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Keboola Founders diary - How it all started

Ten years ago I was a typical nerd, compiling Linux system from the source code, working for the digital company První multimediální as a Linux admin.

Petr Šimeček

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Petr Šimeček

January 28, 2019

Ten years ago I was a typical nerd, compiling Linux system from the source code, working for the digital company První multimediální as a Linux admin. Switches, VPN and whole LAMP stack was my daily bread.

On the side me and my good friend Mirek Burkon got a project - building project management tool for some NGO. The product promise was somehow similar to Basecamp (which I haven’t heard of at the time). It was a success and we decided to turn it into a product. Keboola was born.

Here is the first explanatory video of our product.

And this is how our office looked like back then - single desk in our friends office.

We even managed to sell the original product, our first paying customer being Czech Technical University in Prague. Having money we decided to put on a job posting and hire our first employee. Back then we felt that nobody would work for us without being incorporated that is why we, ten years ago almost to the date, founded Keboola s.r.o..  We hired our first employee - Jiří Sobotík, and moved to new office - single room in another company.

Year later I was fortunate enough to find myself at Google Developer Day. Roman Staněk, who I knew thanks to his prior company NetBeans had a lecture named Startup as a service and talked about his new venture - GoodData. I got thrilled and opened my account immediately unknowingly becoming one of the first GoodData users. Actually it was a turning point in my life because that conference lead to me meeting Jakub Nešetřil (founder of Apiary, nowaday part of the Oracle) and hearing about Node.js for the first time. After that it all clicked - data is the new oil, cloud is the future and new technologies such as Node.js enables is to build enterprise grade product connecting the two.

The origin of Keboola also explains why Keboola has been connected to GoodData and our business on implementing them so firmly. GoodData was undeniably the best reporting tool on the market back then and data preparation was its greatest weakness so we grew with them. Many of our current clients still remember that top-level menu stated simply “GoodData” instead of “Writers”. It stroke me only later that our job is not to implement GoodData but to help our client to work with data no matter what system or viewing tool they use.

Our ways separated with Mirek back then - his passion was another project of ours called Openbrand and mine was Keboola so we exchanged our shares and split. But before that I got a new business partner - Milan Veverka. He shared my love for data, worked in Tableau and we had concurring arguments about which reporting tool is better - Tableau or GoodData. Most importantly, Milan lived in Vancouver and helped the company with acquiring and servicing of the clients in USA and Canada.

My second business partner and today’s CEO Pavel Doležal came to the company 5 years later. It was after his successful exit of Ataxo agency and Pavel was sort of celebrity on a tech scene, giving interviews and being center point of every event. We have met for a lunch and were friends ever since. What I love the most is that for the first year we just talked. We see the world and technology in the same way and it was a blast. Pavel also introduced me to every single potential client he knew with no expectation of getting something back. And because I was not looking for investor it took us more than a year to become partners.

Last year a new chapter of our Keboola story has started to be written. After 8 years of having office in Canada we are opening US office as well. Pavel is moving to Chicago to lead the US expansion and take Keboola to another level. But more about it in his own blogpost here: Our heroes are innovators. Our mission is to arm them with data.

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