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Cover image for OCS 2020 Breakout: Tristan Handy, Co-Founder and CEO of Fishtown

OCS 2020 Breakout: Tristan Handy, Co-Founder and CEO of Fishtown

jj profile image JJ ・2 min read

Tristan Handy has been working with data since he was 16. From building monthly Excel reports for management to running large Oracle projects to running a startup data team with nothing but MySQL, Tristan has lived through the pain of being a data analyst with terrible tooling. He started Fishtown Analytics to change that.

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JJ interviews dbt creator and Fishtown co-founder Tristan Handy about FOSS, COSS, community, commercialization and more!

Tell us about the origin of the open-source dbt project and how you came to start the company. - 0:19

Could you talk about your own perspectives/opinions on free software as a data analyst, and how you overall think about open-source in the modern world and how that’s shaped your career? - 3:22

What does it mean for you to be an open-source company? - 6:05

(JJ elaborates on Tristan’s response.) The company exists in service of the open-source technology, and growing a positive-sum ecosystem. That philosophy is amazing to hear from you. (Tristan elaborates). - 8:55

What have been the most impressive observations in growing dbt early on, and seeing the growth of the project, in terms of truly democratizing access to data transformation through open-source? - 10:02

(JJ shares an anecdote from Peter Wang of Anaconda, of data science open-source tools being built by scientists and academics for scientists and academics, as opposed to being built by software engineers.) Is that similar spiritually to what you’ve been describing with the data infrastructure stack? - 14:10

Reflecting on dbt’s early growth, what were the intentional actions that you can remember that helped drive adoption and drive activity? What did you do early on that helped people get excited about dbt, and start using and contributing, and adopting it? - 16:40

There’s a few talks at OCS 2020 on open-source telemetry. I’m curious to learn how you implemented frictionless, respectful data for understanding usage early on. - 21:00

What metrics are most useful to you in terms of engineering and determining what to build? - 23:55

You’ve talked about a controversial point of view: starting with services and building a service company, and fielding and discovering roadmap/features through services engagements. How do you think about the business model evolution? - 25:25

You’re a venture funded company, partnered with some leading venture firms. What have your observations been as a founder interacting with the venture ecosystem, in terms of raising money, and the open-source aspects? - 28:25

I want to talk about your cloud platform. How do you think about the open core approach to building technology companies? What has been your process of building dbt as a cloud service? - 32:00

What does the next five-year journey look like for you? What do you see as the biggest challenges that Fishtown needs to address to unlock more progress? - 35:37

Concluding remarks - 38:32

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