OtherOEN Member Spotlight – Jeff Martens, CEO of CPUsage

CPUsage harnesses the unused processing power of idle computers and delivers an Infrastructure-as-a-Service for high throughput and high performance computing.

We recently chatted with Jeff Martens of CPUsage about his company, which started in 2010 during Portland Startup Weekend and aims to change the world! CPUsage will also be one of the stops you won’t want to miss on this week’s PDX Startup Crawl, Thursday, Sept. 6. Don’t miss the chance to visit Jeff and the rest of the CPUsage team!

Jeff Martens of CPUsage

Q: What does your business do?
A: CPUsage harnesses the unused processing power of idle computers and provides an Infrastructure-as-a-Service for high throughput computing. In more simple terms, we pay people for the ability to send small compute jobs down to their computer and we sell access to thousands of these computers working together, to customers crunching big data and other computation intensive tasks. Our first product is CPUsage for Encoding, a parallel cloud video encoding API for large batches of short videos. Our next product, currently in private alpha, is a platform that allows any developer to simply and inexpensively distributed their executables across hundreds, if not thousands of compute nodes.

Q: What problem does it solve?
A: CPUsage solves a variety of problems. First, we turn computers that have historically been depreciating expenses into revenue generating assets. A school district or university with 10,000 computers, for example, could earn as much as $1 million per year.

For our customers, we provide access to a massive grid of physical computers, all working together to solve their problem. In the past, grid computing like this was only available to top-tier universities and scientists. With CPUsage, event the 2 person research team can inexpensively access massive compute power.

Finally, CPUsage makes it dead simple to tap into the power of many computers. Unlike our competitors, our customers don’t have to worry about managing cloud instances or figuring out how to get them all working together. We do that heavy lifting for them and provide a simple API to distribute virtually anything into the cloud.

Q: How did you come up with this business idea?
A: Many years ago I became familiar with SETI@Home and Folding@Home, which are non-profit projects that ask their supporters to download a small piece of software on their home computers so they can process small pieces of a very, very large task. I thought it was a fascinating innovation and also saw the commercial potential. Then, a friend of mine, who worked for Sun Microsystems at the time, complained that his semiconductor design verification tasks took 8-14 hours of processing on a high performance server. I thought, “why can’t my friend use the power of many idle computers to get his work done faster?” A couple years later when I was ready to be an entrepreneur, I took that concept to Portland Startup Weekend, and the rest is history.

Q: What are your biggest challenges?
A: Almost everything we do at CPUsage is a big challenge, but that also means everything is a big opportunity. We recently passed the big challenge of preparing our baseline technology for the marketplace. Now, our big challenge is showing customers what they can do with this never before available, simple grid computing resource. Once we show additional customer adoption, we’ll focus on scaling the business.

Q: What are your goals for the company?
A: CPUsage can and will change the world. I mean that. Just think about what the world could accomplish if every wasted CPU cycle was put to use? There is so much wasted compute power in this world that CPUsage will fundamentally change the economics of computing for the betterment of our customers. Our goal is to make compute a utility. Available to anyone, anywhere, and at any scale demanded.

Q: Do you have any news to share about your company’s evolution, new products or partnerships? Tell us about your involvement in the Startup Crawl that’s happening Sept. 6th.
A: We always have great news to share! That is the beauty of a startup; things happen fast. Earlier this summer we were pleased to announce our parallel video encoding API, CPUsage for Encoding. We are also excited to have brought on our 7th team member to help us go after new markets and customers.

On Thursday, September 6th we are opening our doors as part of the Portland Digital eXperience Startup Crawl, and we invite OEN members and fans to join us. We’ll be serving local food and beer, we have a special gift for the first 100 people, we are doing a prize drawing and we have some fun activities planned.

The event starts at 6pm and goes until 8pm at 122 NW 3rd St Portland, OR 97209.

Q: Are you looking for funding?
A: We are not actively raising funds but we are always open to meeting great partners.

Q: Have you been an entrepreneur before?
A: I’m a born entrepreneur. At the age of about 7 I identified a captive market: golfers crossing the street near my house form one hole to the other. I sold them water and soda, but my parents wouldn’t let me sell them beer. As a teen I started a car detailing business and my earnings with the envy of my friends. After starting my career, I toyed around with a few products but nothing hit the big time. CPUsage is my first real endeavor as a career entrepreneur where I decide to risk it all and jump in with both feet.

Q: What brought you to OEN?
A: I neglected to join OEN for a while, but finally joined when I heard about an intern fair that I wanted to attend. It paid off because I found a great intern that we have absolutely loved having on staff this summer!

Q: What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date?
A: Biggest surprise for me is what it means to be an early stage company CEO. I had no idea how much time I would spend doing little things like paying bills, taking out the trash, and other everyday unglamorous things. I also naively thought that raising venture capital would make my life easier. Truth is that raising outside funds brings an entirely new level of pressure and responsibility. It is pressure we put on ourselves to prove that we were a smart investment.

Q: What has been the best entrepreneurial advice you’ve received?
A: This is not advice, rather a saying that is so true. One of our advisors told us something that he attributed to another local entrepreneur, Pete Grillo. He reportedly said that “entrepreneurship will bring the highest of highs and the lowest of lows…. often in the same day.” This couldn’t be more true and the advice here is to be prepared for those days. Stay grounded when the good happens, because rough waters are still ahead. Similarly, don’t get too down when something bad happens, because there is likely a win to celebrate just around the corner.

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