The two founders of NimbusBase, Alex Volodarsky and Ray Wang, watched in shock as Dropbox CEO Drew Houston pitched a new API that does pretty much the same thing their previously announced product does: use cloud storage as a bucket for syncing application data.
“Holy s**t, we’re not the only game in town anymore.” That’s what Volodarsky was thinking. “Dropbox is sort of a big deal. They’re doing this.”
At first, said Volodarsky, the company’s COO, it was like a punch in the gut. But then he and Wang realized that they could survive. They see the Dropbox Datastore API as validation of their vision: that people’s personal clouds could function as the back end of applications.
They believe it’s only a matter of time before other major personal cloud-storage providers come out with their own APIs, and so they are preparing to be a sort of platform on top of which all those APIs can sit. That way, a developer will be able to use NimbusBase as a more vendor-neutral platform that will enable applications to store data on whatever cloud storage users bring to the table.
The timing is a little peculiar. Months ago, Volodarsky said, NimbusBase had had meetings with people at Dropbox. NimbusBase launched on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in April, with Dropbox and Google Drive compatibility. In May, the Dropbox API Twitter account gave props to NimbusBase for what the startup was doing “on top of the Dropbox platform.” And in July, Dropbox jumped in with the Datastore API.
Other sizable companies have done similar things before. Box integrated with Salesforce.com before Salesforce announced a file-sharing product of its own. And Microsoft had a licensing agreement with startup CloudOn for Office apps before Microsoft released a full-fledged official Office mobile app.
But so be it — while Volodarsky doesn’t hesitate to call Dropbox a competitor, he also sees it as part of an ecosystem, and he and Wang are proceeding with their plan to offer a multi-vendor backend. They’re picking up knowledge, contacts and even a little funding as part of their involvement in the summer 2013 class of the NYC SeedStart Accelerator, which is geared toward enterprise-focused startups.
NimbusBase, which was established last year and is based in New York, has now raised $75,000. It claims around 900 beta users, five applications running on top of the service and one paying customer. The startup is now integrating the Dropbox Datastore API, Volodarsky said. Wang wrote in an email that the work entails a switch from storing data as files on Dropbox that users can delete to storing data in a structured table.
Next, NimbusBase will add support for SkyDrive and Box. Application developers already make programs for those services and could benefit from the ability to use them and other personal clouds to sync data in near-real-time from one device to another.
Ultimately, it appears that Dropbox didn’t crush NimbusBase so much as it did push the startup to move faster. “Now we’re probably more aggressively trying to integrate the other cloud platforms and establish our value as an aggregator,” Volodarsky said.