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Backupify seeks to bring peace-of-mind to the cloud computing realm

Posted by Scott Kirsner  September 6, 2010 08:08 AM

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Would you start to sweat if you accidentally deleted a crucial spreadsheet you’d toiled over using Google Docs? Would your spouse wail if someone hacked into your Flickr account and deleted the years of vacation photos you’ve uploaded there?

Safeguarding an extra copy of files that you keep on Internet-based services is the simple idea behind Backupify, a start-up born in Louisville, Kentucky that moved into new offices in East Cambridge last week. The company offers a free service for consumers who might want to make sure they have an extra copy of that video they uploaded to Facebook, and a paid offering geared to businesses, many of which are required by regulations to archive something as seemingly innocuous as a Twitter message. The free offering stores up to two gigabytes of data, and the higher-end paid offering, at $60 a year, stores up to 25 gigabytes of data and makes a new back-up copy of everything once a week.

The company is planning to announce a $4.5 million A round this week, led by two Cambridge investors: David Orfao of General Catalyst Partners and Rich Levandov of Avalon Ventures (that’s on top of just over $1 million the company had raised previously). Also investing in the A round are First Round Capital and Lowercase Capital, founded by former Google executive Chris Sacca.

Backupify CEO Rob May says the company is mainly acquiring customers through social media, PR, and the Google Apps Marketplace. When Web-based services like QuickBooks go down temporarily, or the note-taking service Evernote loses some customer data, that only helps get people focused on the downside of storing their data on someone else’s servers. But May says that most of the times when someone has an experience that makes them grateful for having signed up with Backupify, it’s user error: they’ve accidentally deleted something important.

Backupify already can stash a copy of data from services like Blogger, Photobucket and Gmail. The company is working to make its backups of Facebook content (like a company’s Fan Page) more complete, and May says that a link to SalesForce.com and Evernote are in the works. Where does Backupify stockpile all of its data? Yet another cloud service: Amazon's Simple Storage Service.

The company is also developing its own API (application programming interface), to enable other cloud-based services to easily integrate with Backupify, adding data to the service or pulling data from it. One example May cites is a new start-up that wants to create online accounting software: it might find that prospective customers are more likely to try it if they know a copy of their data can be stored with Backupify. But another is enabling Backupify users to write code that would synchronize data between two Web-based services, or move their data easily from one service to another, dropping SugarCRM, for instance, in favor of SalesForce.com. “We are starting to position ourselves as less of a backup company, and more of a data liberation company,” May says.

The company now has three employees in Louisville and seven employees in Cambridge, where it plans to hire five or six Rails developers and database gurus with experience with the Cassandra distributed database.

Backupify’s first angel investor, in 2009, was Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of the Cambridge marketing software company HubSpot. Shah had previously bought a small application that May had written, which tried to analyze the value of a user's Facebook account. When May built the prototype of Backupify, which stored only Twitter messages, he e-mailed Shah to get his feedback. “It was really a side project,” May says, “and I never thought I’d raise money for it.”

Shah’s feedback was positive. "We chatted about the idea a few times," Shah writes via e-mail, "and ultimately, I agreed to put $25k in to help give him that final nudge" to pursue Backupify full-time.

The company began its move from Louisville to Boston in the spring, shacking up for a while in unused office space at General Catalyst’s Harvard Square offices. May says that one reason that Boston was more attractive to the company than New York or San Francisco is that many potential acquirers and distribution partners are here, including EMC, Iron Mountain, and Carbonite.

While the company began by targeting consumers, Backupify’s strategy now focuses mainly on enterprises. “We want to be the market leader in office productivity backups for SaaS offerings,” says May.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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