Dave Fowler’s mom taught him to program when he was 11 and he’s been spending his hours in front of the terminal ever since. In school he studied Physics, two other undergrads and finished with a masters degree in Electrical Engineering.
During and after school Dave worked at IBM on the processor for the Xbox 360 and filed 10 patents. He moved to the Bay Area to pursue a startup and he is happy that fewer people bug him about finding some work-life balance.
Chartio is shaking up business intelligence with a new interface to data. It is simple to set up, easy to use and works with the world’s most popular data sources in real-time by connecting with your database, instead of a stale data warehouse.
MO: How did you come up with the concept for Chartio?
Dave: Working on a previous startup I was really frustrated with how tough it was to be data driven and actually understand what was going on in all of the data I was collecting. I was part of Y Combinator and many of the companies would talk about their metrics and show eachother their dashboards. Everyone had hilariously terrible dashboards and we would make fun of how long they took to load (as they would have to wait for the queries to finish), and how difficult it was to make the one or two ugly charts on the page.
No one wanted to put more time into building their own dashboards as they were busy with so many other things. I thought that one of us should go focus on building that component for the business and eventually that’s what I did.
MO: How does Chartio work and what are some of the features that you’re most proud of?
Dave: We connect directly to databases, pull out the schema, and build a drag and drop interface for you to create queries, charts, and dashboards of your data. We’re basically an analytic interface to your database.
As far as features, I’m really proud of the way we connect to databases. It’s a huge differentiator for us. We are in what is called the “Cloud BI” space, and everyone in our space does what’s called data warehousing. To connect to your data, they have you upload an entire copy to them every week. This is bad for a lot of reasons including security and data relevancy. We’ve built a great system that allows us to connect securely and directly to any database.
MO: What advice would you give to our readers currently seeking investment?
Dave: I don’t have a ton of experience with this, but the best advice I’ve heard from friends who’ve done it many more times than I is to take 6 weeks off and completely focus on it. Eliminate all other meetings and tasks and focus only on the fundraising.
MO: How have you managed to make Chartio flexible enough to spin up for a single project or scale to an entire company?
Dave: Because we built Chartio in the cloud with standard web technologies this has come fairly automatically for us. The largest bottleneck for us is handling so many running queries, some of which can take a long time to complete. We’ve built some interesting things internally to deal with that including an asynchronous mysql library for tornado – http://chartio.com/blog/2011/06/making-mysql-queries-asynchronous-in-tornado
MO: Can you expand on the significance of Chartio continually adding new data sources?
Dave: Yeah. We’ve built Chartio to make adding each new data source easier than the last. This means we’re able to release new ones at an exponential rate. Expect a lot of them from us this year and next.
We’ve also built Chartio so that each data source is interacted with in the same way by the user. That means, if you’re plotting data from Google Analytics, you didn’t have to learn any new API’s or tricks that you didn’t already learn after connecting to your database. Our goal is to have one data interface for all of the different APIs.
MO: What do you think that you would have ended up doing if you’re mom hadn’t taught you programming?
Dave: Ha! That’s a great question. I did a lot of woodworking when I was young so I may have been a carpenter. I also disappointed a few band teachers when I decided to major in physics instead of music. Perhaps if I hadn’t have learned to code I would have gone a more musical route!