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Tarmin's Shahbaz Ali: "VCs leave founders with a tiny share of the company - you lose all control"

During a recent press trip to Boston, we had the chance to see data defined storage startup Tarmin and meet its founder and CEO, Shahbaz Ali. As well as learning about its innovative big data and information management platform, which centres on its proprietary GridBank technology, we were interested in finding out more about its startup journey, strategic partnerships with industry stalwarts like IBM, and of course its presence at this year's IP EXPO. Without further ado, let's hear what Mr Ali had to share with us.

1) Having been founded in 2010, Tarmin is a young company. What are some of the early-stage challenges you have encountered and how have you overcome them?

Every company and startup will face challenges, there is no avoiding it. The storage and data management industry is evolving rapidly, and the only way to succeed in this environment is to turn a startup's biggest challenge – its scale – into an opportunity. Startups innovate faster and with more agility than the incumbent providers. The technology we have delivered in three short years, with a handful of developers and a few million dollars would be outside the reach of many billion dollar corporates with tens of thousands of employees and decades of development.

We are bringing new and innovative solutions to the challenges of data growth in a way that only a small company could. This is just the beginning of data defined storage (DDS) and it is destined to truly transform how businesses view their data.

2) Are there are any specific bits of advice you would pass on to other startups looking to make an impact sooner rather than later?

The biggest mistake any new entrepreneur can make is to take financing from the wrong sources. Venture capital seems beguilingly accessible for an innovative startup, but it comes at such a cost. While it will help you to grow your business in the short term, it won't be long before you find yourself facing demands for changes to the strategy and new recruits. Pretty soon, if you're not careful, VCs will leave the founders with a tiny share of the company and you'll lose all control.

That's why at Tarmin, we've ensured that we're entirely funded by private shareholders who support the strategy that I lay out and who bring value to the organisation through their network. The relationship between the company and the shareholders is a partnership, not one of conflict.

3) Boston is renowned for its technology scene and, in more recent times, its status as a startup hub. How has this backdrop helped you develop?

Relocating our headquarters to Boston was a very critical move for us. Boston is a great location for several reasons. The city is known for its universities and prominent technology companies, making it a prime location to recruit good talent. But it is also filled with financial services firms, healthcare organisations and educational institutions - all of which are a primary target customer for our GridBank software. These industries generate huge volumes of data, making them very viable candidates for our DDS solution.

4) How important have partnerships, like the one Tarmin enjoys with IBM, been to your early development?

We are excited to have a strategic partnership in place with IBM and other prominent companies. Through relationships like these, we are able to build the ecosystem around Tarmin's offerings and grow our reseller base. These kind of companies often recognise the importance of their partner community and the need for the support of independent software vendors to add value to their offerings, so there is a very complementary relationship.

In terms of IBM specifically, it is fully engaged with the data defined storage vision and is helping us take the message to market. In fact, you are likely to see more content around the DDS message in the next few months, so watch this space.

5) You have an office in London and spoke to us about a desire for growth in the UK and Europe. Why are these markets important to you?

For me, it's a personal thing. I studied my PhD in London and I'm proud to call it my home. We may have moved our headquarters to Boston, but it's important to me to succeed on home turf. Of course, it helps that the UK is a large market for storage, as is Germany and other regions throughout EMEA, where we are currently penetrating new markets.

Our international partners allow us to have a global reach according to demand, while our ongoing channel recruitment strategy as part of the Tarmin OverDrive Program, ensures that we are able to provide the high quality support that enterprises require.

6) You are scheduled to attend IP EXPO again this year, one of the top events on the European technology calendar. What has drawn you to IP EXPO?

We are excited to join our channel partner NAS at this year's IP EXPO. We are keen to build brand awareness and educate the market on next generation DDS solution and Tarmin's innovative GridBank technology.

The IP EXPO is attended by many leading firms discussing the latest trends and updates in the industry and we are looking forward to being part of this years' exhibition.

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