This piece was written by Max Dunhill and originally ran on Medium as: Why I am so excited to have joined the Oracle for Startups team.
If I could rewind the clock on my journey as a startup founder, one of the main things I would change would be to build on Oracle. Given how hyperbolic this claim might sound, I’m going to spend the rest of this article unpacking it, focusing on considerations of security, cost and scale.
These considerations will explain why I encourage more companies to build with Oracle's startup program.
Uncertainty has defined the five years I have spent as a startup founder. Had I built on Oracle, I now know that I could have reduced some of this uncertainty. As an example, building a data-driven marketplace for tutoring required choosing a PaaS provider through which to manage the app’s deployment. This led to security considerations.
What I thought were best practices were followed: developer accounts were secured with 2FA, user passwords were not stored in plain text, and passwords were reset at regular intervals. Beyond this, a more thorough security infrastructure felt like a luxury that I could purchase at a later date through an expensive third party consultant who could come in, complete an audit, and further tighten the company’s security. What’s more, I often asked myself: who would want to target an early stage company such as mine when there are so many better funded and better publicized companies out there?
As it turns out, this assumption cost College Connections £20,000 in equity investment, which could have been avoided working with a cloud provider like Oracle. The cost of my assumption was exposed when it became apparent that an administrative third party involved in formalizing the equity investment of the company that I was running had been breached.
Attackers were able to intercept correspondence discussing this particular investor’s contribution to the round, spoof my company email address, and divert the funds to a bank account which they controlled. This was due to misconfigured SPF records.
Prior to this, auditing the MX records of the company was towards the very bottom of the list of priorities of the tech team. I had personally configured these when I registered the domain, using an online tutorial which seemed reliable.
Had I built on Oracle, I could have had access to pre-built security policies and templates, which are point-and-click, and would not have required me to either be an expert or hire in an expensive consultant to do this security work for me. What’s more, beyond DNS records, from a cloud security perspective more generally, Oracle customers can enforce consistent secure policies and controls across environments, which frees up database administrators from things like tuning and patching databases.
Given that the back-end developers also wore the hat of database administrators, such security resources as offered by Oracle would have been invaluable.
Indeed, they would have ensured consistent security, without needing a dedicated administrator to manage the database, freeing up tech talent to work on innovative code commits for the platform. Beyond this, I could have had access to self-driving, self-securing and self-repairing autonomous databases through their Oracle Autonomous Database Platform. As a tutoring company, College Connections works with sensitive data from parents and students. Oracle’s Autonomous DB would have provided me with greater peace of mind that this data was secure.
Costs are another reason why, if I could turn back the clocks on my journey as a startup founder, I would build my startup infrastructure with Oracle.
I vividly remember the first month I launched a forum for educational resources addressed at an audience of parents and students. This required setting up a LAMP stack on another IaaS provider. With zero transparency surrounding the pricing of the various virtual machines I was presented with, I naively decided to purchase the largest instance. At the time, I was not overly familiar with elastic systems, and thought to myself: “It’s the cloud, how expensive can a resource be if I don’t fully utilize it? I’ll buy this one so that when traffic picks up, I don’t have to worry about coming up and upgrading the server. The reason I don’t see any prices quoted is because I’ll only be billed for what I use.”
At the end of that billing cycle, I found out that I had been wrong to assume this. Very, very wrong.
Indeed, even though I had only marginal traffic to the forum in that first month of purchase of that instance, I was billed for all of its capacity, at a cost which was four times higher than my company’s cloud budget at the time!
Oracle offers a truly transparent pricing model around their cloud products for startups, which means that I could have avoided this costly mistake had I built from day one on Oracle. What’s more, they offer significant free cloud credits, which would have taken pressure off my company’s cash flow at the time.
The final reason why I wish I had built on Oracle is how much Oracle can contribute to a company’s quest for scale. Indeed, what I find rather unique about Oracle’s offering to startups is the contribution they offer to early stage companies’ business development pipeline.
With decades of experience in enterprise sales, Oracle has a vast wealth of knowledge about what it takes to effectively sell solutions to companies. Through Oracle's startup program, they offer access to this knowledge to founders through mentorship.
What’s more, for those companies that make the switch to Oracle as their cloud partner and meet certain requirements, there is the opportunity (for companies that are ready for it) to sell to Oracle customers! This opportunity, which at first I felt sounded too good to be true, is a testament to the commitment that the company has to contributing to the startup ecosystem, and a tremendous opportunity for B2B companies especially.
Through my journey as a founder, I learned through painful trial and error the importance of picking a secure, transparent cloud partner to act as a backbone to my startup business. Because of their attention to security, cost and scale, I feel a personal sense of frustration at not having built on Oracle from day one.
However, this sense of frustration is amply outweighed by the excitement I have at the opportunity to make more early stage companies aware of what Oracle for Startups can bring them.