Wollongong startup enters online storage race

Wollongong startup enters online storage race

Summary: Wollongong-based IT startup Omnidrive has attracted more than 9,000 people interested in testing its fledgling online storage solution, despite having opened the doors for applications just one month ago. Omnidrive's product of the same name is billed as providing a personal online storage facility not dissimilar to that offered by Apple's .

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Wollongong-based IT startup Omnidrive has attracted more than 9,000 people interested in testing its fledgling online storage solution, despite having opened the doors for applications just one month ago.

Omnidrive's product of the same name is billed as providing a personal online storage facility not dissimilar to that offered by Apple's .Mac service.

Omnidrive
Click to enlarge
It has the capacity to integrate with a user's Windows or Mac operating system and interact with the user like a normal hard disk. In addition users can upload files via a Web interface.

Uploaded files can then be encrypted, shared and published online.

The startup's founder Nik Cubrilovic told ZDNet Australia more than 9,000 people had signed up to test the service since Omnidrive started accepting applications around a month ago.

"We have a private group of beta testers who are currently using Omnidrive, numbering around 150," he said. "We are getting over 300 people a day register for the beta and that number is increasing every day."

Cubrilovic started researching Omnidrive in mid 2004, with "full development" commencing in January of 2005.

"I have been researching online storage for what seems like an eternity now, around three years," he said. "I did play a part in an earlier product that had some levels of success and took a lot away from it."

"Omnidrive has been timed to take advantage of the ever-decreasing costs of storage as well as the strong growth in broadband," he said.

Omnidrive is likely to remain in beta (or testing) status until May, but in early February Cubrilovic will open the floodgates and allow 10,000 interested parties to test the service.

"We will be allowing anybody to register by March and have instant access," he added.

The startup employs some eight full-time staff and five who are used on as as-needed basis. "The team will grow to 20 people before the launch and we are recruiting heavily in the USA ... including key executive positions," said Cubrilovic.

One of Omnidrive's key selling points will no doubt prove to be the lack of cost to end-users involved. "For personal use, you will be able to store your private files and access them from any platform for free," said Cubrilovic.

"If you are a heavier user of the publishing and sharing aspects you will need to signup for the pro account which will cost around AU$80 a year."

Cubrilovic estimates around 30 percent of users will fit into the professional category. If all goes according to plan, he envisages Omnidrive will reach profitability by the end of 2006.

The entrepreneur noted it was possible Omnidrive would be acquired by a larger company, but said the startup's goal was "to build a large, global, successful business around what will be the standard Web storage and publishing platform for consumers."

Omnidrive is currently finalising its featureset and negotiating terms with "key infrastructure providers throughout the USA and other locations," according to Cubrilovic. "We will also have our first few large-scale distribution deals finalised by the end of January," he added, "the first third-party applications using Omnidrive to be released sometime after that."

Behind the scenes
Open source software provides the engine to make Omnidrive run.

"Our servers run on FreeBSD ... and we use open source tools from Apache as well as Java," said Cubrilovic. "We built the application server and all aspects of the platform."

Nik Cubrilovic
Nik Cubrilovic

Some of the technical challenges faced during development related to building a scalable server infrastructure, integrating the hosted storage into users' operating systems, and getting everything to work perfectly no matter which browser or operating system was used.

In the near future, Omnidrive plans to add support for connecting to handheld devices as well as set-top boxes.

"We are very close to being able to give users the power to save a video from their Pocket PC or mobile device, and then go home, switch on their TV, and watch it from their set-top box which will stream it back down," said Cubrilovic.

Omnidrive also plans to make public its application programming interface (API) which will allow third-party applications to interact with the service at a technical level.

Startups down under
While Cubrilovic described his home city of Wollongong as "a nice place to base ourselves during research and development, and said he was attracted by the lifestyle, he is not impressed with Australia's business environment for IT startups producing new Web services.

"The Web in Australia is in its infancy, entrepreneurship is in its infancy, seed stage funding is almost non-existant and there aren't nearly enough young bright people stepping up to compete globally in the Web field," he said.

"Australians are not making a mark nor taking part in the current Web renaissance as much as we could -- I have met a number of young Australian-based entrepreneurs and the spirit is the same: we all feel lonely here and we all rely on US-based or other international contacts for key staff, funding or market," he added.

"There has been no major Web development in Australia since the dot-com bust, no innovative Web services that are localised and no new technology that is currently making large waves overseas making a mark here."

Omnidrive itself is currently setting up an office in the United States, according to Cubrilovic, and will seek funding eventually from US-based sources.

Topics: Banking, Start-Ups, Enterprise 2.0

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  • Omnidrive

    http://www.nik.com.au/archives/2004/06/25/
    solutionstap-myvirtualdrive/

    Hardly a startup.

    Nik's old web based storage company folded 2 years ago.

    Same poor code, with a new name.
    anonymous