Featured BizSpark Startup on Azure: Nebula Systems

MECH5 is the next generation of vehicle diagnostics for Everyone.

Learn how the founders of UK-based Nebula Systems are doing what everyone said was impossible in our interview with CTO, Alan Christian Kromholc:


What is your company’s mission?

We aim to be a worldwide synonym of innovation, creativity and solidness in remote vehicle diagnostics and telematics. We want to empower car owners to know more about their vehicle’s health.

How did you get the idea for your company?

After more than 19 years of developing Windows Desktop Applications for Vehicle Diagnostics and given today’s available internet connectivity, we saw the opportunity to deliver all our know-how as a cloud service. This is a game changer for our industry and we want to lead the change.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment since founding your company?

When we finished our working prototype and proved that we could do what everyone so far had said wasn’t possible.

Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding?

We’re a self-funded Company, but we just launched our KickStarter campaign to raise funds to finish our current App, called Mech5.           

How many employees do you have? How many of them are developers?

5 Employees and 2 Developers.

What Microsoft technologies that you are using in conjunction with the development of your application?

Windows 7 & 8, SQL Server 2012 & SQL Azure, Windows Azure, VisualStudio 2012 & 2013, VisualStudio Online, Office 365

Tell us about your Azure based solution.

Mech5 is a revolutionary, fully cloud based vehicle diagnostics service that empowers users by enabling them to easily access the vast amounts of information within their vehicle’s electronic systems using their smart phone, tablet, laptop or other internet enabled devices regardless of the operating system. It offers access to systems, with features and services, far beyond standalone OBD generic products.

How is Azure implemented in your solution?

Our current App, Mech5, is a full Azure based solution. It is an ASP.NET App, currently implemented as a Web Site, fully built using HTML, Jscript, WebServices and SignalR. We use SQL Azure as the database backbone and also use Cloud Services and Services Buses.

How did you get excited about Azure?

By far what I love most is its ease of use and integration with Microsoft technologies. Having such an enormous processing power so easily and readily available is remarkable.

What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?

Database + Web scalability using things that were already known to us. The transition from traditional “ASP.NET IIS + SQL” to Azure is very straightforward and you don’t have to relearn everything again.

What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?

Go for it, you won’t regret it. Having someone that takes care of nearly every aspect of the environment so that you can focus on your App only is brilliant, and I honestly see it as the way forward. Creating new environments, databases, services, scaling things up, it all works instantly and at the push of a button.

Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?

Both: We’re aware of the benefits of building for scale, but we need minimal revenue to cover running costs.

What questions do you think a startup non-technical founder needs to answer when considering a cloud architecture for his or her startup, specifically during the business model generation period?

I would start asking Where, Who & What? Where will the product be used, Who will use it and What are the users going to need to use it.

Where do you include technical members of your team during the building of your business plan?

We think technical members must be present since early stages since it helps them have a better idea on what’s to be done and in turn they contribute with technical knowledge to the plan.

How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy vs technical challenges vs making something just for fun?

We believe that with Mech5 we’re going to change the future of vehicle diagnostics: allowing people to access their vehicle’s information systems, bringing remote diagnostics to everyone, anywhere in the world, and being able to do things such as sharing vehicle error codes, procedures or even request online support from certified experts is just the tip of the iceberg…but we’re also doing it because we’re passionate about computers & cars, and because we were told it couldn’t be done…if we can also make a living out of it, it’s the perfect combination.

What impact or legacy do you hope to make in the market and in the business world?

We really believe we’re going to change the way vehicle diagnostics are performed and we also want to allow people to access the awesome world of electronics within their vehicles.

What are some of the challenges you face as a founder or developer at a startup, when it comes to dealing with family or social life?

Running a startup is very time consuming and usually people tell you that you have no life during the early stages. While we do work really hard (at least that’s what we think), we try not to forget and usually remind ourselves that we have just one life and thus family and friends must not become something to push forward to do when time permits.

Do you have any advice for young startups?

Focus on your product and generating value, and build everything one step at a time and as you need it. Don’t do things that you will not need until several months later. Have patience.

Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?

Given that I have more than 15 years of experience with Microsoft, when we had to evaluate the platform on which to develop Mech5, I knew I could count on Visual Studio and Azure to deliver. I had only heard about BizSpark before, but hadn’t found about it in detail…when I started reading, I knew the program was perfect for us.

What do you think of the BizSpark Program?

I think it’s excellent and helps lift many barriers that technological startups are faced with. I honestly see no downsides to it and definitively recommend it.

Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?

Why wouldn’t he? Microsoft is one of the top players in the industry and has a huge amount of resources put at the disposal of their Users.


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