Bruce Waldack

Thruport CEO discusses state of web hosting

Bruce Waldack made business history in 1999, when he sold his dedicated Web host digitalNation to Verio for $100 million in cash. Having proved to investors and a trusted group of employees that he can see ahead of the curve, Waldack moved on to the next big thing: infrastructure-based managed outsourced applications. His new companys logo is a peaceful dolphin, but he likes to fly a pirate flag in front of the office building and he says hes got Microsoft in his crosshairs. Waldack recently revealed his new creation — Thruport Technologies — to the world in his first marketing campaign. He spoke about success in the new Internet Protocol networking environment and e-mail as a killer app with Senior Writer Max Smetannikov.

Is this your first marketing campaign?

We really have done no marketing as of today, other than going to a couple of trade shows. We really are going to do a hard launch. Customers that we worked with at first were people whom we had relationships with, people that we said we would do things less expensively for, if they partnered with us. We stopped doing that two months ago, and are bringing on regular customers. We have done an ad that already ran a couple of times on ESPN. Its an awareness ad. Its all animated and its our dolphin swimming and talking about the Internet being a vast opportunity, then it dives and finds a whole lot of shipwrecked dot-coms. Then the dolphin jumps out of the water and talks about different products that we offer.

What else do you plan?

We did a charity event that we sponsored up in Boston, called Thruport challenge. Four hundred people participated in an 85-mile bike race. A bunch of celebrities were there. It was pretty cool to see Fabio wearing Thruport stuff.

Who is the ultimate customer for Thruport?

Right now, we are looking for enterprise companies, or portals that Critical Path would have as a customer — a Yahoo!, an EarthLink. And we have a lot of bands that have their fan mail online. The company selling this is ZingMail, them being more of a sales organization and us being more of a back office. The Black Crowes, Metallica, Kiss and Kid Rock are some of the users.

How do you read todays Web hosting market?

There is a glut of people who entered into the market. Some of the large players, like WorldCom, have seen a lot of their customers leave. It is becoming a very price-sensitive market. Differentiations that people used to have — we have a phenomenal connectivity, generators, 24 by 7 tech support — it is all commonplace now. I remember a company called EENet, and we went by their place, and it was literally a house. They had card tables set up with computers all over them, and a cat walking around. Those days are gone. This has become a much more mature industry.

Do you think there is a data center glut in the U.S.?

I definitely do. I think people were so positive that things will continue to grow at this incredible pace that people started building these bigger and bigger and bigger data centers. And people who built smaller data centers and did well had to open more data centers in the same city, and they ended up losing some of the economies of scale they used to have.

What about application service providers?

Many people were building new applications and trying to convert people. Take the calendar: We have an electronic calendar, but myself, I dont use one. I use a book. I scribble things in, and scribble things out, and I dont know if I am going to change from that. Other outsourced capabilities, like file sharing, do work well, especially as one package. [But customers] are not going to buy five different things and pay five different bills. Too many people tried to be too focused on one little part.

Whats Thruport then?

Imagine a real estate company, with people working at home and at the office, using the Web, sending e-mail. They also might have split offices. So what do they do? Set up separate e-mail systems for each office? The cost of that is incredible. So they can set up 10 computers as workstations, where people come in, look at their e-mails, use listings and so on. They go home — the same e-mail, the same calendar, the same files are there. There are specific industries we think will do extremely well with this — clubs, organizations, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Brownies. We take the risk of maintaining these systems away from people. We will host it in data centers we own, give the connectivity wherever you are at and we will service all your clients.

So Thruport is geared toward the world where hosting and connectivity are commodities?

They definitely are, and are going to become more so. I think e-mail is still the killer app. If we can come up with an application that is as good or better than Microsoft Outlook, and we can do it in a licensing and managed format that reduces costs dramatically, then I think we have a real solution.

Microsoft is a big target.

Absolutely. But if all we got were the customers that dont like Microsoft, we would be busier than we could handle.