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OCS 2020 Breakout: Alexander Dean

jj profile image Joseph (JJ) Jacks Updated on ・3 min read

Alexander Dean is Co-founder and CEO at Snowplow Analytics. Alexander is a keen technologist with a passion for functional programming, cloud-based architectures and big data technologies. He also has a passion for innovation and organizational change. Before co-founding Snowplow, Alexander worked in technology roles at OpenX and in the Business Intelligence department at Deloitte Consulting, as well as strategy roles at Fathom Partners and Keplar LLP. Alexander holds a BA in History from the University of Cambridge.

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Snowplow Analytics
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How and why Snowplow is driving open innovation for behavioral data at scale in an era of increasingly high-velocity data transformation.

Let’s start off by asking - can you give an intro on yourself and how you came to start Snowplow? - 0:00

How did you come to this decision of starting with an open source technology at the core? What drove that? Was that specific to the space you’re operating in? - 2:15

(JJ talks about Segment, how they started as a JavaScript library, evolved into a customer behaviour data system, and how they were recently acquired by Twilio for 3.2 billion dollars) Is Snowplow operating in that same ecosystem, in the same area? You are the same age, both started around 8 years ago. - 3:38

Is it fair to say that behavioral data as a platform could be horizontal more than vertical? Do you plan on verticalizing? Could it be more than just about the customer data, could it be about behavioral machine data? - 5:42

I want to dig into a few things we talked about leading up to this, and the first one is getting into the tension between distribution on one hand and scalability on the other hand. Can you unpack that for us? - 6:25

Why don’t we dig into raising capital? You are a venture funded company, you decided to partner up with investors… What are your thoughts on that? - 7:52

You built successful open source projects solving a wide range of issues. How do you think about the essence of open source in relation to the idea of just building communities? - 9:38

There is a lot of conflation and binary thinking when people talk about community building and communities in general. I think you are absolutely right - open source communities are really nuanced and complex. -12:58

The kind of success that open source projects achieve… there isn’t necessarily a well understood prescriptive path that founders have taken. It’s definitely path-specific and depends on many different types of variables… How do you think about the complexities of reaching success with an open source project and how those types of observations affected Snowplow’s strategy, product development and dependencies? - 13:50

I really love how you’ve mentioned that Darwinian aspect. Open source is definitely very evolutionary, it’s all in the open, it’s all public and you can see that evolution. I’d love to dig into how you think about product development. (JJ talks about Snowflake and how they are based on more “ivory tower” thinking, in comparison to a more Darwinian, evolutionary thinking that comes with open source projects.) How do you harness that power of that Darwinian nature in open source to build a winning platform company? - 17:35

What are the most beneficial and impactful things that you have gotten out of doubling down on open source from the day one? Especially things that surprised you, or were counterintuitive to you? - 21:30

(Closing remarks) - 24:50


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