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Black History Month: Celebrating the success of Black founders with Google Cloud: Switchboard Live

February 26, 2021
Rudy J. Ellis

CEO, Switchboard Live

February is Black History Month—a time for us to come together to celebrate and remember the important people and history of the African heritage. Throughout this month we have highlighted three Black-led startups and how they use Google Cloud to grow their businesses. Our final feature highlights Switchboard Live and its founder, Rudy. Specifically, Rudy talks about how the team was able to innovate quickly with easy to use Google Cloud tools and services. 


Nearly our whole lives have moved to virtual spaces as a result of the pandemic. The way we interacted with the events, our loved ones and the world changed seemingly overnight, and many of us are still adjusting to these new times. 

My startup, Switchboard Live, brings people together virtually in meaningful ways. The pandemic provided us an opportunity to help our customers build meaningful connections between people at a time when we are required to stay socially distant. 

What is Switchboard?

Switchboard is a SaaS platform aimed at making it easy for you to share live streams, such as webinars, conferences, events, and panels to multiple social channels/platforms which increases viewership by reaching more viewers. Features like quick setup, embeddable player, and StreamShare work together in building increased audiences. 

For example, with our StreamShare feature, not only do you get to share, but the audience also can share your livestream with others. In short, it helps you expand your reach considerably. And once you are done, you can have the stream stored on your website for others to watch at a later date. You can also embed your live stream on your website for simple and easy access. All these features work together to allow our customers to reach more viewers, approximately doubling their viewership—growing audiences, no matter where they originated. 


Making it faster and easier to connect 

Although many livestream options have popped up in response to COVID-19, I founded Switchboard Live in 2016 with a goal of making it faster and easier for content creators and brands to reach a bigger audience. Before creating my company, I worked for 15 years in the streaming industry. I always noticed how difficult it was to manually stream events across different platforms and workflows with little to no interruptions. The valuable experience I gained from manually working through the technical aspects and processes of streaming early in my career, illuminated the highly-scalable potential of a technology like Switchboard Live.

While initially, Switchboard Live focused on providing houses of worship a way to connect remote congregations together, we quickly realized there was a massive need for this technology across industries. We quickly expanded into industries such as sports and media, education, government, nonprofits, media and entertainment, technology, and digital creators. 

Switchboard Live - Moving from Azure to Google Cloud 

Switchboard started by using Google Cloud for small workloads, with Azure as our primary provider. In particular, we used Google App Engine to spin up additional resources when website traffic increased, to ensure our customers have a seamless experience with our platform. However, as we grew, we wanted a fully managed Kubernetes platform that was easy to manage and had an effortless developer experience. 

It’s not surprising that Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) was the best fit given these requirements. Particularly given it is the most mature container orchestration service available today, providing industry-first capabilities such as release channels, multi-cluster support, unique 4-way auto scaling, along with node auto repair to help us improve availability. 

Likewise, Cloud Build offered a unique developer experience when it came to CI/CD. Since it was fully serverless, there was no need to pre-provision servers or pay in advance for additional capacity. Most importantly, we only have to pay for what we use. And finally given deep integration of Cloud Ops with GKE, actionable insights are just a click away. When we detect an anomaly in a dashboard or when an alert is fired, there is no need to log into another portal or console to start troubleshooting and remediating. Everything is available in-context with deep links to logging and monitoring

With the help of the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund we will soon be expanding to more Cloud tools such as Cloud DNS and Cloud SQL. These will help reduce our latency to almost zero.

Google for Startups: Black Founders Fund - Streaming before it was cool

Google for Startups funding and continued mentorship have been instrumental as our signups were 4x what we had seen in previous months. And with the additional funding we were able to hire three additional full time employees to keep up with the influx of customers we acquired during the pandemic. Receiving credits for Google Ads and Google Cloud have been helpful, but having someone there to talk us through the best way to use our credits was the real benefit. Furthermore, leveraging Google employees to receive additional guidance in areas of marketing and sales empowered us to look beyond our initial goals and reach even higher to meet our customer needs. 

We were even able to receive mentorship from our fellow black-led startups in our cohort, on matters such as accounting, legal agreements, and partnerships. 


2019 Google For Startups Cohort: Black Founders Event

Connecting with a community of Black founders influenced me dramatically. Being around other Black founders who looked and talked like me was extremely uplifting. In most cohorts for startup mentorship, I am rarely in the company of other Black-led startups, if any at all—a challenge that we discuss at length amongst our Black Founders Fund cohort. Google has paved the way for many Black founders, including myself, to share their innovative ideas and game-changing technology with a wider audience, ultimately empowering us to more readily serve our customers and communities. 

Thank you for all the Google mentors we have had throughout our beautiful journey. You have made it possible for us to reach so many people. What they are streaming is their joy, and we at Switchboard Live want to help spread that joy.

If you want to learn more about how Google Cloud can help your startup, visit our startup page here and sign up for our monthly startup newsletter to get a peek at our community activities, digital events, special offers, and more.

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