Cloud Computing

Crowdsourcing Innovation: Alen Peacock and Clint Gordon-Carroll, Co-founders of Space Monkey

Crowdfunding sites are offering a new path for inventors with original ideas. We talk to inventors looking to gain the public’s favour with something new to offer. Is this a business of the future?

Alen Peacock, Clint Gordon-Carroll

  Job title: Co-founders

  Organisation: Space Monkey

  Location: Salt Lake City, Utah


Product: Space Monkey


What it does:

Space Monkey is an affordable subscription-based data storage solution that is taking the cloud out of the datacenter, creating a faster and more durable way to store data from any device.

What makes it special?

Space Monkey is unique because it combines the benefits of local hardware storage and cloud storage by providing a device which gives users central access and sharing from anywhere, from any device, with the affordability and speed of a local device.

What inspired you to come up with the idea?

After meeting at Mozy, the online backup storage company, we (Clint was a product manager and Alen was a senior software engineer) came up with the Space Monkey concept as a result of the increasing demand for data storage by consumers and the growing cost of data centers to store that data online.

Why Kickstarter?

We chose to start a Kickstarter campaign in order to target a community of technology enthusiasts that shared its same passion and to find backers that believed in the Space Monkey mission and product.

Is crowdfunding good for innovation? How so?

Believing in innovation through crowdfunding , we approached Kickstarter as primarily a customer development platform - a place to find the ideal kind of early customers: ones that are excited about new technology and willing to bear some small amount of risk to be among the first to have that new tech. We're really pleased to have been able to find so many people who are excited about Space Monkey, and who are willing to become partners with us in bringing this through production.

Reactions on KS?

Kickstarter is a great platform for communicating with customers and enthusiasts alike. The general reactions, as evident by the pledges, were extremely positive. But more important than the reaction was the opportunity to engage with users about the project, their storage needs, product expectations and what we are planning for the future. Engaging at this level before the product release is not only educational, but also validating.

What have you done since you reached your goal?

The nature of a hardware product on Kickstarter requires you to be much further along the process than other creative projects. At the time of launching the campaign we had already completed the industrial design, mechanical engineering, PCB design and were already working with suppliers and contract manufacturers to secure inventory. Since the campaign we’ve really spent most of our time focused on the software development and expanding our network of test devices. We have also been extremely focused on the performance improvement in the system as we believe users will experience these advantages from day one.

What have the biggest challenges been in developing this technology?

We've spent a lot of time with direct user testing, bringing people into the office and observing their reactions to different ways of presenting files, file systems, and the state of files in the system (uploading, downloading, available online, available locally, etc.).

This has given us tons of insight into user psychology, and given us a lot of direction in how to present the system to the user.

Deploying alpha Space Monkey devices out into the actual world has taught us many things as well, including how important it is to provide very clear instructions for setup and how valuable it is to be able to remotely collect deep data about the performance and functioning of the system. Of course we've also received lots of useful feedback and bug reports from early users that have helped us prioritize improvements to the system.

Why the name Space Monkey?

After spending months architecting the technical solutions for the company, we were preparing to attend a conference and realized they needed a name for the company. Jokingly we came up with “First Space Monkey, Inc.” which then became Space Monkey. The name leaves a memorable and fun impression, which is exactly the reaction we hoped consumers would have.

Richard Stallman recently called Cloud Computing a trap. What do you think about his comments?

We have appreciation for what Richard Stallman is doing in the areas of privacy and free software advocacy. We agree that cloud computing is not the most efficient or secure system for keeping your data safe and private, and unfortunately the businesses running these services haven’t always put their customers’ privacy at the top of their priorities. At Space Monkey, we are striving to make the most secure and private system available on the market. We can’t afford to take short cuts with the security or privacy of your data. 

Cloud computing is often seen as a saviour of Green IT, how important is reducing the impact of power-hungry data centers?

Data centers will never disappear completely, but we do feel strongly that the approach Space Monkey is taking for storage makes more sense in so many ways that it will be the obvious approach in the future. Moving the data to the edge of the network places it closer to the user, so access to it is much faster and more efficient. Energy usage is violently reduced. The amount of storage can be increased by several factors. The cost of providing service can be dramatically reduced. All of these things point to a future where moving data to the edge, instead of into data centers, is a clear win.

Likewise, the trend for demand of storage seems unlikely to abate. Products like DropCam and Google Glass, with the ability to continuously record long streams of video will present real challenges for the data center-centric model of storage that the traditional cloud has embraced. Smartphone resolutions increase every month, and other HiDef products like the GoPro camera continue to ratchet up the amount of data consumers produce daily.

Possible business use?

We believe Space Monkey will fit naturally in many small and medium size businesses. We allow you to share files and folders with colleagues making collaboration easier than ever. We are also working on multi-account support per device. This allows you to add five users onto a single device with only one subscription.

Aims for the future?

The future is bright for the Space Monkey network. We have an internal motto, “Whatever the cloud can do, we can too”. This means the future is wide open, but for now we’ll stick with solving the current pain that consumers have: lots of data and not enough cloud storage.


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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