ionacloud and the mess conferences do to your unshipped product

ionacloud was never going to ship from day one, and everyone knew it but no one dared ask the team any real infrastructure questions as cloud was the latest buzzword in the country’s tech scene in mid 2011 just months shy of the undersea fibre optic cables craze.

To give a little history, ionacloud was coined from three English words, I, Own and Cloud. I and Own reveal a lot about the startup. The first major blow to ionacloud is it never had a team even though the founders Wilson Kageni and Allan Juma were close friends and spent nearly 23 hours together working on it. ionacloud was Kageni’s baby and the concept became bigger in their minds even before they could ship any product. Juma had little control over the ionacloud concept and little input on what to do. Though the two guys had timelines, they were only written in the CEO’s mind.

It was never going to go anywhere without team chemistry, defined roles and boundaries and if it had succeeded, it wouldn’t last post revenue and a huge power struggle was brewing among the co-founders.

Just a little history, ionacloud was supposed to launch somewhere between 1 Dec 2011 to 12th December 2011 as the first free mainstream Personal Cloud Computing service allowing users to get private, fully customizable desktop environments inside their ionacloud accounts. It was like buying a PC but in the cloud. ionacloud or call it a virtual PC was only accessible to you as the owner with possibility of use across all devices and across all regions. Kageni’s pitch at various conferences like at the EastAfricaCom in 2012 months after the firm’s supposed launch did them more harm than good and made the founders bigger than the non-existent product. Instead of getting their hands dirty to ship the product, even jumbled up non functioning insecure cloud, the founders became conference speakers and moderators but we all could have fallen for the limelight anyway!

First forward to 2017, ionacloud never actually existed, TechMoran is not sure if there was any company registered in that name apart from a landpage taking in registrations at ionacloud.com. There was never a personal or enterprise or hybrid cloud service serving individuals and offices. There was even never a file shared or stored by any individual or company. ionacloud for entprise could be today’s Slack allowing business clients to share files, communicate and collaborate on projects in an office einvronment or remotely in the field. With the promise to upload up to 1 Terabyte of files ionacloud would have been massive. It’s promise of live collaboration could have had more users locally than Google Drive and Dropbox combined locally.

Just before its planned launch, ionacloud announced it would give away 1 million free Cloud PCs to the general public to allow them to test drive its  free cloud but that would have been a red flag as not many people were connected to the internet in the country then and even those who were connected did so at work or from cybercafes and tech hubs that were the in thing too.

Apart from conferences, the media was also to blame for ionacloud’s dead before it launched. Instead of treating it as a concept at idea stage, the media sold the team as experts on cloud at the moment giving them airtime to speak on the future of cloud in the country and the advantages firms could stand to benefit. The benefits were true, cloud is central to any business aiming at rapid growth but without a product ionacloud become one of the first Silicon Savannah wordy risky experiment by incubating itself in public by failing to build an actual product to ship to the market for the entire 2012.

Like a grass to grace story, a year later, ionacloud gave birth to WebDesk, a Slack for students and teachers at local universities. Like ionacloud, WebDesk was aimed at putting everything a lecturer or student needed on one virtual desk. Using various free courseware, tools and resources, WebDesk aimed to help students and teachers to connect do assignments and get feedback from their teachers in real-time minus wasting time and eliminating other cumbersome logistics. WebDesk’s also died the same death, minus  a serious user on boarding strategy and a proper lack of patience an tenacity among the team.

Though the team was smart enough to sell literally nothing to the public and remain relevant until their next hit remains a mystery that many startups like M-Farm and Kytabu have adopted.

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