A Chat with Founder & CEO, Alex Krohn, as Gossamer Threads Turns 20
On the 20th anniversary of Gossamer Threads, I sat down with Gossamer Threads Founder and CEO, Alex Krohn, to chat about GT’s humble beginnings and his vision for the future of the company.
Q: So Alex, you have a clear fascination with computers, what was your first computer?
Alex: An Apple IIe
Q: That’s a classic computer! What browser and operating system did that use, and more importantly, what was your favourite computer game?
Alex: There were no browsers back then! Wizardry was by far my favourite game at the time.
Q: How did your interest in computers and technology bring about Gossamer Threads?
Alex: I studied computer science at Simon Fraser University, and in 1996 I left the CompSci Co-op program to take on a web development contract. As I received more contracts I went solo for the next few years, taking on different contracts and doing custom work for clients. I hired my first two employees in 1999, expanding to accommodate the increase in custom and contract work.
Q: How did Gossamer Threads evolve into a hosting company?
Alex: By 2004 I was fed up with how hosting providers treated their clients when their sites went down, so I started hosting primarily for customers using Gossamer’s products. By then I’d worked with thousands of hosting providers and I knew exactly what clients wanted and needed.
Q: Was it this knowledge of client’s wants and needs what led to the birth of GTmetrix?
Alex: A large customer that we were developing for asked how they could track development, specifically how to monitor for best practices. I recognized the value in the tool and offered it for free to the general public. GTmetrix is now the largest performance test of the web, analyzing over 175,000 pages per day. It’s still free, but users can purchase a GTmetrix PRO plan to help them meet specific business objectives.
Q: Gossamer Threads is now a cloud hosting company as well, what is your vision for cloud computing?
Alex: I think that cloud computing means different things to different people. Right now there is a strong demand for businesses to focus on their core competencies and to leverage infrastructure in a more elastic model where other people deal with the underlying hardware, storage and networking and let your internal team focus on what they do best. Cloud computing offers clients the ability to become a lot more nimble and adaptable.
Q: Looking back over the 20 years of Gossamer Threads, what do you think is the biggest challenge now versus back then?
Alex: Back then it was more unregulated, a new frontier. Everything was less hostile – less spam, hacking, and malicious people. As security was less of a threat there was more camaraderie, more “hey, let’s build and do cool things!” Now there is far more security abuse, with spam and hacking increasing daily.
Q: Looking towards the future, how do you balance your technological needs with your concern for reducing the environmental footprint of hosting operations?
Alex: We focus on power-use reduction, the re-use of hardware, and ensure the proper recycling of all Ewaste. While ensuring we properly dispose of all media (GT undergoes regular SOC 2 audits to ensure compliance), Gossamer Threads uses the services of FreeGeek and other charitable organizations to give new life to old computer parts by either reusing them in the community, or by ethically or sustainably recycling them.
Q: Just one last question, Gossamer Threads named their webmail program “Gmail” back in the day, what was the reaction when Google released Gmail in 2004?
Alex: Gossamer Mail was mainly referred to as “Gmail” by our clients and internally. When Google officially released Gmail on April 1, 2004, there was confusion as some clients thought that we had sold the product to Google!
Gossamer Threads has evolved greatly since its humble beginnings 20 years ago, and we look forward to seeing how Alex and his team adapt to and influence the direction of client’s needs over the next 20 years.