Why I joined Datacoral

Karan Malhi
Apr 24 · 8 min read

I have one life and I need to keep learning and trying new things. I cannot stand cumbersome processes which slow things down and lead me to doing the same old stuff while spending hours of my day in mindless tasks. Learning environments excite me!

It was early 2017 when I received an email from an executive recruiter asking me if I was interested in an early stage startup which was solving a compelling problem for data scientists and data engineers. I was intrigued as it seemed to have all the right elements; a great founder, excitement of an early stage startup, a compelling and pervasive market problem which needed to be solved. However, I had just started working on a new product at my previous company and decided to continue working on that instead.

Meanwhile, my wife and I kept talking about data science and analysis and the potential around it. She is really good with data analysis and we decided to enroll in a few online courses just to see what’s involved in this field of data science. Not only was it a huge field, but also a with a tremendous potential to give a competitive edge to businesses. We were surprised to find the kind of insights people were generating to drive not just business outcomes, but making things better for humanity. We did realize that in order to continue our learning and possibly generating insights from publicly available data ,we needed our own infrastructure setup. I considered public cloud infrastructure, but found out that not only would we have to learn about the public cloud infrastructure, but will have to set up the whole stack ourselves and keep paying for it even if we were not using it. We decided to first setup a cheap server for ourselves and ensure we were committed to the effort. Luckily, we both had a technical background, so it was not difficult for me to get a beefy server from ebay , install debian and put some docker containers in it. We realized that setting up a data infrastructure which we could continue to evolve for more use cases , was really cumbersome. We needed to continuously ingest data, store it somewhere, perform analysis and publish results. Just setting up ingestion and storage while keeping the data fresh enough was a huge challenge for us. Each time I hit an infrastructural roadblock, I would think about all the new data scientists who would need to go through this pain and most of them might not even have the luxury of many decades of programming / infrastructure experience.

The interview

A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes — Mahatma Gandhi

We spoke for an hour about my past experience and more importantly what Raghu’s vision was and what was the problem he was trying to solve. He told me about his work at Facebook and how his team scaled the data infrastructure there. He then started talking about Data as a contract . That immediately sparked my interest. I had never really heard about that before. I had always thought about API as a contract and was curious to find out what Data as a contract really meant. Raghu took the time to explain what it meant and why it was important. We had some good discussions around it and I could clearly see his passion while talking about Datacoral. That is where I decided I want to pursue this further. Not only was I convinced about the market problem, the credentials of the founder, the investors and the board members, but what was extremely important for me was the belief Raghu had behind his idea. He had been in the data space for a couple of decades and knew the challenges well. I had my own little data science experience to backup his claims. There are many startups out there and I had already spoken to a few, none of them had the clarity and belief which Raghu had. For safe measure, I went ahead and spoke to a couple of data scientists as well. I got immediate validation from them. My gut told me there was an opportunity here to be part of an amazing journey. But hold on, this had just gotten started.

Culture

culture is the organization’s pattern of response to the problems and opportunities it encounters — Ron Westrum, Sociologist

I have one life. I need to keep learning and keep trying new things. I cannot stand cumbersome processes which slow things down and lead me to doing the same old stuff while spending hours of my day in mindless tasks. Learning environments excite me!. Don’t get me wrong, process and repeatability are absolutely important for scaling an organization , but one should always have the opportunity to try new ideas and experimentation should be an integral part of the process. Having a backing from your boss and having a culture which supports such an environment was critical for me. It was not enough for me to just speak to Raghu and align with his beliefs. So that was my next step in the journey — exploring the culture.

I was introduced to the team and met with the head of engineering, the head of sales and the head of customer success. All meetings went well. They asked the right questions and more than that they gave me a lot of time to ask my own questions. I wanted to explore what sort of challenges were they facing in their respective areas and what was the maturity level of the processes they had put in place. They were really candid and open about everything. At no point of time did I feel that I was interviewing, it always felt like we were discussing the vision and how best to solve challenges in reaching that vision. Its then that I realized that the culture was very open. I was told that there were regular Q&A meetings (a.k.a all-hands) where the CEO would personally address any concerns/questions. The company already had an OKR system put in place from day 1 of its existence; follow up on each item was done religiously. I realized in speaking with them that collaboration was in the DNA of the company, if you are being blocked on something, just speak up and you will receive help. It is this culture of openness , transparency and razor focussed OKR’s , which proved that it would be a great cultural fit. I wanted to be part of this culture, I wanted to execute and achieve goals as part of a collaborative environment. My mind was made up, but there was just one last bit left.

The investors

My first month

I am now convinced that if we execute well, stay customer focused and continue maintaining this culture of openness, rapid experimentation, learning and execution, that there is nothing stopping us from achieving our goals. We have aggressive hiring goals this year, please reach out to us via our careers page. Look forward to new team members joining and helping us in this journey. It’s going to be a heck of a journey!

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Karan Malhi

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Datacoral

A place for our points of view and news