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Years ago – at the very beginning of time (well it feels that long ago), we began to think about what RedBalloon could look like. I took my hard earned $25k and visited a web developer. $25,000 later I had a very average website with no content management system. The site was ‘framed’ and even worse, not hosted.

For many entrepreneurs, technology is their Achilles’ heel. And I was no different. What I had was a business idea, and from that the site began to evolve. There was no architecture or grand plan. We just added features willy-nilly.

What started as a ‘project’ was fast becoming a massive convoluted mash of spaghetti. I had the vision to be a large business, but sitting under the bonnet the system was held together with sticky tape. About five years ago I knew that we had to invest in an enterprise solution that was rigorous, robust and scalable. The hosting, architecture, testing (and even coding in the boutique language Cold Fusion) was not going to get us where we needed to go. For me personally IT was a blind spot and every ‘expert’ was telling me something different.

The critical path to the success we now have came in the form of independent advice… not from consultants or vendors (because by nature they are not independent), but from putting together a Technology Advisory Panel (it’s a fancy name for inviting my friends who ran technology companies to lunch). It was slow and systematic, but I can hand on heart say that the investment we made is more than paying off.

RedBalloon was one of the first Australian businesses to implement the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud computing platform, which was another step on the online retailer’s innovation journey. RedBalloon initiated the move to Cloud computing as part of a major digital overhaul undertaken at the beginning of 2011 followed by a two month implementation completed in mid-July last year. The transition required only 15 minutes of downtime from its previous on-premise environment at 6am on a Sunday morning. The last time the business switched server providers the high traffic website was down for almost 16 hours and a hard-drive was flown between Melbourne and Sydney to transfer the enormous amount of data. And I got lots of grey hairs!

As a fast-growing company, repeating this sort of downtime was out of the question. We realised 12 months ago that technology had become a growth inhibitor. The company was relying on 17 servers housed at a local data centre and needed many more to continue its growth.

Today, the RedBalloon platform features over 150 servers in the Cloud, which cost the same as the previous 17. Almost the entire RedBalloon business now runs from the cloud – including website, fulfilment, ERP and CRM. The intuitive model foresees more than 100 of the RedBalloon servers, which are automatically shut down overnight when not in operation; delivering flexibility, scale and a significant cost saving to the business every day.  Beyond the website, the Cloud DR program also means the physical business keeps operating if the Sydney office network is hit, as the phone runs off the internet. Practically, this frees employees to work remotely – an important feature of RedBalloon’s commitment to being a top employer.

We have gone from the ‘back foot’ to the ‘front foot’ – a painful journey, but essential to our future growth trajectory.

And what is life like being part of the RedBalloon team? Here is a post from our Development Manager Roneel.

 

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@naomisimson

  • Oh my it looks like I'm about to take a massive bite out of someone on tomorrow's @sharktankau .... 😆 join me On TEN at 7.30 💃🦈
  • I never tire of #sunrise over #sydneyharbour. It changed within minutes. Swipe left to see the changes over 3 minutes. It's gone already, #nofilter #fire
  • Happiness:
Think less, Feel more;
Frown less, Smile more;
Judge less, Accept more;
Watch less, Do more;
Complain less, Appreciate more;
Fear less, Love more....
Give it a crack 😎on a weekend like this what's to stop you! #naturalbeauty #happiness
  • Friday drinks must be here soon surely ... or I'm out! #friyay
  • In the 90s I left my cushy job at Apple.

I’d be a squillionaire if I still had my stock options.

I don’t regret it. Here's why:

After 10 years of corporate, I wanted to ‘do my own thing’. I started with freelance marketing.

My strategy? Hard work and build strong brands.

It seemed to work - new clients came from referrals.

But after 18 months, I came to a realisation:

All my clients wanted was “more customers”, not complex branding plans.

SO I thought I’d build a brand of my own. Something to get them “more customers”. RedBalloon was born. The purpose? Give people amazing experiences.

16 years on, RB has delivered 3.8 million customers to 2000 small businesses.

Now, when I give talks, I always get the same question: “How did you build such a strong brand?” Funny how it comes full circle.

I can’t answer that with a time limit.

Though I think I found a way - an online course. “How to Build your Business Brand” - years of experience in one place (link in bio if interested). But, that’s not the point of this post.

If I stayed with Apple I’d be unbelievably wealthy.

Quitting was still the best thing I’ve ever done.

So if you want to take a leap of faith, do it.

All I ask you is this:

Trust yourself and never underestimate the power of brand.

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