Peter Thompson & George Dochev
Peter Thompson is co-founder & CEO of LucidLink.
Together with his co-founder & CTO, George Dochev, they launched LucidLink with a distinct vision to transform cloud object storage into a native file system that streams data on-demand to any user. As LucidLink customers ourselves, we have been floored by the pure magic of having hundreds of terabytes of data instantly accessible on a virtual drive on my laptop without the need to download or sync. George's technical marvel struck a deep chord in us – virtual file systems have never really delivered your data when you really need it. LucidLink is finally, actually, changing that.
When did you know you needed to start LucidLink?
Peter: I spent 15 years at a storage software company before going back to school at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford. I wanted to join an early stage company, but I never expected to go back into storage!
Out of the blue I received a call from one of my former colleagues who happened to be the smartest engineer I’d ever met. He told me he had been working on an idea...I’m thinking to myself, if this brilliant guy is holed up coding for a year...I really want to know what is going to pop out the other side of that process!
He showed me a working demo of the product and it blew my mind. It seemed like magic! (which is still one of the most common reactions we hear). I spent my final two semesters testing the idea and getting a sense for the product market fit.
I was looking for an engineer with an idea, and George was looking for a partner with sales experience. It was kind of a no-brainer at that point.
For George, I'll let him share his story because it really started with him.
George: We were building the next-generation storage virtualization software at DataCore where I worked with Peter. I was working remotely from my home in France while the rest of the team was in Florida and Bulgaria. Those two offices were connected with a VPN tunnel but due to the considerable distance, the remote file shares were excruciatingly slow. Often, hours would be wasted waiting for our files to get copied over. I was working from home, which was even worse.
This is when I thought, wouldn’t it be great if there was something like a distributed file system for the Internet that would span across all locations so the whole team can see one global namespace and access the files within this file space irrespective of where they were. It wouldn’t require VPN, it would be designed to work very efficiently over the Internet by utilizing the available network bandwidth and reducing the chattiness. I wouldn’t have to synchronize the whole file system, like the existing file-syncing services; instead, I would directly access the remote files just like on a network share. It wouldn’t require complex configuration from IT and it would work on any desktop or mobile device. Wouldn’t that be awesome! And so the idea was born.
Surprisingly, there wasn’t anything like that on the market. I started doing research and quickly realized creating something that works would be daunting. It was a classical distributed system with lots of moving parts running in a heterogeneous environment with devices constantly appearing and disappearing from the network. Hmm… I was starting to see why no one had tackled this successfully. So, we had a formidable problem that would bring significant value when solved. I was game.
Few people know this about you, but...
I was the underwater photographer and above water translator for a multiyear expedition to the mountains in Japan’s Iwate prefecture where we explored and mapped a subterranean cave system.
During that time we visited a small mountain village on numerous occasions, were welcomed by the local school, got drunk with the mayor, were featured on Japanese TV on multiple occasions, and, most importantly, more than doubled the known length of the cave.
It was pretty brutal work - hauling gear over a mile through a semi-wet cave, alternately climbing up sheer faces and then belly crawling through tight restrictions, pushing packs and tanks ahead of us. Once we got to the “end” we geared up and started diving - sometimes spending 8 to 9 hours in 37F degree water, surveying and mapping completely new sections of cave.
But I can confidently say that I am one of only 3 people in the history of the planet to set eyes (and feet) in those sections of cave. It was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I’ve done, but also extremely rewarding.
What’s something about your childhood that still influences you today?
I grew up in a small farm town in central Minnesota where we worried about which farmers would grant us access to the best land holding the fattest pheasants.
When I got to college I learned I had to study a foreign language in order to complete my requirements. I’d never studied any language before and knew that I didn’t want to study something that was “normal” according to my context at the time. I ended up selecting Japanese. As it turned out, I had a knack for it, and the professor, who was on a teacher exchange program from our sister university in Osaka, began to a campaign to convince me to spend a semester abroad.
After spending a semester there, I decided I really wanted to extend the stay to a full academic school year. After calculating credits for graduation, I hit up my parents for funds and they said, ”No. You can stay if you want, but you’ve got to do it on your own.”
So I got a job teaching English, found a (nearly condemned) apartment, and learned how to live really cheaply until my first paychecks cleared. And I’m talking really cheap - the neighborhood grocers knew to set aside slightly spoiled or bruised items and 2 day old bread that could no longer sell because they knew I would happily take it! Those were some of the hungriest yet happiest days of my youth. It also completely changed the trajectory of my life and career.
What does no one tell you about being an entrepreneur?
No one told me that I would be sleep deprived for five years. With a startup there are so many things that can go wrong and every time you pass one milestone, it just means that there is a new hurdle to deal with. Smart friends and mentors alike have reminded me that this is a marathon and one needs to pace oneself. But that is easier said than done.
It was here that I learned the importance of having a trusted co-founder. Someone with whom I could bare my deepest concerns and fears. I think we both were somewhat surprised to learn how attuned we both were to the same things and just saying them out loud together made them seem more surmountable.
We try to be super transparent with the team, but there are some things that only cofounders truly understand. Having someone like that as a partner is something I’m truly grateful for.
What's next for LucidLink?
What’s next? We’re just getting started! If the pandemic taught us one thing, it is the importance of business agility from a geographical perspective. We’ve proven what is possible with the next natural evolution of file storage. We’re making big waves in one of the hardest use cases (big file video editing), but that is just the tip of the iceberg. If we do this right, LucidLink will be the way in which everyone connects to their data. Consolidate it in the cloud and access it from wherever, without ever having to think about it.