Cloud Spawns New Business Line


by Tony Kontzer

The homegrown software that served as a digital asset management system for VRX Studios, a commercial photography firm in Vancouver, B.C., was filled to bursting. Finding content among the 20 terabytes of image data stored for 8,000 hotel customers was a nightmare, and the company was constantly running out of storage.

Says CEO David MacLaren, "It was slowing us down and costing us too much, and it was affecting service to clients, and thus the bottom line."

So a couple of years ago, MacLaren and his team went looking for a new DAM product to support its increasingly global customer base. It was a frustrating search. After a year, they'd found nothing that met their requirements, and had resigned themselves to building an application before opting for Microsoft's Windows Azure platform to build and host the resulting application, MediaValet. The company, which now has 10,000 hotel clients and 30 terabytes of data, is more efficient and customer-friendly than before.

But there was another, surprising payoff: MediaValet introduced a new business opportunity to host third-party content that VRX clients didn't want to deal with. Soon it became clear there was no reason to stop with its traditional photography clients.

In the months since the app went live, MacLaren has established it as a stand-alone brand and expects to eventually spin it off as a separate company. He anticipates MediaValet's revenue will exceed that of VRX in three years.

That is what all entrepreneurs, all executives are looking for," says MacLaren. "It's like finding a Rembrandt in the attic."

MacLaren has become a vocal cloud computing proponent in the process. "Anything that needs to be accessible outside your physical premises--by staff, customers, suppliers--is a good fit for the cloud," he says.

Not everyone will get a second, more profitable business out of the cloud, of course, but it pays to recognize opportunities when they come along.