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Whatchu doin' Upthere? Western Digital moves on cloud storage space

Gobbles consumer file-hosting startup for undisclosed amount

Western Digital Corporation has bought Upthere, a consumer data storage startup with its own public cloud.

Upthere was founded in 2011 by director Bertrand Sarlet, VP for business development Alex Kushnir, and Roger Bodamer. CEO Chris Bourdon joined Upthere as VP products in August 2012 after being Apple's senior product line manager in the Mac OS X area. He was promoted to CEO in December 2015 when Bodamer left.

Sarlet worked at Apple from 1997 to 2011, and was previously at Steve Job's NeXT.

The company, based in Redwood City, CA, stores users' data – photos, videos, documents and music – in its own data centre and says this about its core technology:

We believe that the time has come for the world to live off of the cloud on a day-to-day basis, not merely treat it as a secondary backup or sync location. This means, however, that writing to and reading from the cloud needs to be robust and fast enough to replace local storage. Rather than juggling multiple copies of a file between devices, our direct write technology keeps everything in the cloud, freeing the device to do what it does best – creating and consuming content. In order to overcome the technical challenges of this new model of computing, we knew we needed to own, optimize, and deeply integrate each component in our system – this is the primary reason we built our full technology stack.

Consumers run a local Upthere app on their iOS, Android, macOS and Windows devices.

On beta test exit the app was described as "a smarter way to keep, find, and share all of your files. Instead of storing your files on your devices which takes up lots of space, we safely and privately store your files directly in the cloud. Upthere breaks through the capacity limits of your devices providing one unified place for all your files that you can access from any device."

Upthere has had a single and large funding round of $77m in July last year, probably sparked by the successful beta. There were six investors: Elevation Partners, Floodgate, GV, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, NTT DOCOMO Ventures, and Western Digital Capital.

The acquisition price has not been revealed. We think it is well beyond $100m and gives WDC the ability to develop and operate its own cloud storage data centres around the world, using its own storage media drives to do so. This will put it into competition with all other consumer data storage and sharing businesses, such as Amazon, Box, and Dropbox.

The Upthere business will be folded into Western Digital's Client Solutions business unit, run by SVP and GM Jim Welsh. Chris Bourdon is joining WD's Client Solutions business as a strategic leader and the Upthere team is joining WD as well. Barbara Nelson, who recently joined WD from IronKey, where she ran the Imation-owned business, will run the Clouds Services business inside WD's Cloud Solutions unit.

Upthere pricing is $1.99/month and includes the Home app and 100GB of storage. There is a free three-month trial. Download the app here. ®

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