Featured Network Partners: Microsoft BizSpark

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Featured Network Partner

Company: Rackspace Hosting
Interviewee: Scott Owens, Strategic Alliances

Rackspace Hosting, Inc. is a world leader in hosting services. The company delivers enterprise-level managed services to businesses of all sizes and kinds around the world. Hosting more than 35,000 customers worldwide, Rackspace integrates the industry's best technologies and practices for each customer's specific need and delivers it as a service via the company's commitment to what it calls “Fanatical Support.” Rackspace serves as an extension of its customers' IT departments, enabling customers to focus on their core business. Founded in 1998, the company has grown quickly, and is now traded on the NYSE under the symbol RAX. Rackspace is one of the most active Network Partners in the Microsoft® BizSpark™ program. Here is our conversation with Scott Owens, Strategic Alliances.

Q: Tell us a little about Rackspace?

We are based in San Antonio, Texas, and our focal points are managed hosting, cloud hosting, and e-mail hosting. Our focus is to deliver ‘fanatical support’ across our entire range of hosting products; that's our key differentiation in the marketplace. We are a public company, traded on NYSE, and have nine data centers worldwide, including throughout the U.S., in the U.K., and Hong Kong.

Q: What is your specialty — your key differentiation from your competitors?

Hands down, it's our relentless commitment to what we call ‘fanatical support.’ It is our promise to support any customer — meaning from a single mailbox to a large-scale enterprise hosted environment, and up into cloud hosting. So really our element of support is much, much different than you'll find in a lot of other hosting providers, and our customers love it. It’s the essence of who we are, and it's an absolute core value to us, and it's contagious.

Q: So you have expertise hosting ISVs, software companies, and web Startups?

Yes, yes, and yes! We work with well over 1,500 ISVs, SaaS organizations, and countless Startups. We definitely feel that given the range of our products they really speak to the skills that are needed, the entry points they need, the development modes in which they need to work in, and our flexibility and dedication to support customers from Startup straight into production — we’re there every step of the way.

Q: When did you first hear about the Microsoft BizSpark program — how were you recruited?

Our PAM as they are called, or our Partner Manager at Microsoft, told us about it, as well as our account executive — both have been and still to this day are absolutely relentless in trying to see BizSpark take off. They have been supportive at all given hours to see this successful not only for Microsoft, but for Rackspace, and ultimately together for all of the Startups that we've been interacting with.

Q: What have been the key benefits of the BizSpark program — has it helped bring you new clients?

In the three-and-a-half months that we've been participating in BizSpark, we have, and continue to see, a very strong flow of business. It's not just general interest either. People are trying to better understand who Rackspace is, how we can help them as a Startup, and then obviously how we can both leverage everything that's available within BizSpark to make sure that they succeed. And a lot of folks in the startup stage need a lot of guidance. They need a lot of the ‘fanatical support’ that we supply. And it's a perfect, absolutely perfect fit, especially for Startups. They need that tender loving care right out of the gate, and it feels great to be able to provide that to folks sometimes who probably would look for a much, much lower end hosting provider, and we are definitely able to deliver across the board.

Q: What do you think the value of the program is for a typical Startup company?

We see a lot developers who may have had some hesitancy to use different platforms are now able to not only develop with a multitude of different software, but they're also able to move up the chain with the most current tools, to truly develop leading edge, and even bleeding edge capabilities. And now Startups have so much readily available to them where otherwise they might not. Many Startups may be really challenged, even feel like they're a little bit behind the game, and BizSpark really gives them a lot of breathing room so they can start making a name for themselves and focus on their core business, not their technology and infrastructure needs.

Q: We noticed that you have created a dedicated offer for the BizSpark Startups, one at Rackspace.com, the other one for Rackspace.co.uk. What is special for the BizSpark Startups, is it a discount, or is it more support?

At Rackspace, one of our biggest commitments is trying to make sure that we find the right fit in our spectrum of hosting products that is going to be right for the Startup. It’s imperative to really stop and spend some time, and ask some good questions. The shared venture of BizSpark has been really good for our company and for Microsoft, we're hearing more and more about what the Startups need and which stages of development they’re in — that enables us both to know how to better supply them at varying points of development and growth. At the same time, it also helps us educate Startups about the hosting process. “With your tools, and your programs, coupled with Rackspace, we have extended some significant discounts to our potential customers. We make sure we find the right fit for them, and put our best foot forward.

Q: Do you have any feedback on the program, anything we should change, anything we should do differently for the Startups, and for the hosting partners that we have?

Initially there was some general question as to how the program was going to roll out and the most appropriate audience to reach. But I have to say, for as long as I’ve been working with Microsoft, this program is probably the most responsive I've ever seen from Microsoft. Whether you were responding to questions directly from us, or questions we didn't know how to answer, it’s the fastest I've ever seen Microsoft jump right in and get on the phone, even with our prospects or customers, to help everyone involved get us answers. I think it is absolutely great. “Obviously Microsoft’s name is big. Your ability to get out in the marketplace, and co-brand, or co-market this with hosting partners is very smart. We recently attended Microsoft Hosting Days, and in a room of 100 to 125 ISVs, maybe a third of them knew about the program. But I'll tell you after BizSpark was brought up, the audience was even more engaged. That tells me that it’s important, and the first few steps are really gaining traction the more that we get it out there, I think we’re going to engage a lot more people at an absolute pristine time.

Q: So Rackspace was still a Startup a few years ago, is there any particular advice that you would like to give to the BizSpark entrepreneurs?

I guess the general advice from a maturing Startup like Rackspace is that when you are in the Startup phase, stay true to your core values, and believe in what you do relentlessly. Make sure that your customers feel your passion, and know that you're committed to delivering as promised. I think about all the people that I work with at all given hours, all across this company, they’re amazing; simply relentless.

Q: Are there any successful Startups that you are working with that you would like to highlight?

Some of the BizSpark customers we’re working with include Santa Rosa Consulting, Collaborative Data Solutions, and Aptimize.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how would you rate the program?

For Startups and developers, BizSpark is a must have. I think you're capturing the right people at the right time, and it really gives them access to things that they otherwise may not have. BizSpark allows for a great education process of really everybody involved. Microsoft is learning much more about their developers, and how to work with their hosting companies. The hosting companies are learning what is needed from Startups, and what tools are of most interest. And, on the flip side, you have the Startups who are definitely interested in learning about hosting and obviously now have access to the tools that they haven't had before. I mean, it is an absolute ‘win, win, win’ scenario.

Q: Do you see a commitment of interest from Startups on the Microsoft platform?

A lot of Startups now have access to tools that they otherwise probably either couldn't afford in the past or have held off test driving — free is fantastic. Why not try new things and see what you can accomplish? BizSpark has really opened up a lot of peoples’ eyes. You can literally hear people's excitement on the other end when we tell them what's included, how we can best make this work for them all while being able to support them pretty much from head to toe. As a Startup, you don't have these resources readily available, and what a great way to move up the stack.

For more, contact Scott Owens sowens@rackspace.com or at T: 800-961-2888 x4464 P: 210-312-4464