People’s past experiences are what make them who they are, so who are you?
I am Ali Jelveh, Chief Revolutionary Officer at Protonet. I have lived in Iran, France and Germany. I have studied physics but quit to go after my software engineering habits. After working for several companies including XING (the German LinkedIn), I decided to build Protonet together with my Co-Founder Christopher Blum.
How would you describe Protonet to a complete stranger?
It’s a great collaboration tool that runs on a server, it’s very easy to use without any IT knowledge and it gives you the comfort of the cloud combined with the benefits of local hardware.
How big are you and where do you see your team in the next two years?
We are 23 highly talented people with all the skills we need to reach our goals; in the next two years we will invest mostly in sales.
What does motivate you to work every day on something you have built?
We have a vision of a distributed cloud. The cloud as we know it is great, but there is one problem: people do not have any data control. We want everybody to own a piece of the internet’s infrastructure. You can only control your data if you are in charge of the infrastructure and we want to enable people to do so. Other than that it’s happy customers and a great team!
Being a Founder and a CEO is one of the most difficult aspects of Entrepreneurship. How did you find this experience and what was the most challenging problem that you faced?
Every day is a challenge. Growing the right team, building the product and keeping track of all the departments when growing is very difficult. But I think holding on to your vision even in the rough times is the biggest challenge every entrepreneur faces. Only if you are able to never let go of the way you envision the future you will be able to have success.
There are plenty of people out there that are always wondering how to fundraise and start their business. We know you have recently gone through an Angel investment of $1.2M. What’s your best advice?
You have to find the right match and build up a relationship. It’s not like you will get a meeting and have the money follow directly after that, even if the product is great. Investors do not want to see a dot, they want to see the line connecting the dots and it has to be facing up and right. This does not mean you have to be making more money every month or get more customers every month – but you have to make some kind of progress every month. And if you convince them that your team is formidable you’ll eventually get a term sheet.
What does differentiate Protonet from any other server?
It’s just easy to use, anybody can use it and you don’t have to have any IT knowledge. It runs an operating system that let’s you keep the comfort of cloud tools but without putting your data into the cloud. So if you are thinking about setting up your company infrastructure, Protonet might be the right choice.
We have talked to people from San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Italy, London, Manchester, but we have never had the chance to interview a startup from Hamburg. How’s the startup scene there? Do you see a growth?
The startup scene in Germany is growing amnd yes, we have always seen great companies emerging from here. Hamburg is amongst the regions that give birth to great ideas amongst others like Karlsruhe, Berlin, Munich or Cologne. In Hamburg for example we have myTaxi, XING, Kreditech, Bigpoint, InnoGames, Smaato – all of them are global players and category leaders.
What impressed me about Protonet was the design, how many prototypes have you tested before releasing the final product? Was it difficult to find the perfect “formula”?
There is never a final product, always listen to the user.
What would you say to a Young Entrepreneur who has just started building his product with no funding and just the passion to achieve what he believes in?
We started out this way and no investor gave us money, it didn’t matter. If she/he has the will to take all the beating and negative comments, all of the pressure and turn it into positive energy that fuels the vision and strength to achieve her/his goals, that’s great! I would say: get a team to share the experience.