For most of the world, Sergey Brin’s story was elevated to myth after Google’s 2004 IPO. By 2008, the Economist had proclaimed Brin to be the “Enlightenment Man” of our era. His ascent after that was the stuff of classic Silicon Valley legend: A visionary drops out of school, spends time in a garage and emerges enlightened. Investors throughout the Valley lined up at his feet to offer patronage. As another Soviet Russian-Jewish emigre named Sergey at birth, I found myself awestruck when I passed by Brin as he hot-tubbed between diving sessions at Stanford’s swimming pool in 2002. So when in 2005, I too dropped out of college as Brin had, I imagined myself launching the next big thing.
Back in 2016, I left a very successful SaaS data company to become a consultant. The company was backed by many of the leading funds (Kleiner, Google, Goldman Sachs, Tomasz’s Redpoint, Rob Ward’s Meritech), so it seemed like a good asset to use as an investment capital in my new firm. This was the first such transaction for this company, so I’ve learned a lot in the process of selling these shares.
I recently watched a YouTube video of a technical manager from Criteo, Justin Coffey, demoing the in-house business intelligence tool his team had built. It’s a great presentation. Justin actually lists reasons why his team decided to build its own tool; all are good reasons, except none answer why they would have reinvented something when a better tool already exists. (see footnotes) Since I work across vendors and indirectly benefit from the complexity of new data tools—open source included—I also frequently hear reasonable arguments against buying a new tool.
When my company, Caura, formalized our partnerships with both Looker and Google, I had a sense that at some point it would be cool to demo some of the work we do with our clients using the two technologies. This, of course, never materialized. As much as our clients wanted to help us, the data was never something they were willing to share.
Recently I left my best job thus far, the job at Looker, to found a consulting company. Naturally there were a lot of factors at play, but Looker’s gravitational pull on me was due to the technology itself. Looker is one of those technologies that everyone wants to build on top of because: