Omnidrive: Not dead yet, thanks

I noticed a post by Mashable writer Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins on his personal blog about Omnidrive — the troubled “cloud storage” company founded and run by Aussie entrepeneur Nik Cubrilovic — that seemed to have been jump-started by a post at Duncan Riley’s Inquisitr, after someone at TechCrunch put Omnidrive into the CrunchBase deadpool. After some back and forth between Duncan and Nik in the comments at the Inquisitr post, the deadpool reference was removed; Nik, who has been writing for TechCrunch for awhile now (and who counts Mike Arrington as an investor in Omnidrive) said it was a mistake by an intern.

For anyone who is just joining this story, Omnidrive was a highly touted “Internet hard drive” service that launched in 2007, but late last year it started having some serious problems — users reported that they couldn’t access their files on the service for days at a time, that support requests went unanswered, and so on. In December, a post at Read/Write Web said that the chief technology officer had left the company; in a comment on the post, Nik said that everything was fine, but a subsequent comment from the CTO said that the company had run out of money and laid its entire staff.

From there, the story quickly descended into soap-opera territory: the company’s website, blog and user-support forums disappeared from the Web, then came back, then disappeared again. Finally, redirected to a static Network Solutions landing page and it appeared the company had in fact entered the deadpool. To add insult to injury, a prominent investor in the company said that he had been promised his money back, but that Nik had reneged on the deal. The Omnidrive founder then responded to an email from fellow Aussie Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web and said the company was still in good health and was over its problems, etc.

For what it’s worth, is back up and appears to be working — although when I tried to log in I got an error that said the site’s security certificate had expired, and I got a similar error when I tried to reach the support forums. I can’t vouch for the actual service itself because I don’t use it (I use Amazon’s S3). A couple of weeks ago, after I saw Nik’s byline start to show up on stories at TechCrunch, I wrote him and asked if he had any comment on the various allegations and the state of things at the company, and here is what he said:

“Hi Mathew, we are still working on it, back to a small team of us – we recently rolled out a new backend and we will be rolling new frontend stuff out over the next two months (starting this week). We shifted direction based on what we learnt over the past 2 years and we are focusing on the API and developer tools (authentication, storage and contacts).”

It sounds as though Nik is trying to incorporate some of the lessons he has learned over the past year and a half and turn Omnidrive into a functioning company again — but there are still some pretty big skeletons wandering around, to judge by posts like this one. For some extra insight into Nik’s viewpoint on the whole mess, and that of some of his critics, pay particular attention to the comments.

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