After Docker, Ben Golub is building Airbnb for storage


Ben Golub, the CEO that helped Docker create a business model around Linux containers is back. This time he is at the helm of a company called Storj Labs that could be the Airbnb and Lyft of storage.

Storj is an all-in-one storage solution targeted at developers and enterprise customers who want a storage solution that has these characteristics:

  • It must be open source
  • It must be decentralized
  • It must be end-to-end encrypted
  • It must have flexible ‘cloud-like’ pricing model
  • It must be fast and reliable
  • Total control over content

Why do you need a new storage solution when there is there is Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Dropbox? Because none of these vendors fulfil any of the listed conditions. None.

Back to basics: What is Storj

You can read all that you need to know about Storj on the FAQ page. The TLDR; version is that Storj is a modern approach towards storage; an approach suitable for the fourth industrial revolution.

Storj has three stakeholders: farmers; renters and Storj Labs Inc., the company.

  • Farmers can be individuals or organizations with surplus storage and bandwidth, which they could rent out.
  • Users pay to rent storage for their data
  • Storj Labs offers a network of farmers, infrastructure and software needed for the entire Storj experience.

As a fully open source project, Storj can be used by anyone to build a fully decentralized storage-as-a-service solution. It’s like building your own Uber or AirBnB service. That’s the easy part. The real challenge is building a massive network of drivers and riders that bring enough traffic to make the venture sustainable. Or, in the case of Storj, the real value is in the massive network of farmers and renters.

That’s exactly what Storj Labs, the company behind Storj project is doing. It’s similar to Red Hat or SUSE. Building a business model around an Open Source project.

How does it work?

Anyone with additional storage and a reliable network can sign-up to become a farmer. All you need is install an app on your local machine and configure storage and networking. Anyone can sign-up become a user to ‘rent’ the storage space. Storj Labs is currently working on updating their network so they are not accepting new users at the moment.

Once a user uploads a file to the Storj network, it’s encrypted locally and then shredded into tiny pieces, each of which is also encrypted, and then replicated three times and spread across 20-80 machines managed by farmers. Storj has over 150,000 machines on it’s network spread across 200 countries.

As a result, it is able to meet the the requirements listed above. While Storj is targeted at developers and enterprise customers, it could also be a very effective solution for users who want complete ownership of their data without worrying about the service provider or some oppressive governments shuttling through their data.

I often hear about the need for decentralized cloud based services and Storj seems to be at the right time and at the right place. What really matters is how it’s marketed against giants like Google, Amazon and Dropbox. In addition to technological superiority, Storj also has a flexible, cloud-like, pricing model for users instead of a fat, flat fee.

Storj offers flexible pricing

That’s where the skills of Golub may come into play who managed to build a business model around Docker. Golub joined Storj as he felt that the company is trying to solve some serious problems.

“After leaving Docker, I started looking at something that could be as significant as having some of the same characteristics. I look for great teams trying to solve really big problems in unique and interesting way,” said Golub.

After speaking to many organizations, storage challenges appealed to Golub. He found that Storj is trying to solve one of the biggest problems we are facing in IT. Its how to efficiently manage the 44 zettabytes of data that we are creating every year. This data includes not only cat videos, but also data that helps cure cancer or drive new businesses.

Technologically, Storj is definitely superior. There is nothing that offers decentralized, end-to-end encrypted, fully open source based storage solution with flexible pricing and no single point of failure. In addition, Storj is also creating a new business model around storage allowing people to monetize from their computing resources. They have all the ingredients, but it all depends on how Golub cooks it. We will see once Storj opens sign-up for new users.

Food for though: As a user or a developer, what do you think of Storj Lab? Can they disrupt the centralized cloud-based storage market?