The Importance Of Staying Humble And Strong Company Culture: Stephen Goldberg, HarperDB CEO by@sgoldberg

The Importance Of Staying Humble And Strong Company Culture: Stephen Goldberg, HarperDB CEO

HarperDB is a globally distributed database focused on making developers' lives easier while providing capability for low latency applications. The company is looking for people who we can empower that are authentic, transparent, kind, and capable of taking accountability. It is also looking at things like freemium adoption on npm and HarperDB Cloud, our ranking in db-engines month over month, and other factors. The founder of HarperDB started programming when he was 13 years old working for his uncle’s startup that did ISP billing.
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HackerNoon Reporter: Please tell us briefly about your background.

I started programming when I was 13 years old working for my uncle’s startup that did ISP billing in the 90s. I worked for Red Hat running infrastructure for global support services, and have founded a few startups and worked at others.

What's your startup called? And in a sentence or two, what does it do?

HarperDB is a globally distributed database focused on making developers' lives easier while providing capability for low latency applications.

What is the origin story?

Kyle Bernhardy, our CTO, and I have been solving big data and integration challenges for over a decade. We met at a company called Coresite where we were locked in a small conference room for a month working on a project. Since then he and I have worked together through 4 companies and along the way picked up several other amazing folks. We have continued to work on large scale and complex data projects.


Ultimately we realized that the vast majority of the problems we were faced with in analytics, code, middleware, etc. were created by the database. Furthermore, we felt like databases were overly complex, and even though they are frequently used by developers, they were not developer friendly. We wanted to build a product with the flexibility of NoSQL and the analytical capability of SQL while being super easy to scale and incredibly developer friendly.


Our goal was to enable a brand new developer to confidently build a globally distributed scalable application with HarperDB as the back-end.

What do you love about your team, and why are you the ones to solve this problem?

Our team is amazing, and the core team has worked together for a very long time. This has allowed us to build a really strong company culture. Everyone gets along extremely well and embodies our core values. We look for people who we can empower that are authentic, transparent, kind, and capable of taking accountability.


I think we are the ones to solve the problem because we were determined and far too stupid to know what we were getting into. Building a database is hard. Much harder than we expected. We are not MIT grads, we didn’t take any classes from Andy Pavlo at CMU on databases, and that is exactly what makes our product unique and awesome.


Kyle has a degree in exercise management and mine is in theology. Had we known what we were getting into we wouldn’t have done it. We also would have brought a mindset to the problem that wouldn’t have really added anything new to the space. While HarperDB started as a database it has really morphed into an edge development platform. We built the product we would want to use and I think that shows.

If you weren’t building your startup, what would you be doing?

Stand up comedy?

At the moment, how do you measure success? What are your core metrics?

We look at a variety of things. Obviously typical metrics like number of customers, quality of customers, ARR and MRR, but we are also looking at things like freemium adoption on npm and HarperDB Cloud, our ranking in db-engines month over month, and a number of other factors.

What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

Being featured on HackerNoon? Aside from that, watching developers build amazing products all over the world on top of HarperDB is my favorite part. Watching developers on social media find HarperDB and get excited by it keeps the whole team going.

What technologies are you currently most excited about, and most worried about? And why?

I am not really worried about any technology, I am of the mindset that all technological advancement is exciting. That said, what people do with it can obviously be scary, but that is a different matter.


Specifically for HarperDB we are pretty excited about CRDTs and the capability that will be gained by adding that to HarperDB’s replication. I am also super excited about the release of HarperDB Custom Functions which will give developers the ability to build their entire stack on HarperDB!

What drew you to get published on HackerNoon? What do you like most about our platform?

Margo, our head of dev rel made me? Just kidding. First and foremost I like the font. I am a bit older and the font makes me feel at home! In addition, I think that the broad range of topics covered that encompass the entire startup journey from a technical perspective is interesting and important.

What advice would you give to the 21-year-old version of yourself?

You are not that smart. Be humble. Sales are just as important as product, because if you build an amazing product but can’t sell it you don’t have a company.


Listen to feedback, no matter how smart you think you are, it doesn’t matter if the world wants something else.


Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.


Being kind is easy and much more effective than being an asshole.


Hiring cool people and teaching them what they need to know is more effective than hiring really talented Premadonna's.


Vote for HarperDB as the startup of the year from Denver, Colorado.


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