Today, Cloudera became a publicly-traded company. It’s another milestone in the company’s 9-year history, and it’s a momentous one. We’ve been the initial investors in hundreds of startups over 35 years, so we appreciate how hard it is to build one that makes it to this point. It takes a trifecta of large markets, powerful products, and a determined team — all mixing at just the right time. Clouderans should take immense pride in the fact that — against all odds — they’ve built such a meaningful company in the big data space. We’re proud to have been there at the start.
From the Beginning . . .
There’s always an origin story. For Cloudera, it goes back to 2008, when Amr Awadallah, Christophe Bisciglia, Jeff Hammerbacher, and Mike Olson — alums of Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Oracle respectively — saw a few trends beginning to converge:
- The rise of big data — data that didn’t fit neatly into rows and columns, and far out-scaled traditional database management systems;
- The shift in innovation from closed to open software — software that’s openly adopted and openly developed, and was the emerging model of choice for enterprise CIOs;
- The inevitability of the cloud — businesses would ultimately use cloud-based platforms to store their data and run their applications.
Simply put, there were major forces at play. But the fall of 2008 was a challenging time for anyone to think about starting something new. The Great Recession had just begun and was projected to be painful for many years. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen by nearly 50% between January and November. Venture capital had ground to a halt.
But Amr, Christophe, Jeff and Mike had the conviction to plow forward. They were impassioned, driven by a “true North”: to build an important company at the center of the data, open software, and cloud movements. Ultimately, their courage and conviction compelled us to jump aboard and lead their first round. Their infectious energy attracted many terrific angels like Diane Greene, Mendel Rosenblum, Qi Lu and Jeff Weiner (among others) to invest in the Series A alongside us. To this day, we’re deeply indebted to them for all their early support and encouragement.
Reflecting on the Series A deck, it’s remarkable how many of the core insights and principles remain intact. Aside from pioneering much of the big data “stack”, Cloudera pushed forward a now-mainstream software model we call “Open Adoption Software” (OAS) — one that blends broad, community-based innovation with proprietary commercial software. Today’s CIOs want open technologies they can leverage and shape; and importantly, they are keen to buy ancillary commercial products as their usage grows. We’re in the early innings of the OAS wave, but we hope founders can look to Cloudera as a model of success of what’s possible.
We didn’t realize it then, but even the company name was ahead of its time. The “cloud” wasn’t nearly the commonly-accepted technology that it is today, and yet, “Cloudera” it was. As we came to realize, these were the kind of founders who could see around corners.
. . . To Today
A prescient idea and a talented team can get a startup off on the right foot. But building a category-defining company requires extraordinary leadership, execution, teamwork and perseverance. Great companies constantly improve themselves through new products, new processes — and importantly, new people. Cloudera was no different.
In 2013, Tom Reilly joined to lead the company’s next phase of growth. Tom seamlessly embraced what made Cloudera great, while driving hard at new initiatives that were both strategic and operationally exciting. Through his steady leadership, Tom quickly scaled the company and brought on more incredibly talented and committed Clouderans — to the tune of over 1,600 people working in 28 countries.
Today, over 500 of the largest companies in the world are Cloudera customers, and we’ve seen meaningful business and social value created with Cloudera products. A large payments technology company uses Cloudera technology to detect patterns of security threats in real time. Another — a not-for-profit combating child sex trafficking — uses Cloudera and natural language processing to scour online forums to identify victims in order to proactively connect these victims to the proper authorities and social services.
. . . And Beyond
To Clouderans everywhere — congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished these past 9 years. You’ve built a lasting company that’s helping organizations take advantage of all the valuable data that’s flowing through their operation. Perhaps even more importantly, thank you for your tireless efforts to build upon your accomplishments. Your daily contributions — today and beyond — will continue to help Cloudera be its best self.