Cloud startup «kittens» seek the Clouded Leopard's Den

28 Nov 2014

The CloudEthernet Forum (CEF) has announced an intriguingly named contest to launch winning cloud startups into the CEF and VC arena.

The CEF announced the competition—dubbed “The Clouded Leopard's Den”—at the recent GEN14 conference in Washington DC. According to a CEF statement, the name is inspired by the “elegant but endangered Clouded Leopard—Neofelis nebulosa—surviving in the Himalayan foothills.”

I applaud the CEF for introducing a sense of adventure and whimsy into a startup-centric contest. Why not? The idea is to get worthy IT candidates in front of the money guys (and the animal itself is interesting: “In China the cat is known as the 'Mint Leopard' because its spots can also look like mint leaves,” says the Clouded Leopard Project).

The competition kicks off a planned annual series to be organized by UK-based NetEvents. ”The Clouded Leopard’s Den will...lift today’s ‘small cat’ startups into the cloud’s ‘big cat’ league,” said NetEvents CEO Mark Fox. “There’s a mass of talent out there waiting to be discovered, and we wish our contenders every success.”

Best of the best clawing to the top
The international competition features two award categories: “Hottest Cloud Start-up” for those preparing for early stage A-round funding, and “Hottest Pre-IPO Cloud Company,” for companies at a more advanced B/C round stage.

Entries will be accepted until 2nd February, 2015. A shortlist of finalists will be announced at the end of February.

Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet inventor and Professor of Innovation at the University of Texas, serves as “Top Cat” and chairs the competition’s judging panel. “The Clouded Leopard’s Den 2015 will identify the next generation of cloud computing leaders,” said Metcalfe. “The competition will spot the best innovators looking for their first A round financing to develop their ideas, as well as the players who need B/C funding to drive products and go-to-market initiatives.”

“The best of the best – we invite them all to the Clouded Leopard’s Den,” said “Top Cat” Metcalfe.

Tune your “elevator pitch”
The Clouded Leopard’s Den panel—reps from pure-play VC firms, investment funds, business angels, and leading technologists including Metcalfe—pick the finalists. Then comes the fun part: finalists give their “elevator pitch” onstage in front of an audience.

The elevator pitch is a key part of fundraising: it's a fast-paced account of your project's merit. The concept: you're in an elevator with a venture capitalist and have 30 seconds to convince him or her to invest. Elevator pitches aren't typically done onstage, and would-be “cloud kittens” need to bring their A-game.

As they'll be pitching to an audience of C-level executives from the world’s leading cloud organizations, VCs, industry analysts and IT business press from around the globe.

It'll be a tough room, but the rewards are worth it. The awards will be presented in front of an audience of the world’s leading IT media, analysts, industry giants and Silicon Valley VCs at the NetEvents Global Summit which will be held at the Corinthian Yacht Club, Tiburon, San Francisco on April 23rd, 2015.

The winners each receive a full year’s membership to the CEF, mentoring and privileged access to the CEF’s technical initiatives and developments such as the CloudE 1.0 reference architecture and OpenCloud Project lab facilities, and an invitation to attend conference sessions plus media briefings at a global press event in San Francisco. The opportunity to put your firm's name in front of the world’s key opinion shapers should make all the small cats perk up their ears.

Throwing the door open to fresh thinking
The CEF has asked tech media to help promote this effort, and we're happy to do so. Innovation in technology—especially mobile technology—is often found among far-flung startups, and this seems an excellent scheme to bring them forward to pitch their concepts.

“We are throwing the door wide open to fresh, original thinking,” said James Walker, CEF president and VP for managed network services at Tata Communications. “But there are three key criteria that will be strictly enforced: it must be something new and different; it must be practical; and above all it must deliver significant benefits.”

Walker also offered this tip: “As a participant in the OpenCloud Project, winners will have a head start on interoperability with the systems of major data centers, network service, and cloud and software providers.”

Full competition rules and criteria can be found at and the Twitter account is @CloudLeopardDen

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