So You Want to be an HPC Entrepreneur

By Steve Campbell

October 20, 2014

Before you take the step to becoming a fully-fledged entrepreneur, in HPC of all areas, ask yourself why? Is it because you want to be your own boss and call the shots, are you a risk taker, want the flexibility, you have such a good idea you can’t not do it, or you just want to make a lot of money like your college roommate who just made $100M and you are smarter. Despite what Hollywood portrays in recent movies being an entrepreneur is not all glamorous and a jet set life style. Check out a recent Economist article – Entrepreneur Anonymous.

Out of the 64 million things that need to get done where do you start.

In the mid 1990s, so last century, I taught Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UCSD for a couple of years and the majority of students wanted to be their own ‘boss’ for several reasons, more on that later, but didn’t know how to get going or what to do.

The idea is usually where it starts. You may not have an idea so how do you come up with one? A good place to start is to look around the market place and do some grass roots research. Ask lots of questions to identify unmet needs or an untapped or poorly served niche. When researching your idea think beyond traditional HPC market needs. If you can come up with an idea that can transition or directly address a need in the general market or enterprise HPC your market opportunity will be greatly expanded.

Once you have the idea, test it out by talking to friendly advisors and potential customers to collect evidence that you have identified an untapped opportunity or solving an existing problem in a unique way. It is a good idea to write this all down in a plan. This plan does not need to be a hundred page document but the better you can articulate the idea the more you improve your chances of success – and the briefer the better.

Now you have the idea and you have a plan, which will also help you focus. Next, really find out everything you can about your target audience. Who are they, how do they select products or a service, how large is the opportunity, are they receptive to change, and so on. The more you know the better.

A big part of starting up your own business is the ability to take a risk and the finance to support early stages. Understand your personal finances and choose the right sources for money to fund your business. The type of business you want to start will probably dictate the finance sources. It is very common for early stage companies to be self-financed or use funding from family and friends. Clearly you may have serious financial commitments. Also ask yourself when is the right time to leave the security of your existing job? Don’t leave too early or you’ll regret it.

Create a support network. A team of experts, mentors, in all facets of building a business is good to have in place that can help during the personal struggles the long hours and stress. At the right time you need to get the word out. Whether you are looking to raise capital or hire the first employee or ready to go to market with you solution. Your network can help you with this.

As you move from the idea stage to the concept stage a key decision is to determine what kind of company you want to start and build. This is important, as it will help identify the amount and source of financing you need to develop your idea. The type of company you create may also dictate the investor exit strategy – how do you and your investors get money back at what multiple and when. There are many different types of companies, for example, a life style company and its need for financing is very different from a high potential venture with the goal for a Wall Street IPO.

Your need for capital may also be driven by the type of company and the money you require as you transition from concept stage to the product development stage. Developing a professional service business is very different than an application software business to, say, next generation FPGA-based accelerator. There are many sources for capital depending on where you are in your company development stage – debt and equity financing, commercial banks to finance accounts receivable or loans for inventory and equipment, cash flow financing, SBA loans, government SBIR, R&D partner ships and private placements with individuals (angels) or institutional investors (VC community).

No matter the type of company and your need for capital infusion you will need to get out there and pitch your idea. Create a simple PowerPoint, or similar, that clearly explains the idea or product and why the target customer needs it. The potential investor will want to know what is unique and useful, who is going to buy, why they are going to buy, where will they buy it and what is the price. Naturally they will also need to have some idea of the revenue and gross profit you can generate. The more funding you need, the more you are in the realm of building a significant company that usually requires working with VCs. A VC strategy is about backing many start ups whose goal it to build a large profitable company that can have a successful IPO or corporate buy-out. Not every investment makes it but when one does, there is a potentially gigantic return.

No matter the source of finance, be careful what you ask for. Money can come with baggage. Be prepared to ask questions as you may need and want more than just the money – can the bank introduce you to potential customers, can the VC firm open corporate doors or customer doors, do they have experience with firms like yours, what equity position do they require, will you still be majority shareholder, will they want or expect a board seat, etc.

Now you have your idea, you have developed the solution, and you have access to capital. What next? Well it is time to go to market and find customers and generate revenue. At this stage you are probably the chief salesperson for your company. If you thought developing the solution was hard, now you need to find people that will actually hand over money for your solution and once they do you have to ship it, install it, and fix it if it breaks. Commercialization of your idea is hard; welcome to the introductory stage and start of the product life cycle.

Here is a recommended approach, start small and focus your efforts on a well defined niche of customers who really need your solution, create a leadership position in that niche and move on to the next niche. This is a good way to start and can increase probability of success. Companies such as Amazon and eBay started this way and have become industry powerhouses. Whereas high profile start-ups such as Solyndra crashed and burned as they tried to solve the world’s alternative energy crisis.

In short, it is not just the idea and the product, but also the team, staying focused, and execution. Never compromise hiring standards – hire smart. A-team players will hire A-team players whereas B-Team players hire C-team players. You need A-team players. No matter how good someone sounds or looks on paper check references very carefully and thoroughly, get unsolicited references. Your team can make or break your company even before you get to market.

Finally, do not forget about branding. Branding is a critical component that is not well understood by technology entrepreneurs so seek help from the experts before it is too late.

