This CEO Started His Career at Age 12
We've heard of musical prodigies. But did you know that there are entrepreneurial prodigies as well?
Chris Cope was one of them. At age 12, he began writing computer games. For the rest of his teens and well into adulthood, his passion for programming continued to flourish.
Cope is now the founder of SlimWare Utilities, an organization he describes as the “first company to use social networking and user-generated data to automate PC cleaning, repair, and optimization.”
“Prior to establishing SlimWare Utilities, I developed a profitable website business in the midst of the dot-com crash in 2000, and went on to create and grow several other web-based businesses, including Click Ad Equalizer,” Cope told Benzinga. “From 2002-2004, I pioneered one of the first pay-per-click software products – a search engine market analysis for affiliate marketers. The search engine analysis product immediately became [a] top-selling marketing software and was quickly established as a standard for pay-per-click marketing.”
With SlimWare Utilities, Cope said that he's “bringing the benefits of social networking and crowdsourcing to PC cleaning and optimization for the first time.”
“Our company offers free, cloud-based software that uses community-based feedback and user-generated data to improve the function, performance, and speed of personal computers,” Cope continued.
“We've established a community-powered platform for improving PC performance: crowd-sourced solutions that speed PC startup and shutdown times; prevent PC crashes, increase Internet browsing speed and functionality; making switching between applications faster; enhance PC security; stabilize systems; and remove junk, unwanted files, cookies and logs to free up valuable hard drive space.”
Cope said that by offering community-sourced software to solve these and other common computer problems, “we give everyday consumers access to the knowledge of IT professionals and PC enthusiasts from around the world: Community-Powered EvolutionWare for faster, cleaner, more secure PCs.”
“Users give feedback about items and apps on their PC, we collect and aggregate that data in our cloud, assign weights and apply algorithms, then distribute the data back to our community, giving individual users access to customized, personalized information about what is on their PC,” Cope added.
“We're proud of the awards we've received, and the rapid growth in our software's adoption by consumers, but what we're most proud of is how we we're using the crowd – the community – to improve users' PC experience.”
“Why is our community-sourced data important?” Cope questioned. “It's for the benefit of the next user. That's why we do it. That's why it's there. It's primal, instinctive. The next user has the benefit of sorting the most ‘liked' review to the least ‘liked' review and getting the most relevant timely consumer feedback as possible. And then, without thinking about it, they rate other's ratings and sometimes leave their own as well...and on and on it goes.”
Cope said that the aforementioned social feedback “was not always so natural in computing.”
“In fact, it's really with the rise in Facebook's Social Graph that we see enough social mechanics ‘maturity,' if you will, to where a project like this could be easily used by enough people to make it truly work,” he said. “We needed hundreds of millions of people to be able to understand community sourcing and social networking before they used our software.
“Also the technology has never really been available to a bootstrap startup. You couldn't do this on any type of server configuration obviously without [an] incredible investment. It took us years and millions of dollars to build out our platform on top of someone else's IAAS (infrastructure as a service) platform.”
Ultimately, Cope said that as recent as three years ago this was not feasible. “But it is now, and we're proud to offer consumer software that ties into this trend and this new use of the cloud,” he said.
In addition to SlimWare Utilities, Cope said he has also created “top-selling digital products in six diverse categories across multiple verticals markets,” which includes a network search engine using peer-to-peer technology and a global remote-access interface that syncs multiple computers to an online cloud.
Let's Get Profitable
One of the most common questions for young startups is, “Are you profitable?”
“Yes, SlimWare is profitable,” Cope, who founded SlimWare Utilities in December 2009, answered. “From the cost side, the biggest reason for our profitability is our ability to scale out our cloud infrastructure on an as-needed basis. On the profit side, we have been able to achieve it through quality products that drive word of mouth and some pretty incredible partnerships we've established with other major companies last year.”
Cope said that SlimWare Utilities' revenue model includes a combination of free and fee-based software. “SlimCleaner's core version will remain free; more premium upgrades of various products will be available in the future,” he said. “We became profitable in 2010 with the launch of SlimDrivers, our cloud-based software for updating a PC's drivers and improving the function of hardware peripherals, such as printers, sound cards, etc.
“SlimDrivers automatically determines the exact drivers for a computer's hardware and operating system, while our premium, fee-based, upgrade, DriverUpdate, provides a ‘Download All' automation that installs multiple drivers simultaneously and saves hours of time. SlimWare Utilities plans to launch an enterprise version of SlimCleaner for corporate and SMB customers who wish to proactively maintain the integrity of their employees' computers, and we're establishing partnerships with various OEMs and other consumer technology providers.”
Five Tips For Aspiring Entrepreneurs
When asked to give his top five tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, Cope provided Benzinga with the following list:
- “Focus on solving real needs and solving them well, because word-of-mouth goes a long way.”
- “Build a small niche community of users who will give you actionable feedback you can use to improve or possibly re-invent your [widget] to meet their needs.”
- “Don't give up, but be prepared to reinvent your ideas along the way.”
- “Always try to see where things are going and not where they are.”
- “For us, knowing that the cost of hosting would rapidly come down, understanding the impact of cloud computing, and the adoption of social networking were our biggest assets in developing and scaling so quickly.”
Changes, So Many Changes
In the years since SlimWare Utilities began, Cope said that the biggest changes that he has seen (and allowed a company like his to exist) are:
- “Global penetration of broadband: As more consumers have easy access to fast Internet connections, they are able to do more online and in the cloud.”
- “The concepts of web 2.0 and user-generated content: Consumers leave reviews and give feedback on almost everything online now and this made the concept of allowing them to give feedback about what is installed on their own devices a simple evolution.”
- “Cloud computing: The availability of inexpensive cloud infrastructure has allowed us to leverage the power of Amazon's cloud to build out what should have cost us hundreds of millions of dollars and scale it to meet the high usage demands of our users.”
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