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Fabrik of Storage

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Sramana Mitra introduced me to Keyur Patel, indicating that we would have a lot to talk about, especially in the light of my the then recent story for Business 2.0, The Rise of the Instant Company. We met for a quick drink at the Four Seasons Bar, and ended up talking for hours about how software, and user experience were going to be the key to adding value to commodity hardware.

Over glasses of Grey Goose, we shared a fondness for iPod, and the Mac, of course. He told me about a little project he had going at Maxtor (he was working for the storage company then), which had resulted in a One-Touch Backup product line. The idea behind that product was to press a button, and back-up your computer, thanks to clever software that shipped with the drive. Over next two years we kept in touch, and then Patel went out of circulation.

Earlier this week, he stopped by at the Business 2.0 offices to show off what he had been working on for past few months. Accompanying him was Mike Cordano, a former Maxtor sales guy. Mike is the CEO, and Patel is the chairman of the Fabrik, a San Mateo-based company that plans to reinvent the world of storage. But before we started talking about Fabrik, I asked them how big did the One-Touch business really get. hundreds of millions, they claimed. That’s not bad, enough to take what they had to say seriously.

The new company, that has raised $4 million from Com Ventures, where Patel is a partner, has two product offerings. One is a piece of software that runs on a network attached storage device, and turns it into a home-version of “online storage.” Plug it into your router, install the software on your desktop, and you are good to go.

As part of the install, the ICONS will be on Desktop for application access. When you click the app icon, it launches the browser / login page. And that’s when it gets interesting. Fabrik has developed an interface that basically combines most of the currently buzzy things such as Ajax, Tags and what not to create a browser based application which combines all the elements of the social web. Its like having a Flickr and You Tube of your own, in your living room. It can be accessed from one or many computers, so the whole family can dump their digital clutter on one family drive. Of course, there are user names and passwords, so everyone can keep their content separate.

The browser based app allows you to not only manage the content (using tags and folders), it also previews and plays back the multimedia content as you normally would when on the web. It is an interface that is very very Mac like in its look, feel and ease of use. One of the more intriguing features of Fabrik is called the “experience.” Drop a few photos, a track or two of music and a video, and email the link to your friends. They can click and experience without needing any downloads. How much is this device going to cost? Fabrik guys didn’t say, but they have a deal with one mega-storage company, and another networking gear maker, who will ultimately set the price. I don’t think its going to be cheap.

The second offering from the company is an online service, that does exactly what the “gizmo” does, except it costs a lot less, and comes with a lot less storage space – between 10-to-30 gigs. They plan to charge for it – though pricing is yet to be worked out. I know the world doesn’t need another online storage company, but this one is something different. Think of it as BMW of online storage services. Other services will do different things, and will meet the needs of different people. Fabrik is in an essence a distillation of my chat with Patel, from two years ago. I am not sure what the future holds for them, but it is an impressive enough debut. Hope they go the distance.

12 Responses to “Fabrik of Storage”

  1. So, my hat is off to these guys for trying this. At Memora we went for exactly this market back in 2000 which was a bit too early, but here are some of the things we found that I do not think have changed:
    1. This is a very hard value proposition to sell the the regular enduser
    2. The distribution channels for this suck. Margins being what they are, you need to build in a 4x price bump on any HW unless you are selling direct. As as both Memora and Mirra have shown, direct doesn’t scale to any kind of a mainstream market.
    3. The “deals” one can make in the industry can really end up backfiring (or worse yet going nowhere) because what you need to do this right is a lot of well written software (especially around the UE) that is tightly integrated with the hardware. At Memora we were talking to Phillips and Linksys and I can say that neither company was particularly good when it came to understanding how to make software/hardware that works like iTunes/iPod.

    The final thing is that though the demand side is more educated than it was back in 2000, real credible broadband has advanced in enough ways to make me doubt our original plan to have HW in the basement. In my case I have been floored by Verizon’s FIOS which really does deliver on the possibility of centralized services giving me compute and store “dialtone” from an infrastructure perspective.

    Still, I am excited to see where this goes!

  2. I wonder how this will compete with which come in from slightly different angles.

    For these services, my guess is it’ll be like search engines: once a company stablishes dominance, they’ll monetize and create customer stickiness in ways we can’t think of right now.