[photo] Mark Jeftovic

easyDNS CEO, Career Contrarian & AntiGuru

An innocuous comment that became a billion dollar deal

About a hundred years ago, in the early early days of easyDNS, I was asked to give a talk about DNS and domain names at a Toronto Mac user’s group. After I gave my talk I was having a coffee with the event organizer, William Stratas. It’s hard to remember how we even hit on the subject, but it came up that I had a friend looking to build a new type of managed data center. It turned out that he had a friend who had a small datacenter who wanted to expand.

“Maybe we should get your Mr. X and my Mr. X together”, he said to me. So I told my guy (Osama Arafat, who had given me my first internet job back at inforamp.net) and he told his guy (Paul Sharpe, who ran a small ISP called myna.com) and a meeting was arranged. I remember beforehand that Osama was skeptical, because myna was pretty small and still in the dial-up access business. The story changed dramatically after their meeting. I don’t remember his exact words, but they were along the lines of “You should see the place, I’ve never seen a datacenter that was so well organized and laid out”. Osama had been impressed by Paul Sharpe and his operation. Before long they were partners and Q9 Networks was born.

easyDNS moved our servers into Q9 when they launched, back when “easyDNS” was two intel rackmounts. One rack was the website and ns1, the other as the url forwarder, the email forwarder and ns2. (We had one offsite nameserver stashed in a friend’s colo in Buffalo and another one at 151 front ). The “central brain” of easyDNS  took up residence in Q9 and has been there ever since. Now we have a netapp, a couple openfiler storage apps and about 50 servers in there. While we’ve had issues (DDoS attacks and numerous self-inflicted unforced errors) we’ve never had any downtime to our central Q9-based infrastructure since we moved there in 2000.

Tonight, it will be announced that BCE, Ontario Teacher’s Pension and a private equity fund will purchase Q9 for $1 billion.

It is very odd when you trace an event back through the years to some seemingly innocuous conversation that set it all in motion. While I am sure Osama would have built his datacenter had he not met Paul Sharpe, and that Myna would have found an investor and expanded into something, it’s hard to say whether either venture would have hit that same critical mass and made the same dent in the universe that the specific combination of Osama Arafat, Paul Sharpe and their respective teams  and backers did.

Congrats to all of you, Q9 is a great Canadian IT story.

3 Comments to An innocuous comment that became a billion dollar deal

  1. June 3, 2012 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    Nice job Mark!

    Who knows what a little intro can lead to. Congrats to Osama and Paul as well! I’m speaking from first hand experience, Q9 has always been ahead of the curve.

  2. William Stratas's Gravatar William Stratas
    October 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Mark, as further explanation:

    In early 2000, you appeared at a member event of IMAT, the Interactive Multimedia Arts & Technologies Association (since disbanded). And we both call our colleagues “Mr. X” because at the time, near the cusp of the dot-com wave, everyone held their cards competitively close. But after Osama expressed interest, I emailed you Paul’s contact details, and things flowed from there.

    After the deal was done a few months later, morphing Myna Communications Inc. (Paul’s internet service provider) to a new corporate structure, a new business operating name was needed. Osama and Paul were gracious enough to hire me for that assignment, and within 3 weeks I had created a short-list of about 18 possible identities, one of which was Quad9, which led to Q9. And luckily the corresponding dot-com name was available.

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