Every week we publish an interview with a start-up. We ask five questions, hoping the answers will give you inspiration and new views.
This time we’re interviewing Dominik Grolimund from Wuala. This is a free social online storage service. The “social” refers to the easy share features and the possibility to see what your friends are uploading. In addition to centralized servers, Wuala is a mesh/cloud/P2P storage which can harness idle resources of participating users and thus provide a better solution – there are no file size limits, no bandwidth limits, etcetera. The files are encrypted, so that might reassure people who are still a bit afraid of online storing.
Developing a service like this, takes quite some time and effort. So I thought it might be interesting for you to learn from Dominik’s experiences. Moreover, although his service will remain in closed alpha, we do have 50 invites for you. Instructions follow below.
How did you come up with the idea of Wuala?
“We started research and development on Wuala 3.5 years ago at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich). Our goal was to build something that was both challenging from a research point of view but which also had a great potential. Distributed storage systems were a hot research topic at that time and building a system that can harness idle resources seemed very promising, as the need for online storage was rising and file sizes were increasing. The research projects had an academic focus only – we wanted to realize it and make it work in practice for millions of users.”
What was your biggest challenge during the development process?
“Wuala is a complex technology with many potential applications. One of the biggest challenges was to focus. This is especially important for something that takes years to complete, while the earth turns around and things change. For us, it was very important to release an early closed alpha version and invite key users who could invite their friends, so that we could listen to feedback and build the application together with our users.”
Can you describe the Swiss start-up culture compared to Silicon Valley?
“I think the difference is still huge. The ecosystem in the valley is great: there are tons of cool tech start-ups and lots of events are taking place, so that you can exchange, learn from each other and find people with similar ideas. In Switzerland it’s much harder to find the right people who are willing to embark on a venture. However, great initiatives and conferences (such as The Next Web) are taking place in Europe as well, and I really hope Europe is catching up. We’re currently organizing a TechCrunch meet-up in Zurich for all Swiss web 2.0 start-ups and it’s great to see that there are so many cool ideas, projects and start-ups in Switzerland. Google, Microsoft, IBM etc. are here as well to attract good engineers from ETH and Zurich is a great place to live and work.”
What will be the influence of your start-up on the next web?
“We launched the closed alpha a couple of months ago, which was very successful and the user base grows quickly even though it’s still closed with limited invites. We have very active users which makes us very happy and shows us that we are on the right track. We hope that Wuala will change the landscape of online storage and that we reach millions of happy users with a very simple and convenient tool. For big files, or a collection of files (for example a photo album, documents), using Wuala to share is really convenient, and it will be even more convenient in the beta when you can start it directly from the web and send links to anyone, even to people who are not yet in Wuala. It’s a place for all files online, to share and discover – the ‘next web of files’ ;).”
You can make up this question yourself!
How do users get more storage?
“You start with 1 GB of storage which is provided by us. For each friend that you invite, you get an additional GB. If you want more storage, you can either trade local disk space for more online storage (for example 100 GB), or purchase additional online storage (10, 50, 100, etc.)”
Want to give Wuala a shot?
Please note that the installation of a software is only required during the closed alpha. In the public beta, Wuala can be directly started from the web.