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Cube: Seeing the Power of Cloud Data in Every Application

Today, we’re excited to announce our investment in Cube, a fast-growing open source company that makes it easy for developers to build interactive data applications on any cloud data warehouse. Over the past twenty years, data analytics has moved from a back office tool to a competitive weapon when placed in the hands of customers and employees. With over 200,000 downloads and a rapidly growing open source community, Cube’s mission is to democratize access to “Big Data” for all developers, making it possible for software teams to unlock the power of cloud data warehouses such as Google BigQuery or Snowflake for all app developers without requiring data science or analytics expertise.

We asked the founders, Artyom Keydunov and Pavel Tiunov, to share their vision for cloud data applications in our founder Q&A:

Where did you grow up? When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Artyom: I grew up in Southern Russia and discovered computers at age 10. Back then we all liked to play text-based multi-user dungeon (MUD) games—think World of Warcraft, but without any of the visuals. These games were built on open source software and were hosted on people’s desktops back in 2005, all connected by Telnet. I taught myself C++ to keep up with my friends who liked to modify the games to keep them interesting. I lived alone with my mom and initially we couldn’t afford a computer—but when my Aunt heard I liked games she sent me a gift card for my birthday that was enough to buy a used Pentium 2 that I found at a local Christian church for less than $200. From that moment on I was always looking for work where I could use programming skills. You could say open source development was my side hustle in school.

Pavel: I was born and raised in a small city in Russia called Stravopol—it was a relatively remote area and there were no tech jobs. Like Artyom, I taught myself to code at a young age, liked to play remote games, and became an early contributor to open source software. I must have had a knack for writing good code and was approached by a US company who had seen my work and wanted me to do some programming for them. I was only 16 years old! I remember my parents were shocked when I got to ride my bike into town to pick up a Western Union money transfer as payment for my first project. I guess you could say this was my first “job” in software.

Photo of Pavel’s home town in Stravopol, Russia.

How did you come up with the idea to start a company? When did you guys decide to go create Cube?

Our founding story was not as typical as the classic, “it started in a garage” story you hear all the time. Starting a company in Russia is still viewed as a very risky activity—in the 1980s it was actually illegal to start a company and many people still thought entrepreneurship was “sneaky” because of the history of communism in Russian culture. We both were unique in that we had experienced success as engineers in smaller companies and wanted to try to start a company ourselves. We decided to take the leap move to the US together.

Our first product was called Statsbot, an easy way to connect apps like Salesforce to messaging channels like Slack that  helped developers get customer data into the hands of sales teams. Along the way we found that developers kept asking us to support more data stores and to enable them to push information out to users in the application of their choice. We kept hearing from developers that there was no good way for them to build an application that used “Big Data” in a way that was as fast and flexible as users had grown to expect. We ended up pivoting our entire company to build what is now Cube—a universal API that allows developers to build “headless” analytics and embed data from any modern data store in any application.

Our first “hackathon” as founders.

Data is now everywhere and has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities - what unique problem is Cube trying to solve?

Most organizations have been investing heavily in large data stores, with very powerful analytic tools to answer business questions like “which customers have the highest LTV?” Most data inside a company eventually finds its way into a central data warehouse, and increasingly these platforms are now run in the cloud by companies such as Amazon, Google, or Snowflake. Though there are a lot of tools to enable internal data scientists and analysts to access this data, there are not a lot of ways for developers to free up this data for external stakeholders, or to build applications that serve data in real-time to customers and partners. This is what Cube makes possible today—we allow developers to use our API layer to make sure that data is always fresh, up to date, and easily accessible for any data application.

Everyone says “data is the new oil”—I think this is a great metaphor for how app developers feel about data. It is valuable but it is also heavy, sticky, hard to move, and hard to access. We like to say that Cube turns data from oil into rocket fuel for your application. We make it possible for developers to build apps that fly faster and farther on the power of the data stored in your cloud data warehouse.  

You chose to open source Cube. Why did you decide to create a community model early on?

We would never have been able to leave Russia and start a company if not for the power of the open source community, and for us it felt like the right thing to do to make Cube open source from day one. We launched on HackerNews and grew rapidly in the first several months—we quickly crossed 10,000 stars on GitHub and our Slack channel was flooded with feature requests. We were really surprised when developers at companies like Coupang, Gojek, F5, IBM, Intuit, NCR, and Paypal reached out to get support in our first year. It would have been nearly impossible to reach all of these companies so quickly with our technology if we had a traditional sales and marketing approach.

What are some of your favorite applications built using Cube? What is the long term vision for the company?

Every company is becoming a data company, and we are all looking for ways to let data flow naturally throughout every part of our business. This is where Cube has solved a real pain point:  any time an employee, customer, or application needs access to a rich set of data in real time, there is an opportunity for Cube to help. We have thousands of companies using Cube today and the use cases span almost every industry. One of our users has built an application which helps oncologists view patient data in real time to help them with their cancer care. Another early adopter has built a learning dashboard for online coursework to help teachers determine which students require immediate help during class. The possibilities for how data can change our world are endless, and we are really excited to see what our users do next!

Our first team photo!