When the idea of placing a call over the Internet was first introduced in the late 1990s, it felt unbelievably futuristic to many. But what initially seemed like science fiction soon became commonplace, first at home seated in front of a desktop and then via the supercomputers in our pockets.
This was only the first of many marvels. Soon after, the advent of cloud computing, embraced by tech titans like Amazon and Google, further accelerated the flow of services over the Internet, transcending geographical boundaries with remarkable speed. Now, in the age of Zoom, placing a voice call over the internet seems downright old-fashioned.
Said Ouissal, founder and CEO of ZEDEDA, working his way through various tech roles in his career, got a front-row seat to all these technological shifts. Sitting at the forefront of innovation, he was among the first to see the new era of technology. And for many years, he was considered the “crazy person in his village.”
His vision led to ZEDEDA, the leader in management and orchestration for edge computing, which just announced a $72 million growth capital round, with the Series C led by Smith Point Capital with participation from Endeavor Catalyst.
Between Two Worlds
Said’s upbringing was a dance between two worlds. Growing up in the Netherlands with Moroccan roots, he navigated the balance of being a part of two cultures at the same time and gained a global perspective early on.
" The culture of being a Moroccan abroad was to take all the opportunities and access you have in Europe and do as much as you can; take the chances you have and make something of it."
Said Ouissal, founder and CEO of ZEDEDA
At age seven, he got his first computer and fell in love. He started programming soon after. This pivotal moment set him on a trajectory that led him to study computer science at university, and by the end of the 1990s, he landed at the heart of technological innovation: Silicon Valley.
The Entrepreneurial Toolkit
Said worked for Silicon Valley-based companies and startups after graduation, first in Europe for 15 years and then in the United States. All of his work experiences gave him the skills and network to set him up for entrepreneurial success.
Instead of landing a developer job like most of his friends, he started in tech support, working with high-stakes clients and learning how to manage customer relationships. He then went into technical sales where he built the skills that are essential for an entrepreneur.
Said’s experiences paralleled the trajectory of technological innovation. In the early days, he got involved with one of the early internet backbone providers, leasing fiber optic cables across the ocean, creating massive global networks, and connecting continents. He then worked for a company that brought the Internet to homes, and later at Ericsson, which brought the Internet to phones. Later, he joined Juniper Networks where he participated in the birth of the cloud.
After seeing innovation do the seemingly impossible time and time again, when it was time for technology’s next wave, Said saw it coming before everyone else.
The Leap of Conviction
In 2016, edge computing didn’t even have a name yet, but Said and his co-founders at ZEDEDA predicted its rise.
Edge computing allows individual devices to host data, rather than storing everything in the big storage servers known as ‘the cloud’, which can only hold so much information. As the world is becoming smarter—smart houses, smart buildings, smart cars—Said knew that edge computing would be the future.
At that point in his life, Said was at a crossroads. At 39 years old with two kids and a third on the way, he could either become a corporate guy and keep working for bigger companies building this future or take a leap and found a company to do it himself.
“On the one hand, it was my time, otherwise you become this corporate career person. And on the other hand, there was an opportunity in the market that I saw really early. So it was the right timing of the market as much as personal timing,” says Said.
His big gamble required conviction, there was no market yet for edge computing, but his experience in every technological shift told him there soon would be.
The Android of Edge Computing
He and his team started diligently. They didn’t build any products for the first two years. Said used his network to meet many partners, learn about the market, and build a customer base. When ZEDEDA got its first Enterprise client in 2018, the team was ready to answer the world’s needs.
But what solution does ZEDEDA offer exactly? Take a solar farm. Monitoring a farm requires many sensors and cameras that need to be running 24/7. Then, the data from these cameras need to be uploaded to the cloud for data processing. This process is very time-consuming and not scalable.
ZEDEDA steps in by processing huge amounts of data, produced by Internet of Things (IoT) devices or “smart objects”, closer to the actual device. It builds the operational system that bridges the gap between users and data centers, enhancing efficiency and scalability, in the same way Android is the operating system for smartphones.
" There is simply not enough network bandwidth to send all the data to the cloud that is available today. You have to process it at the edge. It’s not an if question it’s a when question."
Said Ouissal, founder and CEO of ZEDEDA
PV Hardware, one of the largest solar tracker manufacturers in the world, has now deployed ZEDEDA’s edge nodes in over 300 solar farms. These hard-to-access sites with limited Internet access are now running everywhere, all monitored from Barcelona.
The same principle applies to automobiles. Today, one of the leading automotive companies in the world is using ZEDEDA software to power their cars’ diagnostic systems, across 70,000 service centers and locations in over 150 countries around the globe.
Paying it Forward
Back in 2016, Said predicted that edge was where the future was headed. Now, as edge computing is becoming more and more necessary for anyone trying to build a smart device, ZEDEDA has solidified its place as a leader in edge management and orchestration. Their software is helping customers transform their businesses, running tens of thousands of car service centers, solar farms, well sites, container shipping vessels, and stores.
ZEDEDA now supports 12 Global and Fortune 500 companies in its client base. It was recognized as a “Leader” and “Outperformer” in the 2023 GigaOm Radar Report for Kubernetes for Edge Computing and positioned as a technology leader in the SPARK Matrix: Edge Management and Orchestration (EMO) Platform.
Said joined Endeavor in 2023 in hopes of helping other Moroccan high-impact entrepreneurs globally. By including Endeavor Catalyst (our rules-based, co-investment fund) in the funding round, ZEDEDA and Said are paying it forward. The investment from the series C round will go to developing the team and accelerating global expansion.
Smith Point Capital, the lead investor in their round, believes ZEDEDA is a category-defining company in the same way Amazon and Microsoft defined and became leaders of the cloud category.
Being a pioneer can be hard when a founder sees something the rest of the market is not yet ready for, and they often are called the “crazy person in the village”. But, in ZEDEDA’s case, this long-term vision gave them time to develop a technology to answer the world’s needs exactly at the right time.