Qbox is a support, hosting and management resource for popular open sources platforms, including Elasticsearch, a distributed data exploration and analytics tool, and Kubernetes, a cloud-native container orchestration platform.
“Those terms will mean nothing to 98 percent of readers,” jokes CEO and Co-Founder Mark Brandon. “Suffice to say, they are tools that take advantage of the intersection of big data and the cloud.”
According to Brandon, the idea for Qbox came to him by accident.
“We started out building a search tool for e-commerce companies, but noticed that customers were really just wanting us to provide the expertise around the tools that we were using on the backend, which included Elasticsearch,” he says. “We added Kubernetes tools and support later, after we re-architected our own Elasticsearch clusters to use Docker containers and Kubernetes.”
It was through hard work and the help of both the city of Fayetteville and the state of Arkansas that Qbox has grown to what it is today.
“It is true that ours, like any startup, is the result of a lot of hard work and sleepless nights by our team, the co-founders and stakeholders,” says Brandon. “But, we have also had tremendous support from the city of Fayetteville and the state of Arkansas as well, without which, we would not be here.
“Our first round of investment came from the Ark Challenge backers, way back in 2012 when we had no business being an investable organization,” he adds. “Later on, we received tremendous backing from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Arkansas Development Finance Authority and the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority. It is no exaggeration to say that it took a village to bring forth our company.”
Qbox, according to Brandon, is working on the “bleeding edge” of computing technologies, creating things that have never been dreamt of before.
“It gives me tremendous pride to see our diverse team of nobodies from flyover-state USA gel together to create a meaningful enterprise,” he says. “It really is analogous to the feeling I got when my own children started to be functional on their own and develop their own personalities.”
As Qbox grew, so did the pressure for Brandon and his team to move the company out west to Silicon Valley. And for a time, they gave it the West Coast a chance. But eventually, Fayetteville won out.
“Back in 2015, we raised money from some big-name West Coast venture capitalists,” says Brandon. “There was serious pressure for us to move to San Francisco. Four of us moved there, and I commuted four days a week for five months during that period. We all moved back home to Fayetteville.
“There were some straightforward, hard-money reasons such as the aforementioned assistance from the state,” he adds. “But also, we found it was easier to attract talent when you’re one of only a few venture-backed companies in a given radius, instead of being one of hundreds within a few city blocks. Likewise, the cost structure and pace is more conducive to getting serious work done here.”
Creating a quality startup ecosystem like that of Northwest Arkansas is vital to the growth and success of technological companies like Qbox, according Brandon.
“Developing a technology eco-system is a two-decade long process, maybe longer,” he says. “It really only happens after the first round of successful companies exit and the talent from those companies go off to start their next ventures. The process becomes self-reinforcing when investors, state and municipal stakeholders, and the vendor community all band together to support each and every founder. Events like Startup Crawl, NWA Techfest, Tech Summit and Nowhere Developers are crucial to fostering this culture.”
Qbox has 20 employees, 14 of which are at their Fayetteville headquarters on Dickson Street. The company also has five employees in Europe and one in Asia.