The Rackspace Book


 [Screenshot of the cartoon showcase page we did for Racks­pace etc.]

I’ve started writing a book about gapingvoid’s experience working with Rackspace. Here are some initial thoughts, some more formed than others:

i. WE’VE LEARNED A TON IN THE PROCESS.

I thought I’d share what we’ve lear­ned about Racks­pace along the way, about how this small little web-hosting com­pany from San Anto­nio, Texas tur­ned their uni­que take on “just being social” into a billion-dollar business.

ii. CAN A BILLION-DOLLAR COMPANY ACTUALLY BE “SOCIAL”?

I know. Right?

We’ve all been bom­bar­ded with the Social Media catchph­ra­ses, we’ve all seen the hype spe­wing out of every Inter­net ori­fice out there, we’ve heard every cliché and pla­ti­tude known to man, we’ve all rolled our eyeballs.

The num­ber of peo­ple calling them­sel­ves “Social Media Gurus” on Twit­ter num­bers over a hun­dred thou­sand. “Busi­ness is Social!” “Join the con­ver­sa­tion!” “Don’t sell, engage!”

“Hire me!” “I’m avai­la­ble for con­sul­ta­tion!” “Write me a big, fat check and I’ll solve all your Social Media problems!”

Like I said, we’ve all rolled our eyeballs.

And yet… what if it actually works?

iii. “DEATH BY COMMODITY”.

Racks­pace basi­cally sells a com­mo­dity i.e. web hos­ting and cloud services.

They basi­cally sell a lot of ones and zeroes, that they move through a lot of pipes, back and forth bet­ween their cus­to­mers and their servers.

Not sexy, and highly com­pe­ti­tive. What’s more, they’re com­pe­ting with a lot of blue chip com­pa­nies A LOT Lar­ger than them: Ama­zon, Mic­ro­soft, IBM etc

It’s an easy place to get your lunch eaten by the big boys.

It’s an easy envi­ron­ment to be killed in.

And yet, they thrive.

iv. THE SECRET WEAPON: “FANATICAL SUPPORT” THE CREATION MYTH.

Two young guys start a web-hosting com­pany, with Graham Wes­ton as an inves­tor. Graham gets an email from an irate cus­to­mers. “Guys, we have to offer our cus­to­mers Fana­ti­cal Sup­port or this isn’t going to work. An ethos is born…

v. SOME MORE IDEAS TO PLAY WITH:

“IF YOU LOVE YOUR CUSTOMERS ENOUGH, YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT PRODUCT, END OF STORY…”

“DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT R.O.I., TALK TO ME ABOUT HOW WHAT WE”RE DOING IS ACTUALLY BEING HELPFUL TO OUR CUSTOMERS.”

“HOW THE OPEN CLOUD CHANGES EVERYTHING”

HIRE THE CRAZIES e.g. SCOBLE, LA GESSE, MACLEOD

“A SHOPPING MALL CAN BECOME A CASTLE”

“COMMODITY? ODDITY? OR BOTH?

“PRODUCT IS THE PEOPLE…”

“TAKE HUMAN BITES”

“LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT CREATING MEANING, NOT TELLING THEM WHAT TO DO”

“RACKSPACE HAS TO BECOME A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE’S HIGHEST NEEDS ARE MET, OR WE’RE WASTING OUR TIME.”

“IT’S WHAT RACKSPACE MUST BECOME THAT’S INTERESTING. IT’S WHAT ALL BUSINESS MUST BECOME THAT’S EVEN MORE INTERESTING.”

[To be continued…]

[UPDATE:] Rob La Gesse, the guy who hired me at Rackspace (and also hired Robert Scoble) left the following comment below:

I’ll be inte­res­ted in seeing how this series pro­gres­ses. Not sure ever­yone here knows this, but I don’t vet Hugh’s work?—?I see it when you see it. And that is pretty cool to me. I expe­rience his work when you do. No preconceptions.

Yep. It’s what makes it fun- he lets me just post stuff without getting pre-approval. We like doing that way because it lets him see the work for the first time in the wild, which keeps the thinking fresher, somehow….