Creating a disruptive technology takes a lot of things. While it definitely takes keen market insight, stamina, and a fair amount of luck, it most importantly takes an amazing team of collaborators. When all these ingredients are combined together in the right proportions, there is an opportunity to create something truly special. Something that has an impact on many people every day.
I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this process multiple times. Early in my career, this was as an individual contributor, one of the countless people that must be involved to create something special at scale. More recently, I’ve been able to co-found and create two unique and disruptive technologies in Apache Arrow and Dremio. In both cases, the process involved an amazing team of people including co-creator Wes McKinney in the case of Apache Arrow and co-founder Tomer Shiran in the case of Dremio.
As you move through your career, you realize that the greatest opportunities are underpinned by the greatest teams: hard-working experts that work together and have a unique view on the world. A little more than three months ago, I was lucky enough to get introduced to Scott Jones (CEO) and Osama Elkady (founding CEO, now CTO) at Incorta, a company I’ve followed for some time.
As I got to know Scott, Osama, and others at Incorta, it quickly became clear that this was another great team focused on a unique market in a special way. As such, when they asked me to be a part of their team as a Board Advisor, it was an easy decision.
The official announcement went out earlier today. I am now a Board Advisor with Incorta. In this blog post, I want to share some personal insight and additional color around my decision to join Incorta as an advisor and what comes next.
A Key Insight Drives a Unique Approach
In addition to a great team, Incorta’s founders had a key insight: as the complexity of ETL for analytics purposes increases, the agility around analysis decreases. Analytics performance is largely about optimizing data representation using techniques such as denormalizing data to star schemas and storing data in a columnar format. These representations are generated using ETL processes that are informed and directed by schema design choices. Unfortunately, schemas change over time. The columns that are most important to you today might be entirely different to the ones you cared about yesterday or will care about tomorrow.
Incorta saw the writing on the wall and developed a unique solution to this problem. Essentially, Incorta built a specialized platform that leverages virtual star schemas, avoiding the traditional hard coupling between ETL and schema transformation. This drastically reduces the maintenance complexity and pain associated with changes in both analytical requirements and their supporting schemas. By building a platform that is custom designed to work within this virtual star schema paradigm, you get the same performance properties as a traditional star schema without all of the brutality of endless data transformation and maintenance.
While this approach can be applied anywhere, it truly differentiates when working with highly normalized data, something that is frequently found in complex corporate applications like those used in finance and HR. In those cases, Incorta can do things that no other system can do because it’s the only system in existence today that is modeled to work in this very special way.
A New Platform Paradigm
More generally speaking, I also think Incorta is onto something really big with its focused approach to analytics in these complex scenarios — and the market doesn’t fully realize it yet.
I’ve spent much of my career working on horizontal technology solutions. While going horizontal is great for a number of reasons (i.e., general applicability, huge market opportunity, etc.) it can also be extremely difficult. People may want to use it for a specific application, but since it’s a general platform, the user has to write a bunch of code to make “the last mile” work. Incorta approaches things differently. By creating a strong set of use case specific archetypes and focusing on the underserved and highly pained market of analytics within complex, highly normalized schemas, Incorta offers a solution that allows organizations to get value in magnitudes less time. Incorta connects directly to concrete and high-stakes business problems. If there’s a better signal of value out there for a technology platform, I’ve yet to see it.
The Journey to Open Source
As many of you will know, open source is a passion of mine. This is because it is a powerful paradigm for collaborative innovation. Coming together in a community creates tremendous amounts of shared social good. Unlike traditional business models, open source is all about positive-sum thinking and creating opportunities where everyone can benefit.
While OSS can be powerful, it is a very abstract concept to many organizations. I talk to many teams at companies like Incorta who also see this promise. However, they just aren’t 100% sure how to go about it properly: Where and how do we invest? What’s the right size and sequencing? What does the process look like? How do I judge success? What is the right amount of patience?
Unfortunately, open source dynamics are constantly changing and there aren’t a lot of great places to get better insight on these types of questions. Like any strategic initiative a large organization undertakes, investing in OSS needs to be a well-informed decision that is supported throughout the executive team. As I started to get to know Scott and Osama, I realized that they were excited about the possibility to better connect to open source but found themselves struggling to find the right point of entry. And that’s a big part of what I’ll be doing at Incorta: helping them better understand rules of engagement, avoiding pitfalls and common mistakes, and normalizing the process overall.
But that’s about as much as I can share right now. The journey to becoming a part of the open source movement is one that takes time. It requires long-term thinking, vision, and investment, and it requires a great deal of listening as well. Today, we are only just getting started — but from what I can see so far, there is remarkable potential here.
Together We Go Far
As mentioned above, one of the things that becomes strikingly clear the further along you get in your career is the value of working with people who you respect and really enjoy working with. I see that at Incorta. Osama, who’s been here since the beginning is a true visionary. Scott brings both a fresh set of eyes and a unique perspective. He is exceptionally gifted at thinking big and exploring new ideas.
For someone like me, who enjoys the journey to build something great, I’m excited at what we have a chance to deliver together.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.