Cloud Academy: 4 things I Learnt About Building Products

(Update) We’ve recently released some new product features to further enhance your training experience:

Hands-on Labs, live cloud environments for your team to build and validate practical experience directly on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Docker, Kubernetes, data pipelines, and much more.

Training Plans will help you assign, manage, and measure structured cloud training at scale.

Skill Assessment will help you trend your team’s aptitude by platform, domain, and topic and identify possible skill gaps.


We started Cloud Academy exactly one year ago incorporating Cloud Academy Inc. Even if we didn’t change our original idea and mission about our project, during the last 12 months we changed a lot of things: vision, implementation, the way we structure our content, marketing, and business model. That was a long path, especially for a startup like us that needs to deal with changing content and platforms.

Building Cloud Academy was not so different from other platforms and companies I started in the past but has some interesting aspects that I found only on a global project focused on a very growing technology like cloud computing.

1. Be online, ASAP

There is nothing worse than working for months without asking feedbacks (real feedbacks!) to your final users. Of course, you will talk with a lot of people during your path: advisors, serial entrepreneurs, investors, potential customers, etc. But the sad truth is that everyone will tell you something only “supposed”, and the real test will be with your user basis. When we started Cloud Academy our initial goal was focusing on the recruiting market, build the best solution to hire people with cloud computing skills. Months later, when we started adding content online about Amazon Web Services, we got a lot of feedback from users asking for training materials, courses, more deep content about AWS and all the kind of things that we were not producing (and not thinking about!).

If you work with a team of great engineers, like in my case, you’ll need to face a lot of ideas, suggestions and possible features that will pause on the typical question: “Do we need to have this before going online?“. This is normal, as an entrepreneur you are inclined to have a vision and a long list of features that you imagine in your product. That’s a trap, the most dangerous. The fact is that you should have a clear path in your mind, a set of features that you want to see online and understand how they behave and don’t be influenced by other great ideas and features. You will have time for them.

In the last 3 months we got more feedback than ever and this is the best thing we can do to improve our product: try to be online ASAP and start talking with your users, send them single email to ask their opinions, what are the problems and of course, what they like in the product. Do not worry about your UX/UI, this is, of course, something that you will change a lot and very often: if you are working with content and the real value is your technology and your content, like in Cloud Academy, do not waste too much time on details about your UX/UI. Go online and then start asking things, control Google Analytics every day and so on.

2. Content changes very quickly, understand how to manage it

We are now managing more than 3000+ Quizzes and Learning Statements, adding thousands of them each month. Content is king in our model and so it is our technology. The biggest challenge I’ve seen, and the one we’ll still need to win, is the ability to deal with a topic like cloud computing where we have daily updates that need to be reflected in our content base. We are working on this basically from 2 points of view: Technology and of course, our Community. If your business has the same problem, then my suggestion is to start updating and managing the content manually and only then try to add some automation. I discovered many aspects of our business that are very hard to get without doing a manual job on them, and that changes your vision when you try to design an algorithm.

3. Scalability, it’s now always the first problem

“Are you scalable?”. Oh damn! This question keeps coming at every meeting I do. Of course, scalability is an important aspect of your business model but, in the early days of your company, you shouldn’t take decisions based on this. Let me explain it. “Is this scalable or not?“, we did this mistake before, trying to understand if adding learning content to Cloud Academy was scalable for us. Also, in this case, the best option, at least for us, gave it a try and see what happens. Many businesses that today are built on a scalability principle, we’re not like that at the beginning. They learned how to scale that model, they didn’t find something that was already a perfect, scalable process. Think about AirBnB: those guys spent one entire year knocking at doors to convince people to list their home in the website, it was not scalable but was definitely the right process to start the marketplace and understand how to automate it. You should watch this video about AirBnB’s struggles and story. 

4. Partnerships will help you

How can you start proving that your model works when you don’t have revenues, users and all the things all of your competitors already have? That’s a problem that you meet at the beginning, like everyone else. In our case, Cloud Academy was without content, without customers and, of course, we were still building our product and this is a process that, usually, has not a clear end in your timeline.

In the beginning, we started a partnership with Newvem (thank you to Ofir, now at Iamondemand.com) and we offered them data and analytics in exchange for visits from www.newvem.com. The same happened in the last months with our partner Enter Cloud Suite, that is using Cloud Academy to train members and customers on its new OpenStack Cloud Computing IaaS Platform (The Enter Cloud Suite Courses are great, and free! give them a look!)

Stefano Bellasio

Written by

Stefano Bellasio

Stefano's a computer engineering guy that loves building products. He's the CEO and co-founder of CloudAcademy.com. All his experience is in the web hosting and cloud computing industry where he started other companies before. He loves talking with all readers of Cloud Academy blog, so feel free to email him at stefano@cloudacademy.com!

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