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By Andrea Davis on July 12, 2016
Fast-growing tech firm CloudOne knew it needed a “real” office when a prospective client plugged its address into a search engine and discovered its headquarters was inside an Indianapolis Mailboxes, Etc. store. Now the company occupies about 11,000 square feet of custom-designed space in the Switch development in downtown Fishers—part of an ambitious effort to build what local leaders call a smart, vibrant, entrepreneurial city.

Founded in 2010, CloudOne helps other companies navigate the Internet of Things, designing and deploying software that manages the growing array of internet-connected products.

Its third-floor headquarters is anything but traditional, from CEO John McDonald’s “corner office” cubicle to the array of meeting rooms named after classic video games. Employees helped plan the space to encourage collaboration and establish a more enjoyable workplace culture.
CloudOne CEO John McDonald
McDonald, pictured at right, sat down with me last month to discuss the company’s recent move and what comes next.
Q: What difference does workplace culture make to a company’s bottom line?

A: “I only have three jobs at CloudOne: Job 1 is raising money, which is a necessary part of a technology startup. Job 2 is hiring people that are better than me at absolutely everything—which is great, because that means I don’t have to do anything—and Job 3 is keeping them. The [new office in Fishers] is a huge tool for all three.

“It’s obvious that an important part of keeping employees is the place they work and want to work, but [it’s also key to] attracting them. People come and see this space, and they want to work here. And it’s also good for Job 1 as well. When venture capital or growth-stage capital [funders] want to come see CloudOne, it creates this sense of something special. And it gives a reality to what we do. You can’t see our work. … So it lets people know this is legit.”

Q: Why did CloudOne move to Fishers?

A: “The city has had this vision of being an entrepreneurial city, which is almost cliché-like. But look at what they’ve done: The high schools have entrepreneurial internships and classes. Then Launch Fishers sort of embodies the next few stages: shared work space, dedicated desks and office suites for growing companies. … Then they’re getting developers to come and build [multi-tenant facilities like the Switch], but the city master leases the space so that they can sublet it to tenants like us.

“That allows them to do two really cool things. One, they can lower my lease payments as an economic development incentive—it opens up a completely new way to entice businesses to move or relocate. The second thing they can do is to allow me to move within their portfolio of real estate without breaking my lease. … To be able to move to a larger floorplate or whatever while keeping that same lease is really awesome.”

Q: Successful leaders usually have a vision that others help them pursue. What is your vision for CloudOne’s future?

A: “I like to say that the definition of leadership is, ‘Is anybody following you?’ Because if no one’s following you, you’re not a leader. You’re just a guy out for a walk …

“The future is a world where everything is connected to every other thing through the internet. And the things that we tend to do with our daily lives are rapidly changed by that.

“Right now we’re at the arms-dealer phase, where we’re just trying to help companies get their stuff connected to the internet. But once it is, the real economy comes when you start to tap that data to create inferences of need.

“The story I tell all the time is the car story: You’re driving down the road and your car notices you’re not keeping your lane as well as you used to. It knows it’s 3 a.m. and thinks you might be getting tired. There’s a 24-hour Starbucks two exits up, and it knows you like double chai latte, so it asks if you’d like one. If you say yes, it orders it and you drive through and pick it up. That sounds very wild, but the capability to do this already exists in the car radios coming off the line. (And I know that because all three manufacturers of car infotainment systems are CloudOne customers.)

“So now the question is, what does that change? It changes everything, because Starbucks wants that data. Dunkin Donuts wants it. Hilton wants it, because they’ve got a hotel room they didn’t sell at that same exit that they’re willing to give you at half price so you can get some rest.

“Who collects all that data, who assembles the picture that infers you need coffee? I think that’s exciting.”

Q: What, if anything, keeps you up at night?

A: “People just don’t understand what’s going to happen to them related to this internet of things. Obviously I’m a little biased, but I think it’s the biggest thing since anything. It changes absolutely everything. And to know that we’re at the beginning of it, just at the cusp edge of it … I wish this company had 1,000 employees. And even that’s not enough. … I guess I worry that we’ll miss an opportunity, that we won’t be positioned properly.”

Q: Can Indiana companies find enough tech talent to meet the increasing demand for skilled employees?

A: “Hell yes. Some of the country’s best universities are in the Midwest—universities that all of the technology companies in Austin or California have been tapping for so long. … And where’s the headquarters of manufacturing, medical devices and agriculture? In the Midwest. As those companies need to convert their products to this new world on the global stage and compete, that creates an enormous opportunity to stay right here at home and go to work for those companies, helping those things work.

“You’ve just got to create that sense of place for people so that they want to live and work and play in the same spots, you know. That’s why [downtown Fishers] is so successful, because it creates a sense of place. The talent pool is awesome. … The issue is how do you keep them here? And that’s done be creating jobs that they want to go work at.

“Hell yes, we can do it.”
Categories: "City of Fishers", CloudOne, "Economic Development", "Hamilton County", Headquarters, "Quality of Life"