Founded in 2002, CloverETL was the first open source ETL/Data Integration project back when Open Source was a hot topic. At that time, the Open Source was not about marketing strategy to disrupt markets and bring in money. It was about the enthusiasm of developers trying to come up with better (and cheaper) solutions to problems. To allow software technology to be accessible to everyone. It was a whole new philosophy.
But the philosophy has shifted along with the Open Source movement. Many OSS projects eventually led to the founding of companies that started providing professional level product and services. We have gone that path too, but even today as a proud, profitable company, who is self-funding own growth, we at CloverETL have our philosophy about how we want to do business and build products. It is based on two basic principles: craftsmanship and our personal commitment, which are explained in this vision statement.
My family has owned an oak desk for generations, crafted sometime in early 20th. This 100 year-old desk is in strong contrast with what you’ll get from the furniture retailer IKEA – something cheap, good enough, temporally stylish, and optimized to consist of the bare minimum of parts, requiring minimum material.
But would you keep this piece from IKEA when you decide to move to a new house? Your kids for sure won’t inherit it. Don’t you want to have something solid, so well made and thought through? This is how the craftsmen of the past built things. They built them like they would be using them forever. Bad idea? Commercially, perhaps… Of course if a piece lasts, the customer won’t come back any time soon for a new one. But she may come for a different piece, knowing that it will also be beautifully made.
The old-time craftsmanship is not dead. It still exists, and it exists even in IT industry. It is what Steve Jobs of Apple strove for when designing Apple’s products. And this is what we at CloverETL seek when developing our unique ETL platform. We are actually building it for developers and data professionals like ourselves, as we use it every day on our projects.
In our company, we’ve always demanded that our software be very clean inside, even though not many people can actually see and appreciate it. I also hate taking any shortcuts under the theme, “It’s good enough.” It may be good enough (fast, robust, whatever) today, but what about tomorrow or next week? Like my family’s oak desk, I want our software to morally survive years or decades. Too ambitious, you say? It may be, but we still try. The moral life of software is short, you say? That may sometimes be true, but remember those mainframe dinosaurs and Cobol apps that are still around?
We feel a higher calling to produce the foundation of software code that both our customers and we can build business on. Morality is just another term that encompasses trust. How can you really know if the engine of a car is good if you can’t see inside? BMW works with a morality, an imperative to build a machine that honors the people that use and build it. At Clover, we honor our customers with great software, because they trust us to do that. This is morality in business practice.
Sometimes IT analysts label ETL or data integration as a commodity. I am not sure what they really mean by that or how they came to think so, but I know that data integration is actually one of the foundational pillars of every enterprise today, so it better be robust and well made. You would want to put something robust into the foundation of your house, wouldn’t you? Same goes for customers that regard data as the foundation of their future business.
We at Clover decided to go the bumpier and riskier path of self-funding instead of seeking the safer way of using outside capital. Having to generate enough business to not only survive but also to fund our own growth has taught us many priceless lessons. Among the firsts is, “Think before you jump.” Before we spend money, we try to assess the outcome. Because for us, it is our own money. Instead of harvesting profits, we are investing it back, and we work hard to turn it into healthy growth. We are not artificially inflating anything. We don’t need to lie to ourselves. Actually, we have to be pretty honest.
We are our own investors with our own necks on the line. This has also forced us to run a profitable business from the day one. We planned and structured our company to last (forever, if possible.) Our horizon is not three to five years or until somebody bigger buys us to salvage us. We want to be around twenty years from now, serving our customers with the same enthusiasm as we do today. We’d better build our stuff robust, as any shortcut will bite us later. After all, it is a matter of our pride. We want to do the right thing the right way – and our customers like us for that.