Three years ago, Travis and I founded a company with a mission to promote and foster the growth of better tools for computational science. Both of us are scientists by training, and both of us have been math and science nerds from childhood. Neither of us can resist geeking out on math and physics when we chat with customers and users about their analytical problems.
But both of us also saw how much our fellow scientists suffered from old, outdated, or locked-down software and systems. These are people who have devoted their entire lives to bettering our world, whether through climate and policy research, or modeling advanced medicines, or probing the genetic structure of cancer. Award-winning, ground-breaking scientists found themselves constantly struggling and fighting with an utterly broken software ecosystem.
The scientific Python ecosystem emerged out of this frustration, organizing around the friendly, easy-to-learn, highly productive Python programming language. Over the last decade, this grassroots movement has grown and spread to millions of users worldwide, representing thousands of universities and companies, as resourceful hacker-scientists created useful tools for data processing, statistical analysis, and advanced visualization.
In the last few years, with the rise of “big data” and the massive disruptions in business data analytics, we’ve watched as Python, NumPy, and SciPy have been adopted at some of the largest and most well-respected companies in the world. The tools that we have built – as individuals, as a community, and as a company – power everything from data science at the New York Times to massive-scale financial risk modeling at global investment banks. And we know that this is just the beginning.
The world will soon be awash in data. We – like many others – strongly believe that open tools, powerful computation, and rich collaboration are foundationally important for that future. But sadly, open source is oftentimes relegated to being an afterthought or something for grad students to hack on while procrastinating on their PhD theses.
Travis and I started Continuum Analytics because we feel that open source is too important to be left as just a hobby. We are witnessing a revolution in computational science, data analytics, and business intelligence, and much of it is built on enterprise adoption of open source tools that are just as good, if not better, than many expensive, “enterprise” offerings. We wanted to build a business that could be a good steward of a global community, while pushing the envelope of technology, and building useful products for our business customers.
I am very proud of all that we’ve accomplished with our initial angel funding, including a generous award from DARPA. We launched several open source initiatives – Numba, Blaze, and Bokeh – which address critical technology challenges for data science. Our Anaconda Python distribution is hugely popular, having surpassed 2 million downloads in barely two years. The conda package manager now delivers well over a million packages a month, and our users constantly praise it for improving their day-to-day productivity. The PyData conferences and community have spread like wildfire, with local meetups springing up in cities around the world. And NumFOCUS, the 501(c)3 non-profit foundation that Travis started, has been steadily growing its sponsor base, as companies recognize the importance of ensuring the health of the open source tools they rely on.
Last year, when we started looking for investors who might join us and help accelerate our growth, it was absolutely critical to us that they understood our company’s core mission and respected our devotion and covenant with all of our friends in the Python and data science community. If you think educating a VC about compilers and vector math is hard, try doing so while also explaining that you plan on giving much of it away! But fundamentally, at a business level, we knew that if an investor could not understand the underlying reasons for our success thus far, it’s unlikely they would be able to help us develop successful strategies for the future.
After many meetings and phone calls, Travis and I are thrilled with the partners that we found in General Catalyst and BuildGroup. From the very beginning, it was clear to us that Donald and Lanham – our new board members – understood the challenges of building a genuine, innovative, open source company. But they also clearly understood that our passionate commitment to the community and to innovation were crucial ingredients for building a strong, long-lasting business. See details on this new partnership in our official press release here.
I have always been a big fan of Peter Norvig’s statement – and I’m paraphrasing a little bit – that “the best companies are created by people who want to achieve a goal, and building a business was the only way to do it.”
Our goal is to expand understanding by connecting more people with more data. We are committed to empowering those who are changing the world, every day, with data analytics and computational science.
We are so excited to move even faster towards this goal, and build even better things, with the capital, the support, and the mentorship from our new investors!