From the Lab

Q&A with Shawn Carey: Start-ups, Power Outages and a People-First Strategy

Q&A with Shawn Carey, Keystone NAP Co-Founder and SVP of Sales and Marketing

Private equity firm Thoma Bravo recently acquired a software company that you co-founded, iPipeline. (Terms of the deal were not disclosed; however, a Bloomberg News story last November mentioned a possible valuation of $500 million.) This was big news in the Philadelphia region, as well as in the insurance and financial services industries.

Could you tell us what role you played at iPipeline and what you and your partners were aiming to do?

Shawn-headshot2First off, congratulations to the team at iPipeline, especially my co-founding partners Bill Atlee & Cary Toner. I’m very happy for their success and achievements. In 1995, Bill and I came up with a business idea to leverage the fledgling Internet as a marketing vehicle to sell life insurance. We literally started the company on folding tables and chairs in a very small walk-up office in Exton, PA. I wrote the software for our initial product as well as deployed and maintained our first web server. In addition, I worked with Bill & Cary to sell our products to life insurance agents and brokers throughout the country.

You co-founded iPipeline 20 years ago – back when the first Internet browser was just getting off the ground. How did the rise of Internet technology impact your business plans?

As I look back to the early days of iPipeline, we were very early to the market with our ideas. While many people heard of the Internet in 1995, few people used it as a productive business tool. The slow adoption of Internet technology forced us to develop alternative products and services capable of sustaining the business until our internet-based products took hold. In response, we developed an automated fax-on-demand service for life insurance rate quoting. Every insurance agent had a phone and fax machine. Our service delivered a complete rate quote for over 100 insurance companies in less than 60 seconds. This platform became the “quote engine” that drove many our future Internet-based products.

What were some of the other big challenges in the early years? Personnel? Funding?
The boom/bust?

Some of the challenges we faced in the early years were related to the data center and power infrastructure. For example, occasional service affecting power outages caused our web sites to go down. I learned valuable lessons about the need for redundant and durable power sources within the data center. Fast forward to today, enterprise customers depend on highly available power infrastructure to run their business. Single source power is a non-starter in today’s multi-tenant data center industry.

You went on to be co-founder at Xtium, as well as Keystone NAP, where you are now. What other lessons can you share about early company formation?

As I look at the success we enjoyed at both iPipeline and Xtium, I am 100 percent certain it’s the employees that were key to the success of each new company. We took the time to hire the right people with the right skills, knowledge and talents to do the job. In addition, at each new company I worked hard to establish and foster a culture that placed our customers and employees ahead of all other corporate goals. When these areas are aligned, magical things can happen.

What are your current goals at Keystone NAP?

As the region’s only advanced multi-tenant data center, our goals are simple: build a great company delivering value to our customers and offer opportunity for success to our employees and the Philadelphia/NY/NJ region.