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Minima co-founders Reed Atkin, Ahmed El-Shimi, and Ian Cheung.
Minima co-founders Reed Atkin, Ahmed El-Shimi, and Ian Cheung.

The amount of data that businesses and individuals produce is growing exponentially. While the ability to track virtually ever aspect of an organization can be powerful, the sheer volume of information poses some challenges. Businesses have to store all of that data and glean the meaningful from trivial in order to make collecting it worthwhile.

Those are problems that Minima aims to solve. The platform helps enterprise IT make sense of its data and find the appropriate storage hardware. Minima maps data based on criteria like ownership, importance, and sensitivity. The software analyzes the information using learning algorithms and human input. Minima then automates complex workflows to save time.

Minima CEO Ahmed El-Shimi.
Minima CEO Ahmed El-Shimi.

IT storage veterans Ahmed El-Shimi, Reed Atkin, and Ian Cheung moved from the Bay Area to Seattle to launch Minima.

“We’re three founders who spent their careers building highly scalable storage infrastructure for IT,” said El-Shimi, who serves as CEO. “We call that solving the data problem for its maxima. Then we observed something really interesting that led us to solving the same problem from the opposite end, for its minima.”

We caught up with El-Shimi for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We help enterprise IT apply the 80/20 rule to their infrastructure and data, focusing their budget and time where the business needs them the most.”

Inspiration hit us when: “We had conversation after conversation with customers who were about to make multi-million dollar hardware investments with little quantitative understanding of how this investment would be used or how well the business is utilizing the last major hardware purchase.”

Minima-New-LogoVC, Angel or Bootstrap: “All of the above, in reverse order. The cost of turning an idea into working software has become so low that it makes little sense to do anything but bootstrap to get initial validation. But once you garner traction, you need to move fast and raise money to grow.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Hiding in plain sight but being very difficult to replicate. Our product has a design point that is completely unnatural for the incumbents to undertake. And our data-centric approach has multiple patented models and innovations.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “We put our product in the hands of enterprise customers very early on. It was stressful to push our product 20 times in scale from one customer to another, but it has made our learning curve much steeper than any amount of research or discussion ever could.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Thinking it was clever and necessary to be stealthy. One of our advisors beat this out of us right away. It’s always better to put what you do right on your website and talk about it openly so those who can help you, join you or buy your product can figure it out on their own. The fear that somehow you might give away your secrets is overblown. And if someone does end up stealing your idea the universe will find a way to right it out.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “I hate to dodge the question but we feel very strongly about being vendor agnostic. We integrate with both AWS and Azure, and as much as we would love to have all of those smart guys in our corner, our priority is being in our customers’ corner.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Discussing politics over lunch. Interestingly, no one on our team is particularly happy with the current crop of presidential candidates, so we’ll have lunchtime conversation fodder until at least November!”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “People who bring their personality into their work. We believe that’s what brings out your best work and brings you the best from your work.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Know where you have leverage and use it. You’ll hear about a million things you must be aware of, but at the end of the day, early-stage progress will come from you using your strengths to talk to customers, build a product and get it in the hands of those customers. Find out which of these you’re good at and find co-founders who complement you and then go do it.”

Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the companies participating in the 9Mile Labs incubator fall cohort. 

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