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Teen CEO launches storage startup; catches Facebook's eye

Colin Neagle | Nov. 7, 2012
Just a few years ago, Andrew Mayhall had to decide whether to continue his unique education or drop out of school to start his own server company. Now, he's mulling another major decision - whether to continue discussions about potentially selling that company and working for Facebook, or to follow the entrepreneurial path Facebook's founder laid out when he was around Mayhall's age.

"Overall, I believe our goal is we want to grow this thing to be an EMC or NetApp. We don't really want to do that by being acquired," Mayhall says. "Maybe potentially licensing some of the technology to a Facebook or a Google or someone to continue bringing in funds so we can continue innovating and building the company as a whole. But I don't believe that it's in our sights right now to be acquired just quite yet."

The attachment comes natural to Mayhall given how Evtron was created. Launching a startup was never the initial objective, he says; Mayhall was simply exploring the possibilities of a low-power platform out of his passion for hardware.

"We didn't really think that we could turn this thing into a company until one day we realized that the numbers we were generating off the efficiency increases and performance increases were substantial enough to justify that 'hey, maybe we should go and get this thing patented and maybe we should go and turn this thing into a company,'" Mayhall says.

As Mayhall continued to see progress, development of what would eventually become the Cell platform became a personal challenge. One of the first prototypes fit 55 hard drives into four units. Not satisfied with those figures, Mayhall redesigned it so he could fit 66 hard drives in four units, and shortly thereafter extended it to 88 hard drives. This continued until Mayhall fit 128 hard drives in four units, which Evtron would have to cut down to 120 so its product could meet industry standards.

"The goal was to make an efficient server, and I wanted to see how far we could take it," Mayhall says. "It just so happens that we did it better than anyone else could have."

Currently, Evtron is trying to establish an identity in a market that Mayhall says is projected to reach $300 billion in the next five years. To keep costs low, the company has established production agreements within close proximity to its St. Louis headquarters. Combined with other agreements with distributors and overseas manufacturers, Mayhall says Evtron is able to produce low volumes of its server chassis at the same price as the market's heavy hitters - EMC, NetApp and HP - are producing in large quantities. Mayhall says the company's plan right now is to carve out a niche where it can "end up with a system where we can produce underneath any provider out there and still sell underneath any provider out there and make decent margins off of it."

"So, now, really the problems have been figuring out how to scale this to the point where we don't get squashed by these larger guys when our patents actually become public," Mayhall says.


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