Part 1: The Truth – We Failed, We Made Mistakes
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As I’m sure most of you have heard, Infochimps was recently acquired by CSC, giving us the resources and mandate to build the Big Data platform of the future. This is a perfect landing for the company and our vision, and we couldn’t be more excited.
The great acquisition stories I’m familiar with have a few commonalities: the companies share a mission and vision; the acquired team works to focus their product and integrate it with the parent company’s offering; and the parent company gives them the resources to succeed without changing what enabled the acquiring team to excel.
A perfect example of this was when Apple bought Siri. At that time, Siri was a cute little iphone app, built on amazing technology and with a highly-respected engineering team behind it. Married to Apple’s powerhouse strengths and global network, the result has transformed the way people interact with machines and is a centerpiece advantage of Apple’s product. Our goal is for nothing less than a similar story within CSC.
CSC is a global corporation that provides information technology (IT) services and professional services. They employ 95,000 people globally, who create a $16B revenue stream serving governments and large enterprise. Our challenge, and we embrace it, is to provide a significant positive return even against that massive background.
We think that we can do so (as do many analysts) because the acquisition marries the signal strengths of Infochimps and CSC:
We live in the future:
- Proven Big Data expertise and perspective on the technical landscape
- An indelible culture and a crazy-awesome team
- Solid open-source citizenship, as contributors to the projects we build on and stewards of well-adopted projects we’ve written
CSC lives at enterprise-scale:
- 50+ years of expertise in big enterprise and security
- Passion for building customer solutions and support
- The resources a $16B revenue stream provides
CSC’s strengths address our biggest weaknesses, letting us focus on what we do best. There are no changes to the team, the culture, our Austin location, our open-source contributions, our development approach, our irreverence, our hiring standards, or our mission to make the world smarter. We’ll continue to operate independently, continue buying lunch for the office every day, and continue open-sourcing the majority of code we write.
So this is a huge win for our team, our customers, our investors, and CSC. I could finish the post right here, and all anyone would remember is that we persevered and reached this milestone through tenacious hard work and great ideas.
Well here’s the truth: The actual history of our company is one of failure after failure, costly mistakes, and multiple near-death experiences. The only reason we’ve “succeeded” is through a preposterous series of lucky breaks and kind acts. Trying to list all the people behind that hard work and those lucky breaks would be foolish. There are too many, and I’ll just offend some by omission. But if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them; so thank you.
Now for the real story; the story you probably haven’t heard. The story to show how large the number of people making sizable investments of time, energy, money, and kindness is required to make successes out of failures and how a small favor can change the world. It’s a thank you note to those who have helped us and a love letter to other startups figuring it out as they go. It’s a reminder that this is just another chapter of Infochimps’ book, and we’re nowhere near the resolution.
Thanks and love from the co-founders and whole Infochimps team,
Infochimps Co-Founder and CTO
*Update* Flip continued this blog series with Part 2: The Lucky Break Scoreboard, where he explains “with every failure, a smaller opportunity opened: one that was sharper; one that was more real; one that brought us closer to the right leverage point for changing the world.” Read Part 2 >>
Philip (Flip) Kromer is co-founder and CTO of Infochimps where he built scalable architecture that allows app programmers and statisticians to quickly and confidently manipulate data streams at arbitrary scale. He holds a B.S. in Physics and Computer Science from Cornell University and attended graduate school in Physics at the University of Texas at Austin. He authored the O’Reilly book on data science in practice, and has spoken at South by Southwest, Hadoop World, Strata, and CloudCon. Email Flip at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @mrflip.