The UpTake by UpStack: Episode 3
15 min read
Jeff August, UpStack’s Chief Strategy Officer, interviews Jezzibel Gillmore, SVP of Business Development at Packet Fabric. In this interview they discuss the challenges of being a start-up founder and her desire to fill a clear need in the market.
Hi, and welcome to The UpTake presented by UpStack. I am Chief Strategy Officer Jeff August, and I am super excited about the guest I have today because she breeds innovation. She was at a very cutting edge networking company back in the early days of what’s become the internet now at AboveNet, and after that she worked at the first company that I think of as monetizing the edge, which is Akamai Technologies. You’ve probably heard of them. She spent some time on the NANOG board, which if you don’t know what NANOG is, it’s the North American Network Operators Group, very influential in the direction of the internet. Now she’s innovating at a network service provider called PacketFabric, where she is the SVP of Business Development and a co-founder. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Jezzibell Gilmore. Hi, Jezzibell.
Hello everyone, and hello Jeff.
Hi. Thanks for coming on today.
Thank you for having me.
So, let’s just get right to it. The first question I have for you is, it wasn’t that long ago that it was rare to find female founders of technology companies, and now it’s becoming more and more commonplace. But not only are you a co-founder, but you have another female co-founder at PacketFabric. Maybe if you could just tell everybody what’s it like to be a founder and what advice do you have for other people out there who are starting new businesses?
Oh, you ask tough questions Jeff! What is it like to be a founder of a startup? I will tell you, it’s like being a mom, and you’re never quite ready for it. When you start it is an incredible amount of responsibilities and you really have to be able to roll up the sleeve and do whatever it takes. Just having the belief that you are doing the right thing and you know what you’re doing, and continue forging forward.
It’s not easy, not just for being a woman as a co-founder. I think it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, starting a company is not an easy task and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. Anybody who wants to do something like starting a service provider really has to have so much heart and so much passion in what they’re doing because it’s hard work.
So, what were some of the skills that maybe you got earlier in your career that have helped you be successful at starting a company?
Oh, that’s a great question. I will say that I started in the tech industry at AboveNet being the CEO’s executive administrative assistant, right? What I’ll tell you is I learned so much in that position, from how a whole company runs, or how the organization is structured. How a company is put together financially and how to raise money. How to present to investors as well as customers, how to solve conflict internally. Then I worked in marketing, I worked in operations, I’ve gotten into engineering, and I worked through various companies in different roles.
I worked for State Street, being one of the youngest VPs on the procurement side for technology, for all of their technology acquisition, and all I have to say is I learned how enterprises buy technology and services, and how the services were sold to them. I thought to myself, there has to be an easier way for these companies to buy services.
We were buying IBM mainframe services.
That’s a blast from the past!
Oh, don’t laugh. There are still companies using mainframe.
Oh, I know.
I think it required 16 signatures in order for us to get the price that we were trying to get to. We needed to have the deal signed by I think December 20th…
Jeff: 04:41 16
Man, that’s a lot of running around, right?
Right. Well, yes and people weren’t available on the holiday weekend, and it was an incredible amount of chasing around just to try to get something as simple as buying a service that we had in existence for what, 20 years, to be resigned. So that is the part where I thought, “My God, what can we do to make buying technology easier?”
Yeah, this is actually awesome. You’re really describing what it is about PacketFabric that is a game changer and as a guy who’s been a network strategy, network planning, and network acquisition fellow for several different big companies that people have heard of and yada yada, which really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if people have heard of the company or not, you all have the same job to do.
Talk to us about the things that PacketFabric is solving for guys like me in my past life, the buyers who need to go out and procure network.
You know, I think that you worked for some big names, right? The likes of Facebook, Yahoo, Dropbox and Square. So, I would say that those people have it a little easier, the enterprise companies.
They have a brand to leverage, right?
Absolutely. But also I look at the companies like Facebook, Amazon. Even Dropbox, that they have their own technical teams on staff. They have some of the best of the industry talent on staff, and they have people like you who knows about the market, about the technology, that can leverage your existing expertise. But an enterprise have their core focus and their core competency underlying infrastructure is nothing but a necessity that they have to buy to continue their business, but they neither have the technical talent team that many of the larger companies, the OTTs that they can depend on, nor do they have the market knowledge. So, they need to get to something that they can be able to turn up quickly, they can access transparent pricing, so if you’re in healthcare, you don’t get a different price tag than somebody who’s actually a network. Right?
Yeah, that’s very awesome.
And more over…I’m sorry that I just want to…I’m very passionate about this.
I can tell, and I love it. Keep going. Keep going.
I think you realize that so many people don’t understand how challenging it is to buy network services, and the amount of effort that one needs to go through. Just to be able to get a quote from one of the large network service providers could take months.
