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Cloud Powers Nasdaq’s New Startup Incubator

The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center taps cloud technology to support the next generation of business leaders.

Many of Silicon Valley’s top companies trade on Nasdaq, from established firms like Apple, Cisco Systems and Intel to newer ones such as Facebook and Netflix. Now, the stock exchange wants to do its part to foster the region’s startup community.

The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, which opened in September, features a 13,000-square-foot facility in San Francisco, complete with meeting rooms, a café and event space where aspiring startup founders can take free classes and network with mentors, experts and each other.

“Being an entrepreneur or founder is a long journey with daily challenges, so we want to be a hub where they can be inspired,” says Nicola Corzine, the center’s executive director. “It’s a landing spot for them to learn and to receive the emotional and psychological support they need.”

Organizers wanted to launch the nonprofit center quickly and affordably, so earlier this year, they took a page out of the startup playbook and turned to the cloud for technology.

“We had a rapid deployment,” Corzine recalls. “We were expected to break ground and move in within an 18-week schedule. To ensure we could serve entrepreneurs from day one, we had to be smart with where we would spend both resources and time.”

The center, which has nine full-time employees and a handful of part-time staff, subscribes to Microsoft Office 365 for email, online file storage and office productivity software; Adobe Creative Cloud for design work; and two cloud providers for phone and video conferencing services.

To provide ample bandwidth and ensure reliability, the center purchased Cisco Meraki networking and Wi-Fi gear and hired CDW to remotely manage the network over the cloud.

“Everything is hosted in the cloud or managed from the cloud, which simplifies things immensely,” says Tim Orkus, Nasdaq’s senior manager of IT. “It eliminates a large amount of overhead that typically goes into infrastructure and support.”

Choosing Cloud-Enabled IT

Tim Orkus
Tim Orkus, Nasdaq’s senior manager of IT. Photo credit: Matthew Furman

Nasdaq’s IT department in New York manages a highly demanding stock exchange environment, where uptime and security are paramount. So last year, when Nasdaq’s Educational Foundation announced plans to build the center 3,000 miles away in San Francisco, it presented the IT staff with new challenges and opportunities.

“We asked ourselves, what could we do if we’re not tied to the enormous infrastructure we have that supports the Nasdaq?” Orkus says. “It was an open, empty facility, so we were working with a completely blank slate.”

Because of the Entrepreneurial Center’s nonprofit status, the IT team considered cost, but also thought about ease of support and long-term flexibility. They chose cloud and managed services, a decision Corzine embraced.

Not only did cloud and managed services allow the center to get up and running quickly with minimal IT investment, but it also eliminated the need for an onsite IT administrator, allowing the organization to invest those dollars on programs and services, Corzine says.

The Agility and Flexibility Modern IT Demands

2,000

The number of entrepreneurs and founders the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center plans to serve in its first year

SOURCE: Nasdaq

When Corzine arrived in January, she explained the center’s day-to-day technology needs to Orkus, which allowed him to home in on specific technologies. On any given day, she told him, the venue might hold a workshop for 20 people while simultaneously hosting an event with hundreds of people in attendance, so a high-density wireless network was a necessity.

Furthermore, Corzine and her staff planned to partner with academic institutions, companies and other nonprofits worldwide, so having high-end video conferencing for business meetings was also critical.

To meet high-bandwidth needs, Orkus needed to build a fast, reliable network, so he called CDW for suggestions. Experts from CDW recommended Cisco Meraki networking equipment because of its ease of use and remote management capabilities.

“It was the perfect solution for the center because it’s fully manageable over the cloud,” says Richard Noonan, mobility solution architect for CDW.

Orkus purchased eight Cisco Meraki switches, a dozen 802.11ac wireless access points and network security appliances and hired CDW’s Managed Services team to remotely monitor and manage the network 24/7.

A Secure and Speedy Solution

CDW installed and configured the equipment at the center, but Orkus and his team provided guidance, including a requirement to install security appliances for content filtering and intrusion detection and prevention.

“The Entrepreneurial Center is under the Nasdaq brand. It’s more visible than the typical nonprofit of that size, so security is critical,” says Orkus.

To ensure redundancy, the center subscribes to two ISPs providing 100-megabit-per-second connections. If one Internet provider goes down, the other will keep services running.

With the infrastructure complete, Nasdaq’s IT team no longer manages daily operations. If problems occur, staff call service providers for support.

CDW’s Managed Services team can remotely troubleshoot the equipment. And if equipment needs to be replaced or a new wireless access point added, CDW will send a technician to the site.

“We see enormous savings while getting a high level of support from the vendors,” Orkus says.

Striving for 24/7 Uptime

Since its launch in September, the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center has worked with 500 entrepreneurs, and so far, the network and cloud services have all worked perfectly.

“We’ve been thrilled,” Corzine says. “We’ve had no outages or any issues, and that speaks to the resiliency of the cloud-based infrastructure.”

The center’s staff moved into the new building in July, and during the summer months, staffers fundraised and developed curriculum and programming. They also hosted several events, including auditions for ABC’s Shark Tank TV show.

In the coming months, the center will put its infrastructure to the test by live-streaming a CEO interview from its broadcast studio to a conference in London and by hosting a TEDx live-stream event in February that will attract 500 to 600 people, she says.

In the meantime, the center’s staff members, who work with MacBook Air and MacBook Pro computers, take advantage of all the cloud services.

“Virtual private networks are nice, but in our case, that would be overkill,” Corzine says. “Cloud solutions like Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud allow our team to communicate and to design, implement and execute, no matter how disparate our team physically may be.”

John Lee
Nov 16 2015

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