Promoting tech for good innovators creating a positive impact

Meet the Judge: Philip Marais, Global Startup Program Leader of the OVHcloud Startup Program

In our Meet the Judge interview series, we talk to Super Connect for Good’s judging cohort to learn more about them and their work in the Tech for Good space

As part of the Super Connect for Good Competition supported by Global Good, our Editor-in-Chief Kosta Mavroulakis caught up with its AI for Good co-partner at the OVHcloud Startup Program.

Please introduce yourself

I have a unique technical and business background. After obtaining an MSc in engineering and pursuing a career in software development, I left that industry in 2000 to become one of the founding members of an early-stage venture capital company in South Africa, HBD Venture Capital. At HBD, I served as a director on the boards of a number of its portfolio companies and also started and managed HBD’s Upstarts Business Incubator. My passion for mentoring and coaching has led me to start my own consulting company in 2006 and to obtain accreditation as a Mentors and Business Coaches International (MBCI) Facilitator. I also launched the Nedbank Stellenbosch University (SU) LaunchLab as its CEO, an SU-based business incubator which provides corporate innovation services to South African corporates in a number of verticals. In 2019, I moved to the UK and currently lead the OVHcloud Startup Program globally. OVHcloud is a leading European hyperscaler and pure-play cloud provider.

What are some of the most pressing social issues that your company is working to address through its technology?

At the heart of OVHcloud is our vision to give our customers the freedom to innovate with their data. We provide freedom from the technology lock-in and surprise costs (by other providers) and the freedom to move data at no cost. Our cloud is, therefore, a platform that supports thousands of businesses that are addressing pressing social issues. But we are also addressing a social issue head-on: sustainability.

We are a pioneer of sustainable cloud. We have been innovating for 20 years and deployed our innovations on most of our servers, so you get these green benefits by default. Our water-cooling technology was developed in 2003 and improved with several generations of water-cooling: we are now in the third generation. We also began to fully sub-assemble our servers to optimize the service life of their components in 2009. Our water-cooling technology allows us to achieve a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of less than 1.3 when the industry is at 1.6. The PUE evaluates the data center’s performance by making a ratio between the energy it uses as a whole and the energy used only by computer equipment. We are one of the only companies to measure our PUE using the new ISO 30134-2. We also operate data center server rooms without air conditioning, reducing energy consumption. Mindful of the environmental impact of operating our data centers, we use our resources sparingly. Not only do we optimize our energy efficiency through water cooling, but we also apply our frugality principle to the use of water, which circulates in a closed circuit. We’re also looking at renewable energy. Our Renewable Energy Factor is 79%.

How does your organisation currently support and/or work with startups and scaleups?

The OVHcloud Startup Program is a global programme that has been running since 2015 and has received more than 11,000 applications, of which more than 3,700 have been assisted with cloud credits and free technical consultation. The Startup Program provides tech startups with €10,000 of cloud hosting credits and up to €100,000 for scale-ups, enabling them to facilitate exponential and international growth. Key to this growth is a product offering that is built on open standards, providing interoperability and technology freedom.

We have designed the Startup Program with a personal approach that means when you need to find answers to technology problems quickly, we will personally direct you to the help you need. In addition to this, we also have our own go-to-market offering, the Fast Forward Accelerator, that will help accelerate our members. Fast Forward includes increased visibility for our members through our Shine On programme, 1-on-1 mentoring to solve cloud and business challenges through Mentoring for Startups, access to relevant content to accelerate growth through our Content Hub, and access to market and funding through our Showcase events. Showcase events bring our startups and scale-ups together with venture capital companies, industry and other ecosystem enablers to create the connections required to access funding and business opportunities.

Why did you decide to support the Super Connect for Good 2023 Competition as a Judge / Partner? What are you looking for from the applicants, and what tips would you give them?

We support the Super Connect for Good competition because we want to support and add value to the startup ecosystem. SCFG is a great competition through which we can engage with world-class startups and scaleups and offer our cloud, with the value proposition discussed above, and our Startup Program, which offers up to €100k free cloud credits and technology consultation as well as go-to-market support through our Fast Forward Accelerator. In the current economic conditions, sustainability is key, and we would love to see how we can help with cost optimisations and free cloud credits. Ecosystem support is also a key success factor, so ensure you are well integrated into your local ecosystem to benefit from these networks.

In your opinion, what impact will technology have in creating a better future? To what extent do you feel that tech startups and scaleups can contribute to society’s greatest challenges

What excites me about being part of SCFG each year is seeing entrepreneurs develop solutions to problems, specifically those affecting the most vulnerable, marginalized and under-represented. Technology is helping create a better future, and tech startups and scaleups are leading the way with the innovative solutions they develop at record-breaking speeds. #EntrepreneursAreHeros In this great technology race, let’s not forget that we are human and that technology serves us; we don’t serve technology.

The OVHcloud Startup Program is the AI for Good Co-Partner of the Super Connect for Good 2023 Competition, co-designed by Empact Ventures and Hays.

You can submit an Expression of Interest to pitch to decision-makers and investors at the OVHcloud Startup Program Showcase here. If you’d like to attend the SCFG 2023 Global Final to hear who will be crowned the AI for Good Winner, please register here.

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