Yeah, months. And actually when you’re doing something like a colocation deployment, which is what our platform is about right now, you can go and buy…You have to do that for the colo site, you have to do that with each one of your network providers. You would go out, you send spreadsheets, you get spreadsheets back, you’ve got this giant jumble of stuff, you’ve got to put it all together and say like, “Okay, round two.”
Right. Sometimes it takes weeks just to find the rep, your rep, and then to understand instead of having them listen to you on what you want to buy, they tell you what they sell and how you can fit a square peg in a round hole. And you’re like, “But that’s not how I want it. I really only need it for six months. Can you sell me some services for six months?” “Oh no, you can buy on a two year term to use it for six months.” And, that’s how really we-
PacketFabric came to be.
Came to be. I started in your shoes as a buyer wanting to buy services that PacketFabric sells today, but no one sold, so we saw an opportunity to put something together that we’d like to buy ourselves.
Yeah, and it’s like you guys are automating the provisioning process. That’s what you’ve done, right?
Well, absolutely. And all of the automation is really to empower our customers so they can use our network as their own, and through the power of software to have an automation, to have control of their own network over ours.
That’s awesome. So, I’m just going to shift gears just a little bit. It’s always my last question, and it’s one that I know is like a bummer for a lot of people like us who’ve been doing this for a long period of time, but it’s really everywhere in the news now, is people talking about the Edge. The Edge is the new Cloud, yada yada.
I crack up when I hear that Edge is new, because as I said in your intro, you worked at Akamai, which was kind of the originator of the Edge as a business model. I’m not going to say how many years ago that is because that’ll make both of us look much older than we want people to think, but really, the big thing is the Edge is going to grow. Right now there’s about 10% of internet computing happening at the Edge. Over the next five to seven years people expect that to grow to around 70%. That’s a huge change, right? That’s a lot of growth. I know PacketFabric does some things to help grow the Edge, but what do you think the Edge looks like in five to seven years? What should everybody be prepared for?
So first of all, I agree with you violently that Edge is not new, because the Edge has always been there. We see the Edge differently because now we can implement technology differently. So what’s going to happen, people have been asking, “When is Edge coming?” It’s always been here, and is Edge coming? It’s inevitable, because it’s been here. The only thing that’s going to change how we see Edge is the consumption of technology and the improvement of technology and the innovation of technology, and that will allow users and machines. Humans and machines are the consumer of digital information, and that’s what’s going to change Edge.
And what is Edge, you ask? That’s, I think, one of the biggest questions. So just like when Cloud started you’d say, “What is Cloud?” Edge is someone – a device, a person – that’s accessing information. So all of the Edge, everyone that’s accessing the information with a device that’s accessing the information has to go back somewhere, right?
So it needs to either go back to another Edge, or it needs to go to a core, because that information comes from somewhere. And so you said correctly, CDN Akamai provided Edge services. They were one of the pioneers in Edge. They were also a pioneer in Cloud, right? So you think about how they’ve been caching services.
Yeah. The deep embedded caching that now is sort of commonplace, but back then, that was really innovative, right? Nobody would have thought to just drop a rack of computers to help accelerate your edge right into the middle of a network providers central office in some cases, right? That’s the origination of all of that.
Absolutely, and that is Edge, right? So if you think about that, Akamai was the one, the CDNs created the ultimate Edge. So then at that point, you define the Edge as the COs and the data centers for where the eyeballs meet, but at some point that we’re talking about expanding the Edge even further, and where does that go and how do you tie all of that back together? Because many of the CDNs operate things separately on what they used to call a non-network; Akamai used to pride itself in being the non-network.
But in order for Edge to truly exist in a cohesive fashion, each Edge node needs to be connected to each other and back to the core. So in our vision, PacketFabric is the underlying infrastructure to tie Edge together, and that’s what fabric is all about, right? Every node on the pack of fabric could be an edge or a core, because we have hyper-scale connectivity between them all.
Yeah, and that’s it. It’s all in the name, right? The packet and the fabric. It’s right there.
That’s correct. Absolutely.
Anyway, so I want to thank you very much for coming on. One thing I think people who are watching are going to violently agree with each other on is that this has been awesome to listen to you talk about these things, and I hope to talk to you about this stuff for years and years to come. Because I know you and I both could sit here and talk about this for the next three hours, but we work at startups so we’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to do.
So thank you very much, Jezzibell, and I want you to have a fantastic evening.
Well, thank you, Jeff. I hope you have a great evening yourself, and thank you so much for having me on the show. It’s a pleasure being here, and I hope that I was able to provide something interesting for your audience to listen to.
You absolutely did. Thank you very much, Jezzibell. Have a good night.
Thank you. Take care.