Ray Ozzie was instrumental in building the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform during his time at the software giant, and now he’s back in the public eye with a new startup called Talko. On this week’s Structure Show podcast, we spoke with Talko co-founder Matt Pope to get more details on how Talko was built — including what clouds it’s running on — and what the communications app enables.
If you’re into hearing about how someone builds a voice-centric app in the 21st century — the thinking and the user experience behind it — it’s well worth listening to the whole interview. Below are a couple of highlights, related to the difference between building a startup in the early 2000s (when Pope joined Ozzie to head up product marketing at Groove Networks) and today, and the importance of not putting all your eggs in one cloud basket.
On efficient, automated infrastructure
“At Groove, we spent a very high percentage of our team’s effort on infrastructure to support the experience we were trying to deliver,” Pope explained. “We built a database, we built communications stack, we built our own security stuff. And we spent a huge amount of effort on data center work, on deploying, maintaing and patching within the data center. That was late ‘90s, early 2000s — shift 10 to 15 years later and it’s just entirely different.”
He added that whereas Groove had 120 employees at this point in its development, Talko has just 10 “because we have stood on the shoulders of AWS and Azure, WebRTC and Freeswitch, and so forth. We could not have built Talko with the team size that we have and the time that we have without that.”
On choosing your clouds wisely
“There are going to be three major cloud providers going forward, and I think it’s obvious who those three are,” Pope said. “… We have very intentionally tried to design our infrastructure that we deploy on them to be highly … I don’t know if portable is the right word … At any given time, one may become better the another for any given thing, and have designed our system to give the agility to move things around in a way that will be most appropriate for our business going forward.”
Talko uses Azure and Amazon Web Services today, but he didn’t count out using Google in the future.
On competing with his old employer, Microsoft
Pope acknowledged that Talko is “only software” and companies like Microsoft and Google could definitely try to build something similar to flesh out their own communications strategies, but he’s confident that won’t happen unless Talko hits a homerun first.
“The way Talko has composed our user experience is entirely unique and not been done before,” he said, “and I’m not sure any large company would take the risk involved to try to emulate that — until and unless they saw that we had gained massive traction and momentum.”