padraic Harley, Cian Brassil and Scott Kennedy are fine-tuning an adaptor service that will enable compatibility between cloud storage service providers

Working in tandem: CloudDock’s (from left) Padraic Harley, Cian Brassil and Scott Kennedy are fine-tuning an adaptor service that will enable compatibility between cloud storage service providers

Mon, Jan 13, 2014, 01:08

By last November, Google Drive had 120 million users. An impressive number but one that is dwarfed by cloud storage service rivals such as Microsoft’s SkyDrive and the perennially popular Dropbox.

While the total number of users for such services is said to be more than 625 million, the picture for the industry by 2017 is of 1.3 billion users and a market worth almost €28 billion.

An increasingly crowded market also has names like SugarSync and Egnyte fighting for corporate customers in particular, as many companies choose one cloud storage option to implement across the organisation.

“It’s huge. The whole cloud storage area has exploded in the past year,” says CloudDock chief executive, Cian Brassil, “and really the problem we’re looking to solve for businesses and heavy users has really only become an issue in that time.”

Brassil, alongside CloudDock co-founders Scott Kennedy and Padraic Harley (who act as chief marketing officer and lead developer respectively) are fine-tuning a service that can act as an “adaptor” or “file synchronisation platform” which sits above cloud storage services, making them compatible between any providers.

“If you’re using Dropbox for work, then say you’re working with other people using Google Drive or SkyDrive or other cloud storage platforms, often you have to get people to switch the services they use to find common ground,” says Brassil. “Instead, we provide easy compatibility between the various systems.”

For those who store files and manage projects through Dropbox, working with someone who does the same in SkyDrive will no longer be a “costly, fragmented and difficult” process where a company’s files can end up on “multiple, potentially untrustworthy applications”.

Allowing users to “have shared folders and receive up-to-date files from someone who’s on a completely different platform”, Brassil says “the user experience doesn’t change” with CloudDock “working in the background to keep things compatible”.

The company’s current target market is divided between “IT consultancies, creative services and the construction industry”. All of which, he says, “rely heavily on external collaboration”.

“They’re industries where they send and receive a lot of large files with external clients or partners who may be on alternative platforms to themselves,” says Brassil.

Targeting these industries though is still in the early stages, as indeed is the company which Brassil and Kennedy began working on part time last May after the former had graduated from NUI Galway.

On board
By August both were working on CloudDock full time, with Harley coming on board in September after the business was chosen to take part in the NDRC’s LaunchPad programme, with office space coming alongside mentorship in areas such as sales, PR, finance and marketing, alongside up to €20,000 in funding.

At the beginning, CloudDock was to be a “central hub” for email, calendar and storage systems before a more detailed study of their potential market revealed the inability for cloud storage systems to interact with each other was the “real pinpoint” they should focus on.

A private beta period began last November, with 680 “cloud storage power users” from across the globe signing up, while Brassil assures “we’re expecting to have CloudDock publicly available by the end of the first quarter of 2014”.

The start-up, based in Dublin’s Digital Hub is hoping to gain a further €50,000 in funding this year from Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up programme, while Brassil reveals that “over the next few months, we’re hoping to raise €500,000” from investors, a figure which they hope will allow them to build a company infrastructure that can lead to 250,000 paying customers before long.

While the product will remain free during its continued development, Brassil assures that a paid-for product is not too far away. “The reason we’ve kept that free is that it’s most valuable to us and we still have a little bit more development work to do in terms of testing and adding a few more services,” says Brassil. “For now, we need to get as many people on board, talk to them and learn from them”.