How cool would it be to have a Super Bowl champion on your board of directors? That’s exactly what they have at CloudOne, the fast-growing tech firm in Indianapolis that specializes in bringing enterprise software applications to the cloud. Former Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Ryan Diem is on the board.
Ryan was part of the Super Bowl XLI championship team of 2006 and Super Bowl XLIV runner-up team of 2009. He was one of the initial angel investors in CloudOne along with several other Indianapolis Colts players, including Jeff Saturday, Ryan Lilja, Jamie Silva and Dallas Clark. These players have participated in subsequent funding rounds, too. CloudOne has raised just shy of $12 million in venture capital since 2010.
I was lucky enough to have the chance recently to ask Ryan some questions about his role with CloudOne and his interest in tech.
Question: It’s common for NFL players to go into business during and after their football careers, but car dealerships and restaurants seem to be the norm. How/Why did you get into technology and what led you to CloudOne?
Answer: I have been into technology since I was a kid, whether it was wiring up car stereos for friends, building RC cars, or generally being destructive. I have always been curious about how things work and what makes them tick. I guess that’s why Mechanical Engineering seemed like a good fit for me in college.
After college, and a few years with the Colts, I pursued a dream of an automotive performance shop. I partnered with a college engineering classmate, and we started building some amazing modern muscle cars. As we know, cars these days are basically a blend of mechanical parts and computers to make them run properly, so being a car nut and a techie, this was extremely exciting for me.
We were approached by another local business owner who did high end custom stereo installations and we did a couple projects together for customers. Shortly thereafter, he pitched an idea to me about a tech company that he wanted to start with his dad who had a lifelong career in IT, along with some of his IT friends and consultants.
I saw the potential. I saw the opportunity to take some existing tech products (software dev tools) and to create a delivery method that would change how this particular software was sold, delivered and managed. It was a way to make them cheaper, easier, and faster for the customer, and to me it was worth the risk to give a shot.
When we started the company in one of our founder’s basements, we were building virtual private clouds before “cloud” was even a buzz word. It has been really fascinating to see the shift in the way software is delivered, and to be on the front end of it has been very exciting.
Q: Do you find that your mechanical engineering degree serves you well as a CloudOne Board Member? Are there crossover skills/bodies of knowledge that have helped you succeed in the software industry?
A: Although it doesn’t directly translate, most engineers have the ability to understand big picture concepts and break them down into realistic action plans, and then understand the technology and process to make it happen.
Q: How did your NFL experiences prepare you for your leadership role with a tech company? Any NFL habits or football teachings that you find are still part of your career in tech?
A: I think my career with the Colts, and playing team sports in general my whole life has prepared me to work with many different personalities in many different roles. A company has many similarities to a team. There is a leadership structure, different roles to be played, and many different people from different backgrounds have to come together to make a project work.
The one thing that really carries over for everyone on the CloudOne team is that you have to be ready to work hard. The only way you make it in the NFL is to outwork your younger and cheaper competition, and that is exactly the same thing that we do at CloudOne. We will outwork and outperform anyone, and that is why we have graduated from a basement start up to a successful business.
Q: CloudOne is posting some impressive numbers both in growth and in raising venture capital. What’s driving this success from your perspective?
A: In my opinion, there is a huge demand for the cloud delivery method, not only for the types of products we offer, but all software products in general. We all know why the cloud is successful – it makes life easier. We want to eliminate the mundane and tedious tasks for our customers of installing updates, and keeping servers running. We want them to be able to just use the product as it was designed to complete their projects, and not concern themselves with any type of maintenance. We want to create a working environment for them in a matter of hours instead of weeks. CloudOne spent it’s first two years in existence trying to convince people that this is what they really wanted, and now they are demanding it.
Q: What other tech areas interest you?
A: Right now it seems that the next wave in tech is the Internet of Things which is very interesting to me. We are starting to see it already with all of the connected devices that we use everyday. We will continue to become more connected, as will all of the devices around us. It’s even more exciting because the main connector of all these devices is the cloud, and CloudOne is already exploring these opportunities. It’s a natural fit for us to be the in this space, and the possibilities are endless.
Q: What is life like for you after football?
A: I feel very blessed to spend a lot of time at home with my 3 young children and my wife. Along with serving on the board of CloudOne, I try to stay very close with the management team to discuss strategy and direction.
I get the opportunity to evaluate a lot of other investment opportunities that come my way, but don’t feel the need to jump at each one. I’m more of a hands on guy, and don’t want to be spread too thin.
Football and training have always been a big part of who I am, and will continue to be. It’s been nice to take a break and step away from the filed, but I still try to stay in shape at the gym. As my kids grow up, I can definitely see myself coaching them in whatever they decide to pursue.
Q: Do you consider yourself a digital native? Do you geek out on the latest and greatest devices and apps, etc.?
A: Absolutely. I love being an early adopter of technology. A few of the other O-Linemen used to call me “Geek Squad” after I would help them out with a computer or phone issue — that actually didn’t offend me at all.
I’m proud of my inner nerd. I’m intrigued by advances in technology, and always want to see what’s next!