Pioneering the Cloud

Since Don James Jr. founded BEAR Data in 2004, the company has continually made its way onto annual lists of fastest growing companies, an impressive feat for the San Francisco Bay area firm.

BEAR Data Solutions capitalizes on rapid changes in the IT world to help companies pivot on-site data storage to cloud systems

When BEAR Data Solutions started nine years ago in San Francisco, “cloud” hadn’t become part of the jargon. Now, as the term rises in popularity, tech companies like BEAR are racing to provide virtual-data storage for savvy clients around the world. As these companies increase in mobility, cloud allows them to store and access secure data from anywhere in the world through a digital interface. The sea change is revolutionizing BEAR and earned the company a spot on Inc. magazine’s list of fastest growing companies.

CEO and founder Don James Jr. started the tech consultancy and IT solutions and service provider in 2004, after working with other firms during the dot-com craze. His fledgling company managed to pull in millions of dollars in its first year, but James remained unsatisfied. The high revenue totals came from software and hardware—not services. He retooled the company to focus more on creative IT services and solutions, a move has led to annual growth of more than 30 percent through the life of the company.

Last year, BEAR did more than $140 million in sales as James continues to build his brand. And while his company designs IT infrastructures and data systems, the trend is clear: business is heading to the cloud. “Cloud storage is still in its infancy,” James says. “This is exciting, because we are just starting to scratch the surface. It represents a major continuing opportunity for us.” Fortune 2500 companies, for example, are using the cloud—but yet not for mission-critical data. James estimates that less than 6 percent of the market is “impacted by the cloud in the IT space.” He expects that number to rise dramatically over the next decade, and BEAR is positioned to provide infrastructure and help companies of all sizes make the transition.

Cloud storage is appealing. In a growing digital world, it eliminates the need for large hard drives and rooms and rooms of storage towers. Those devices are instead replaced by remote systems managed and maintained by a third party. Complex international organizations with thousands of employees can share data in dramatically easier ways through a cloud system.

And that’s the transformation that is driving BEAR’s growth. James is working with general private sector clients, but has also found the cloud perfect for large health-care companies and public agencies. And it’s not just cloud services—James has been able to package many of BEAR’s offerings to serve the full needs of these new clients. “We’re building, updating, and refreshing the technology that supports these environments, and it’s driven by the new developments in cloud and wireless products,” he says. The company is working on numerous large projects for global private- and public-sector agencies with dozens or hundreds of facilities. BEAR is bringing those structures up to changing modern standards by creating wireless and cloud environments. The wireless features support mobile applications and offer doctors, teachers, and other workforces advanced mobility.

It might seem strange, but BEAR is eschewing an online-only presence in favor of physical offices. James says his 100 employees, based in 12 offices, offer clients a personal interaction and attract business. The move also motivates his staff. “We’re going to hire you and give you an office. It lets us expand our footprint and it shows a commitment to the marketplace that is respected by customers, employees, and vendors,” he says. Being around other innovative companies like Salesforce, Zynga, and Twitter (whose offices are all located within a few city blocks) creates a buzz through San Francisco’s SOMA district that inspires James and his team to continued success.