Interview with Solomon Hykes, Co-Founder and CEO of dotCloud

Solomon Hykes is the co-founder and CEO of dotCloud, the first multi-language PaaS. A born entrepreneur, Solomon started his first business at age 14, as a technical consultant installing servers and setting up networks. He co-founded dotCloud in 2008 in Paris, France and led the company through the prestigious YCombinator incubator program in Summer 2010. Solomon has a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from the European Institute of Technology in Paris.
Tell us a little about dotCloud. What is dotCloud currently doing/building to support the startup/developer community?
First off, we work really hard to make dotCloud the ideal tool for developers. A lot of people use dotCloud  as a sandbox to experiment and try new ideas, and we’ve incorporated that need into our pricing with our free unlimited sandbox. That allows a lot of ideas to develop that otherwise might not have a home to develop, and that’s something we’re really proud of.

We also built dotCloud to allow developers to build ambitious new applications on a very short deadline, which makes it a perfect tool for startups. A lot of web startups are built entirely on dotCloud and that’s also something we’re really proud of.

Beyond the product itself, we’re big believers in sharing knowledge and information as much as we possibly can. Because of our scale and the types of engineering problems we face, we often have to invent new designs and write new code to implement them. So we spend a lot of time, as engineers, sharing information and exchanging ideas with the rest of the community. We do that in meetups, at conferences, by giving talks or just getting drinks with fellow engineers.

And of course we open-source a lot of stuff. In the last couple months alone we’ve open-sourced our distributed websocket proxy, our distributed communication layer based on ZeroMQ, and a framework for real-time communication between the browser and your cloud backend (

How is dotCloud different from other developing platforms?
1. Multi-lingual from the start. Unlike other PaaS platforms, we fully support more than 14 languages and databases. We did this because we understand that modern web apps will need to add additional services as they evolve. Our platform is design to make that process seamless so that developers can spend more time doing what they do best and less time manually configuring their stack to accommodate new services.
2. Our pricing model is designed to encourage free experimentation with unlimited services.
3. We are really a small company building cool tools for developers.
What interesting initiatives are you doing to reach out to the developer community or those looking to build web apps? How do you get them excited about working with your product?

Developers are a very demanding crowd. They have a very low tolerance for BS and their prefered way to discover a tool is by trying it out and making an opinion for themselves. They are also always looking to learn new techniques and find ways to be more productive – more than in any other profession, I think, because technology moves so fast and as a professional you’re always a year away from being considered out-of-date.

So we thought: OK, developers like to make an opinion for themselves and they like to learn new things. So that’s how we reach out to developers: we make it really easy to try it out and evaluate it, and we spend a lot of time helping them becoming better developers using the cloud.

In general our philosophy is that converting a developer to using platform-as-a-service is a net win for dotCloud, regardless of whether that developer ends up becoming a dotCloud customer. It’s us versus the old way.

This has a real impact on how we approach marketing: we measure success by how many developers around the world become successful using dotCloud each day – not by the size of our billboards, the coolness of our parties or whether the Silicon Valley bubble thinks we’re the next big thing.

Why are you excited to be a sponsor at Startup Weekend?

Startup weekend is all about people building real stuff, looking to change the World with software. On a personal level that’s just who we are – anybody planning to make the World a better place with software is automatically on our side and we want them to succeed.

As a company creating developer tools, we have a specific notion of how developers should be exposed to dotCloud. Namely, we want them to try building something with it and form their own opinion – and we want to help them be successful in the process. With Startup Weekend we can do both: all participants get to try dotCloud for free, and our team will be right there to offer support and give tips on using cloud services.

Lastly, dotCloud is perfect for rapid development. When you have 54 hours to build something,  it’s insane to waste more than 15 minutes setting up servers, provisioning your stack and getting your web app online.

What inspires you most about the startup ecosystem and entrepreneurship?

I think this is a huge trend and it’s very exciting to me personally. You can basically disrupt any facet of human industry, armed with a laptop and an internet connection. Energy, transportation, entertainment, finance, education, you name it.


To learn more about dotCloud, follow Solomon and dotCloud on Twitter