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Why BitTitan’s Geeman Yip bet on the cloud before it was hip

In 2007, Geeman Yip decided to quit his job at Microsoft and launch his own tech business. That startup, BitTitan, was born in his basement—not the garage, he notes, thanks to Seattle’s infamous damp and chilly climate—and has since become a global powerhouse.

Today, they provide cloud migration services to businesses around the world and partner with Microsoft to make data transfer seamless, whether a company is moving on-premises [to their own privately owned datacenter] or to Azure.

At its inception, BitTitan’s cloud service offerings were ahead of their time, and many companies were still resistant to the emerging technology. However, in the decade-plus since, the cloud’s importance has become undeniable, and Yip’s foresight helped BitTitan become a leader in cloud migration software.

Yip is also committed to being a leader when it comes to corporate culture. BitTitan has been recognized with numerous awards, from Best Office Space to #1 Large Business to Work For.

We caught up with Yip at Microsoft Inspire 2018 in Las Vegas, the very same conference where he launched BitTitan’s first product integrating Microsoft technology nine years ago. Despite losing his voice after days of demos, Yip radiated enthusiasm as he shared why he bet on the cloud so early, what he thinks will be technology’s next big thing, and what he would tell aspiring tech entrepreneurs.

TRANSFORM: Today, “the cloud” is such a hot topic that everyone wants to be a part of it, but what were those early days like, when you had to convince people to use it?

YIP: I remember talking to a friend’s brother and he said, “I can’t use this! My pictures are accessible, everyone is going to see them.” No, that’s not how the cloud works. “But it’s on the internet, everything on the internet is accessible by everyone!” It was just too early, people didn’t understand what “the cloud” meant.

People are afraid of what they don’t understand. In 2007, 2008, even 2009 and 2010, it was like, “I don’t understand it and I don’t want it.” Today it’s like, “Duh. If you’re not using the cloud, where have you been living?” But those are the same people who didn’t understand the cloud and didn’t want it.

TRANSFORM: Has your mission changed as the tech industry has changed?

YIP: Our mission has for sure changed, and our vision has, too. When you’re in the front of the market and you’re innovating, you don’t know what’s ahead. No one knows what’s ahead. So you’re constantly pivoting, checking, “Is my mission still relevant?” I think that’s really key to our success, that we’re constantly asking ourselves, “Is our mission still relevant today?” So we continue to innovate.

TRANSFORM: When did you decide to team up with Microsoft?

YIP: Actually, on day one—I didn’t have any sales background back then or sales people. Microsoft was a great organization I could partner with, so I could take my product to market immediately. I remember our first partnership was at WPC [now known as Inspire] in New Orleans, that was really the official public launch of our first product. Nine years later, here we are today with almost 200 employees worldwide and more than 30,000 customers in over 150 countries.

TRANSFORM: How have you managed that incredible growth? Were there challenges that came with it?

YIP: There are always different challenges along the way. When I think about managing our growth and what makes us successful, it’s making sure we have the right people in place and the right attitude to succeed. That’s why we invest heavily in our culture. Our employees are my customers, and I measure my success based on how they think I’m doing.

TRANSFORM: That investment is clearly paying off — your company culture has been recognized with a plethora of awards over the years. What do you think sets BitTitan apart?

YIP: It goes back to our core values: We love our customers, we operate with professional excellence in everything we do, we are a company of constant learning and we drive results. The non-stuffy message is we get stuff done and have fun doing it—that’s how we consider our culture internally.

TRANSFORM: You were ahead of the curve for the cloud, so what tech innovation are you betting on next?

YIP: What we’re going to see in the next three to five years is really, I think, around artificial intelligence and leveraging that in our organizations. What I mean by “leveraging” — a real buzzword today — is making data-driven decisions every day. Today we talk about data, but we don’t really make data-driven decisions. That’s where machine learning comes in, where it’s not just displaying the data, it’s then having a computer say, “Here’s what you should be doing.” I think the technology is ready today, but the mindset isn’t ready yet.

TRANSFORM: With those shifts, do you see people’s roles in the tech industry changing?

GEEMAN: One hundred percent. I think we’ll stop doing menial tasks and leverage more of our brain. I probably utilize, like, one-tenth of a percent of my brain. I think with automation and data we’ll be able to innovate faster, hopefully come up with more ideas and be able to solve problems faster.

TRANSFORM: What advice would you give today’s entrepreneurs trying to break into the tech industry?

We live in a world today where we live for the 100 wins—then when we have one loss, it takes away the 100 wins. What I tell entrepreneurs is to live for the 100 losses, because every loss motivates me. I’m here to find the one win through the 50 losses, because I know when I get that one win, I’ll get the second one and the third one and the fourth one.