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    Interview: Dickson Au
    Co-Founder, RoundHeaven

    We recently had an opportunity to learn more about RoundHeaven Communications,a Vancouver-based managed hosting provider. Here's what Dickson Au, their Executive Vice-President, Strategy and Co-Founder shared with HostIndex.com...

    HostIndex.com: You obviously have the confidence of investors, with word you have recently received a $20 million first round of funding from M/C Venture Partners. Can you tell us why M/C Venture Partners found you attractive?

    Dickson Au: They liked our business model very much. They believed that there were a lot of variables that will allow for generating a lot of recurring revenue and become profitable in the near future. So definitely, the soundness of the business model was one of the key reasons. And we have very strong and experienced people.

    HostIndex.com: Do you have specific plans for this funding?

    Dickson Au: We plan on using the funding to expand our operations to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in Canada. An expansion into eastern Canada in the next 12 months is one of top priorities. And we'll also use the funding to continue to drive more revenue and to continue to build the foundation to introduce more sales and marketing initiatives.

    HostIndex.com: You had a huge win in your first month, rescuing Officepools.com from a hacker attack that shut down their site. Were you able to leverage that success into further growth for RoundHeaven Communications?

    Dickson Au: Definitely. Some of the clients we have for example, Mountain Equipment Co-op took advantage of the Internet to drive sales of outdoor equipment. They're the leading outdoor equipment retailer in the country. So definitely security is one of their concerns when they do a lot of online transactions. And Inovera which is a joint venture of the three largest credit unions in the country, for example. Financial services is an area that requires a lot of service for security, data back-up and restoration and also the consistent 24/7 monitoring just to make sure their operations run smoothly on a 24/7 basis because it could be 2 o'clock in the morning and their customers want to access their services.


    HostIndex.com: Your customer list includes some pre-eminent Canadian clients, including the Royal Canadian Mint and Mountain Equipment Co-op. Do you find Canadian firms prefer to deal with a Canadian managed hosting service?

    Dickson Au: Certainly there's an advantage that we have over the US based providers. One of the main reasons is that there's an understanding of the Canadian business and how business leaders in Canada make their decisions. It's a very customer-oriented and customer-focused service and we pride ourselves as being the provider of their very responsive customer needs. So if you go to a provider that is based in a totally different country, totally different laws and regulations for example, I think there's a certain barrier, and I don't think people have entirely overcome that. So I think even though the barrier is somewhat diminished, geographical location is still quite important.

    HostIndex.com: You are not using those differences as a barrier to stop you from aggressively targeting firms currently using hosting services with data centers in California. While there may not be the same concerns regarding power shortages, earthquakes also occur in BC. What steps have you put in place at your Vancouver data center to alleviate concerns about these and other natural disasters?

    Dickson Au: In the data center in Vancouver we have put in a number of seismic restraint systems. They are designed to withstand a very high earthquake, up to a zone 4 level earthquake, which would represent over 8 on the Richter scale. The other measures we've taken are really to expand our operation and build a second operation in eastern Canada. That would allow us to have a redundant operation so that if something goes wrong in one location, the other operation can take over so that there would be a seamless transition and customers would not be affected. We're also out there talking to different special partners to see if we can set up what's called mirror sites. The idea is the same thing as redundant sites. Essentially, in case something goes wrong at one operation then the other operation takes over without having any impact on the customer operation. So, those are the three steps we are taking.

    HostIndex.com: Those factors will come into play whether you are dealing with Canadian customers or American customers. When it comes to American customers will you be aggressively marketing the fact that they will get much more value for their dollar because of the value of the Canadian dollar.

    Dickson Au: Definitely. Certainly cost-effective solutions are very attractive for organizations, and not only that we have the advantage in terms of the lower cost of operations in Canada, but technically we provide very similar high standards as some of the top US providers and we also have abundant power in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada. These are some the advantages for American customers to come and look for our services. We have certainly got the message out there. We have received a lot of calls the US, especially in the last week or two about our services, so we definitely think our services are attractive to US customers.

    HostIndex.com: We've talked about Canadian and American companies. Do you also have plans to target international firms in general, and because of your Vancouver location and its ties back to Asia, if there are any plans to target Asian firms?

    Dickson Au: Right now our focus is on the Canada and North American market. But having said that, I think it's going to be very interesting in the next five years especially in Europe and some parts in Asia. I think people think of Japan for example, in Asia, but I think China will be a very significant player in the next five years. We want to right now focus on what available in our own back yard. Just look at the Canadian marker for example. It's a very young market, and most of the large organizations still haven't developed a very comprehensive internet strategy so we think that we're very well positioned to take advantage of the industry trend going on in North America.

    HostIndex.com: RoundHeaven provides a complete managed hosting solution. What services are included and how are you successful in addressing a clients concern about losing control of its Internet applications?

    Dickson Au: I think the biggest challenge nowadays is really the lack of expertise, whether it's organizations or even large enterprises like government. There are a lot of new technologies being introduced into the market in the last few years because of the advantages of the Internet. We are in the space where we have all these people who have technical skills. They are experienced in networking different platforms, security and storage management. The services we provide included the data center where we house the servers that distribute the information for our clients. We provide the network which is based on very high speed Internet connectivity. We connect to more than one Internet network, so if one network goes down we connect our customers to another one. In addition we also provide 24 X 7 monitoring. We proactively look at what's going on at the web site and web applications to detect any problems and resolve them.

    HostIndex.com: You were able to hire specialists away from some of British Columbia's top technology companies. Why is RoundHeaven such a desirable place to work, and how does that translate into customer satisfaction for your clients?

    Dickson Au: Yeah, this is a great place to work. Speaking for myself, I have a lot of respect for excellence and people's abilities. I have a lot of trust in my tech people for example, in their abilities. I think that it is a very common thinking that we have internally, so everyone feels like they are part of a family. It's a very good chemistry here and people feel very motivated to work because they know that their excellence will be rewarded and their dedication will be respected and we have a great atmosphere here. It's very exciting and fast moving, and people have a lot of opportunities to learn and grow in our organization, and I think these are some of the reasons we've been able to attract some of the top talent this country.

    HostIndex.com: Thank you for helping us better understand your company.



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