Think back on your day and all the ways you likely uploaded photos, files and documents to websites, mobile apps or the cloud, and you’ll agree that your hard drive is no longer where it’s at.
Instead, your stuff is online and how it got there has a lot to with a San Antonio-based software company that’s growing faster than you can upload a photo of your dinner to Instagram.
Filestack is a developer service for file uploading technology that came to San Antonio less than two years ago. Founded in 2012 by four MIT students, the fast-growing startup, then known as Filepicker, was sold to a private equity firm in San Francisco, and sold again last year to a San Antonio venture equity provider, Scaleworks.
Today, Filestack still looks much like a startup – it’s young and energetic and has a growth rate of 60% – but, with revenues at $3 million a year, it has the balance sheet of a “real” company, too.
And that is exactly the kind of business San Antonio needs, according to Lew Moorman, general partner and co-founder of Scaleworks.
“We’ve had a couple of big successes and a whole bunch of startup activity. But we need a set of companies that are at critical mass, in terms of real revenue, real growth, and jobs … that’s essential for the tech community here,” Moorman said.
“I think a company like Filestack is exactly that. For a lot of startups, it’s really hard to go from zero to something, and most don’t make it. Even going from zero to a million (dollars), only 4% of startups in the country do that. To have a company like Filestack past that breaking point and starting to add to that is great for the ecosystem.”
It also can’t come soon enough for the explosion of user-generated content growth that’s happening in the world today. According to the latest Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends report, 3.25 billion photos are shared every day on the five most popular social media sites, with over 18 billion video views a day on Facebook and Snapchat alone.
Filestack enables developers to upload and store large files, transform and manipulate images and other file types, and deliver the content quickly and responsively, across any type of desktop or mobile device. According to its website, Filestack has been used by more than 50,000 app developers around the world.
“Most websites today give you very basic upload tool that lets you grab files from your desktop. The reason we’re growing so much is more and more users are not storing. Your computer is not really your hard drive anymore, your social network is your hard drive, or all these cloud drives,” Filestack CEO Pat Matthews said. “It’s really born out of user patterns changing and we’re helping developers cater to that.”
With a team of 20 software engineers and others now working from offices in the World Trade Building on Broadway Street, and another 10 in Krakow, Poland, Matthews says in the last 15 months, the company has re-branded itself, strengthened the team and re-accelerated the growth of the business — one that’s growing in importance as upload demand increases.
In addition to Wednesday’s announcement that they are modernizing and redesigning the company’s most visible product, a widget known as Filepicker, the Filestack team is also developing resume-able uploading technology that keeps up with shifting internet connections — the kind that goes in and out as you’re trying to upload a funny video of your cat, for instance — and upload technology for drones that are capturing images of Earth for mapping software.
“We build a lot of technology ourselves, but we also integrate technologies from other great companies when needed,” Matthews said. “The whole world is abuzz with right now is artificial intelligence. AI can be applied in many ways, but where it matters in our world is image recognition. We’re getting pushed from lot of our customers who want us to better detect what is being uploaded from their users. We have a lot of (education technology) companies, and a lot of them are asking for adult content detection. We’re going to be partnering with companies like Google who are getting deep into this AI technology, to integrate that technology in our platform to make the content world safer.”
Filestack is the first company Scaleworks acquired. Based in San Antonio and growing fast as well, Scaleworks is a venture equity firm started by Moorman and Ed Byrne.
“(Filestack) fit the model of the kinds of companies we like to acquire,” Moorman said. “Ones that we think could be performing a lot better than they are when we buy them. We see a path for them. It’s been repositioned, we really invested in technology and going to market. They’ve built a great team and the results are getting ready to happen. We are excited about it.”
A Virginia native, Matthews dropped out of college to help build a software startup that he says failed miserably for three years until they “found something that stuck.” Rackspace acquired the company in 2007 and so began Matthews’ working relationship with the cloud company and his first and only boss, Moorman, who was president at the time.
Matthews left Rackspace in 2013 to build and invest in other startup companies until Moorman asked him to take the reins at Filestack. He recently hired six engineers to work at Filestack in San Antonio, half of them former Rackers, and plans to hire at least another 10 people this year and grow to a workforce of 70 by the end of 2018.
“Every company I’ve been a part of building has been in an underdog town, and to me, there are ways to take advantage of that,” Matthews said of finding talent in San Antonio. “It means we need to be the absolute best place to work here, and every now and then we’ll have to go out and recruit someone and talk them into moving to San Antonio. We actually just hired two people who lived in Portland while they worked at Rackspace, but they just moved here, for us.”
Hiring may be difficult, but Matthews says the greatest challenge is reaching the market.
“Selling to software developers is really tough. What we’re trying to do is what I call ‘developerize’ our company,” he said. “There are all kinds of challenges, though. Companies are hard to build. There’s competition in the world. It’s also a new category. Just explaining what we do is challenging. But it’s actually easier to explain to a developer because they sort of resonate with the pain and challenges we solve.”