As a HPC Technology entrepreneur, if you are attending SC14, go check out StartupHPC, StartupHPC is a grass roots community for STEM- and HPC-inspired entrepreneurs, corporations, VCs, and support organizations. Their inaugural event will be a mini conference focused on how to become an entrepreneur, featuring a roster of all-star speakers. It is held on Monday Nov 17th in New Orleans, where the Supercomputing-14 (SC14) conference is held this year.

There is a lot you need to know: intellectual property, corporate structure, governance, regulations and compliance, etc., etc. This has barely scratched the surface.

There is a lot of ‘free’ information on the Internet, no shortage in-fact, so a search engine can be your friend, but always verify if you can and make sure whatever advice you get is applicable to your unique situations. Finally, here is some recommended reading; Zero to One, The Tao of Leadership, The Hard Things About the Hard Things, and The Facebook Effect are just a few examples of excellent reading material.

Go get ‘em!

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Nvidia Leads Alpha MLPerf Benchmarking Round

December 12, 2018

Seven months after the launch of its AI benchmarking suite, the MLPerf consortium is releasing the first round of results based on submissions from Nvidia, Google and Intel. Of the seven benchmarks encompassed in version Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Neural Network ‘Synapse’ Technology Showcased at IEEE Meeting

December 12, 2018

There’s nice snapshot of advancing work to develop improved neural network “synapse” technologies posted yesterday on IEEE Spectrum. Lower power, ease of use, manufacturability, and performance are all key paramete Read more…

By John Russell

IBM, Nvidia in AI Data Pipeline, Processing, Storage Union

December 11, 2018

IBM and Nvidia today announced a new turnkey AI solution that combines IBM Spectrum Scale scale-out file storage with Nvidia’s GPU-based DGX-1 AI server to provide what the companies call the “the highest performance Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

AI Can Be Scary. But Choosing the Wrong Partners Can Be Mortifying!

As you continue to dive deeper into AI, you will discover it is more than just deep learning. AI is an extremely complex set of machine learning, deep learning, reinforcement, and analytics algorithms with varying compute, storage, memory, and communications needs. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

4 Ways AI Analytics Projects Fail — and How to Succeed

“How do I de-risk my AI-driven analytics projects?” This is a common question for organizations ready to modernize their analytics portfolio. Here are four ways AI analytics projects fail—and how you can ensure success. Read more…

Is Amazon’s Plunge into Server Chips a Watershed Moment?

December 11, 2018

For several years now the big cloud providers – Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google, et al – have been transforming from technology consumers into technology creators in hardware and software. The most recent example bei Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Leads Alpha MLPerf Benchmarking Round

December 12, 2018

Seven months after the launch of its AI benchmarking suite, the MLPerf consortium is releasing the first round of results based on submissions from Nvidia, Goog Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM, Nvidia in AI Data Pipeline, Processing, Storage Union

December 11, 2018

IBM and Nvidia today announced a new turnkey AI solution that combines IBM Spectrum Scale scale-out file storage with Nvidia’s GPU-based DGX-1 AI server to pr Read more…

By Doug Black

Is Amazon’s Plunge into Server Chips a Watershed Moment?

December 11, 2018

For several years now the big cloud providers – Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google, et al – have been transforming from technology consumers into technology cr Read more…

By John Russell

Mellanox Uses Univa to Extend Silicon Design HPC Operation to Azure

December 11, 2018

Call it a corollary to Murphy’s Law: When a system is most in demand, when end users are most dependent on the system performing as required, when it’s crunch time – that’s when the system is most likely to blow up. Or make you wait in line to use it. Read more…

By Doug Black

Topology Can Help Us Find Patterns in Weather

December 6, 2018

Topology--the study of shapes--seems to be all the rage. You could even say that data has shape, and shape matters. Shapes are comfortable and familiar concepts, so it is intriguing to see that many applications are being recast to use topology. For instance, looking for weather and climate patterns. Read more…

By James Reinders

Zettascale by 2035? China Thinks So

December 6, 2018

Exascale machines (of at least a 1 exaflops peak) are anticipated to arrive by around 2020, a few years behind original predictions; and given extreme-scale performance challenges are not getting any easier, it makes sense that researchers are already looking ahead to the next big 1,000x performance goal post: zettascale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Robust Quantum Computers Still a Decade Away, Says Nat’l Academies Report

December 5, 2018

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine yesterday released a report – Quantum Computing: Progress and Prospects – whose optimism about Read more…

By John Russell

Revisiting the 2008 Exascale Computing Study at SC18

November 29, 2018

A report published a decade ago conveyed the results of a study aimed at determining if it were possible to achieve 1000X the computational power of the the Read more…

By Scott Gibson

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Machine Learning “What-If” Analysis Tool

September 12, 2018

Training machine learning models has long been time-consuming process. Yesterday, Google released a “What-If Tool” for probing how data point changes affect a model’s prediction. The new tool is being launched as a new feature of the open source TensorBoard web application... Read more…

By John Russell

The Convergence of Big Data and Extreme-Scale HPC

August 31, 2018

As we are heading towards extreme-scale HPC coupled with data intensive analytics like machine learning, the necessary integration of big data and HPC is a curr Read more…

By Rob Farber

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This