The founder and owner of A Small Orange Software gives us an insight into his life.
DL: Tell us a bit about yourself
Tim: I’m currently living in Atlanta with my girlfriend and dog. I’m a relatively recent graduate of Georgia Tech with a BS in Computer Science and intend to go back within the next 2-3 years for my Masters. I’m originally from New Hampshire and only migrated down here for college. Afterwards, I figured it was a cool enough place to stick around. Plus, having a 3 year lease on our office sort of keeps me stuck here for a while anyways!
DL: When you’re not working, what do you like to do with your time?
Tim: Do interviews… No, seriously, I usual watch a lot of TV and play way too many video games. I’ve got a rather unhealthy obsession with getting my last weapon unlock in Battlefield 2. I also enjoy taking our dog, Hockey, out to the dog park to play around with other dogs in a rather chaotic manner.
DL: When did you first get into computers?
Tim: I first really got started with my parent’s 286 in our basement. I remember attempting to program a BASIC menu interface for all my frequent programs and such. It was sort of a text-mode GUI on top of DOS. It even had a screensaver, although you had to manually start it. I remember I thought I was hot shit because I was able to emulate the classic “Mystify” screensaver from Windows in BASIC. I’ve always had a big affinity towards scripted languages, weakly-typed languages, rather than the one-step-above-ASM style of something like C or C++.
DL: What made you want to start A Small Orange?
Tim: I had my own hosting, but wanted to do some things on a dedicated server that I couldn’t do on shared. However, I didn’t want to pay for it… So, I split one server initially among a group of people, and then later that split into two (Beta and Gamma). Once people started saying how good a job I was doing with the server, I decided to whip it up into a business along with some software I was working on at the time.
DL: Why “A Small Orange”?
Tim: It’s simply my AIM screen name. A long time ago, when I was picking a new name, I wanted one that didn’t have the usual lolomggrrrl1969 style. So, I poked around and found one that was simply a short phrase: a small orange. That’s sort of stuck around since then. Plus, it’s a unique enough company name to get attention solely based on people’s reactions to it. It’s always fun to see threads on WebHosting Talk that say “What do you think of a small orange?”
DL: A Small Orange isn’t so small any more; could you give us some idea as to how big ASO is now?
Tim:That’s actually an interesting question because it’s so relative. Even Godaddy, as the biggest host in terms of number of domains, has only 11% of the domains registered under it’s control. Further down the chain, someone like Dreamhost has 0.44% and Site5 has 0.055%. We’ve actually got 0.0177% of the market right now, but that’s actually very good. In terms of the numbers, we’ve got over 5000 active clients and over 7500 active hosting accounts (some people order more than one). We’re getting right around 20-25 new orders per day. Probably the most impressive part of those numbers is that we’ve done no advertising to get them. Every one of our sales is based on the recommendations of another customer. That saves us a ton of money that can be put to good use elsewhere and let’s us know if we’re doing a good job or not.
DL: Why do you think (most of) your customers are so loyal to your brand?
Tim: We actually pay attention to them! We’ve got a terrific community of people on our forums that help each other out and let us communicate with everyone in a more casual setting than the ticket system. Too many hosting businesses are run with a sort of “set it and forget it” attitude and don’t really interact with their customers unless they have to. We figure it pays to actually
DL: In the beginning, did you have any idea about just how big A Small Orange would be?
Tim: Not really, and I still don’t. It’s hard to gauge the future based on the past at this point. We’ve still got a statistically insignificant amount of data to project beyond a few years reliably. I’m still content with slower growth over ramping up too quickly. I saw how that approach had hurt Site5 with some serious growing pains. It’s funny when people say that we’re getting them, when we’re actually moving very slowly. It’s usually people on a new server and that’s inherently an unstable environment due to all the new accounts on there.
DL: Do you have any plans for the future of A Small Orange?
Tim: Less hosting, more software. The hosting part is really just a funding source for me to develop software. I’m working on getting myself out of that stuff in a more direct manner and getting back into what I really want to do with my life. The big thing at the moment is working on our clustered hosting system. It will essentially by like Mosso.com, except with two differences: 1) It won’t cost and arm and a leg and 2) it won’t suck. They’ve been having some growing pains with their system, which is understandable. I think they needed more of a beta period, which is what we’ll be aiming to do with a select few. We’ll also be opening sourcing the control panel we’re going to develop for this and be pretty transparent about the entire setup. The best part about this project is we can scale infinitely to handle small sites all the way up to huge, high-activity sites. You’ll simply pay based on your usage, in terms of CPU time, bandwidth, and space. It will be great for those sites that don’t want to move to dedicated and would like a more granular approach to the costs of their site. It’ll also be a big fundamental shift in how we host sites now that will allow us to start making 100% uptime guarantees.
DL: Other than A Small Orange, do you have any other projects on the go?
Tim: That implies that I have free time, which is a silly statement to make.
DL: As the company title suggests, A Small Orange Software is also a software company; could you tell us a little bit about the software that you offer?
Tim: Well, the big thing is ASObill at the moment. I’ve been retooling that lately to strip it down in terms of scope. I was planning a generic billing platform, but I’ve got to strip that down to just hosting billing and automation. We’ll be able to get there eventually, but I want to have something to show in the meantime. Plus, Modernbill continues to shoot themselves in the foot with their new version, so it should be pretty easy to blow them out of the water based on software quality and price (which is free, by the way!).
DL: Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
Tim: Celebrating the 10th year anniversary of you asking me this question! (RIP Mitch Hedberg!)
DL: Is there anything you’d like to say to everyone here at Devlounge?
DL: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!
Tim: And thanks for taking the time to let me talk to you! Now back to that BF2 game…