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Interview with Michael Marlowe
On Art, Idea Density and Cloud Computing
Michael Marlowe, president and co-founder of Bluemile, and Jaime Busic, CEO and co-founder, have built one of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies by providing intelligent infrastructure solutions that customize and manage cloud, fiber, colocation and wholesale voice services. Marlowe shares his views about the art of entrepreneurship, achieving idea density and doing business in New Albany.
As an entrepreneur, describe the process that leads to discovery?
Whether I am meeting with other entrepreneurs or talking with artists, I find it amazing how we all have certain things in common. When you quit your job and put yourself and your reputation on the line, it’s about something much bigger than money or ego. We are all driven by the idea that we can add value by changing something that is not obviously in need of change. There is something very artistic about it. We are using the same part of the brain that an artist uses to paint or score a musical piece. We are always trying to achieve something creative, something artistic to help our clients.
What is Bluemile’s value proposition for its clients?
Our model is very inclusive and that facilitates continuous idea growth in our product mix. Some companies initially gravitate to our large competitors because they have a big name and, hopefully, won’t make them look bad. We allow these larger competitors to have access to our network. We work with our clients to customize the bigger guys’ products in ways that the bigger organizations aren’t capable of or simply don’t want to do. We want the competitors in the room with us. We want them to be part of the solution. The result is greater agility and cost savings for the client. We are delivering a service based on our client’s demand. You pay for what you use. And our customization is scalable. When their needs change, we are going to change with them. Our biggest competitor is old thinking. The old thinking is that you have to kill the competition. We want to work with the competition to get our clients the best possible solution.
Inc. magazine ranked Bluemile No. 599 on its 2010 list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies, how do you maintain the startup mentality?
There is a philosophical element to it. Success and failure are not destinations, they are events. If you’re doing well, it could change in a minute. If you’re doing badly, that could change in a minute. Just because you are successful does not mean that you know everything. At Bluemile, there is no ownership of ideas. We like to get people in a room and say ‘the best idea wins.’ We want people to feel that they can share their ideas freely, without fear of judgment. Some businesses have war rooms. We have warm rooms — collaborative rooms that are specifically designed to encourage idea generation. One gives the feeling of sitting around a fire pit; it has a low round table and warm lighting. Another has no tables, just chairs with side trays. They are all different. We want to generate as many ideas as possible. It’s that idea density that leads to discovery.
How does New Albany rate in providing the type of business climate that is conducive to creativity, discovery and commerce?
The philosophy here is open source. This is a community that is very welcoming. When you are part of this community other businesses here are enthusiastic about interacting and helping you. You don’t have to live here for ten years to be at the right table. The political and economic leadership is focused on ensuring the best climate for businesses.