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Stephen Goldberg, HarperDB CEO, Tells Us About Innovating during a Pandemic & Coming out Stronger on the Other End

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First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Stephen Goldberg: I am doing great all things considered.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded HarperDB.

Stephen Goldberg: I have worked as a CTO and CEO of startups, held several roles at larger organizations like Red Hat, and led digital transformation projects at a number of Fortune 500 companies across many verticals. As an established thought leader in the IoT space, I’ve been published on sites like Tech Target and quoted in a number of articles and publications like Forbes and ZDNet. I hold two data patents with my co-founders Kyle and Zach.

A lot of the HarperDB team worked together at a former company where we had to build a Rube Goldberg machine to handle the collection and analysis of massive amounts of social media data in real-time. We were frustrated by the options available to us on the market. The multi-tier database architecture implemented was seen as cutting edge by peers in our industry, but to us, it felt like we were putting a band-aid on the overall problem. We felt that the market was highly fragmented due to the fact that most databases are designed to address specific workloads. Every time we found a strong product for scale, it lacked the analytical capability and vice versa. This is why we founded HarperDB, with the goal of being the quickest, easiest, and most intuitive database there is. 

How does HarperDB innovate? 

Stephen Goldberg: HarperDB has an energetic and dynamic team, always looking to stay ahead of the curve. We built our database from the ground up in Node.js, which has never been done before, so we have innovated from the start. Many features of HarperDB are innovative. Most, if not all, existing databases were either SQL or NoSQL, whereas we combined the best functionality from both and provided a hybrid SQL/NoSQL database in one out-of-the-box tool. HarperDB has a unique storage algorithm that essentially explodes data into individual attributes and stores them in a folder structure on the file system (now running on top of LMDB). All of the little pieces of HarperDB come together and enable us to provide an unprecedented solution to the market. We are breaking records on data read and write speeds, simplifying the data pipeline, and changing the way people think about data management as a whole. 

We are also working with top tier companies to provide innovative solutions on a large scale. HarperDB has also been exploring and participating in the world of edge computing and IoT for years, where we’ve been told we are ahead of our time as many companies are not quite ready for that level of innovation just yet.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Stephen Goldberg: The entire team has been working remotely since March. Interestingly, our team has actually never been more productive, specifically our development team. We launched HarperDB Cloud, our managed and hosted offering, in April and have been able to continuously upgrade and improve our product since then. From a sales perspective, while some conversations were put on hold due to the pandemic, doors have opened too much bigger and more innovative projects. The entire HarperDB team has stayed healthy and stuck together during these times, and we are coming out stronger on the other end. I feel very fortunate, and I think it’s safe to say that HarperDB is currently in the best position we’ve ever been. 

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Stephen Goldberg: We did. We had to make cuts, reduce costs, and a lot of difficult decisions. They were initially terrifying, but we all managed together as a team, and I feel it has strengthened our team, and we have all learned a lot about ourselves as leaders and teammates. 

How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and HarperDB in the future?

Stephen Goldberg: My team will be the first to tell you that I can be an anxious person at times… but often that anxious energy goes to good use. During stressful times, I relax by fly fishing, spending time with family, painting, and sometimes coding. I also have learned to channel stress and ride it like a wave. I can feel it coming, and instead of fighting, it just sort of lean into it. 

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Stephen Goldberg: Our competitors are database companies like MongoDB, Cockroach Labs, Postgres, and Firebase. There are many database companies out there, and some of them are really great for certain use cases. 

However, we noticed a gap in the market and have since filled that need, differentiating ourselves enough to succeed long term. For example, systems like DynamoDB and MongoDB are document stores, whereas HarperDB offers full document store capability plus enterprise-grade ACID SQL. While PostgreSQL is a great relational database, HarperDB is built to enable developers with relational backgrounds to use their SQL knowledge on the data within a more flexible database that also has NoSQL capabilities. Use cases where HarperDB typically wins over competitors are when there is high transaction volume, rapid development, or the need for distributed or edge computing. HarperDB is more cost-effective and easier to work with than the alternatives as well. 

We will stay in the game by continuing to innovate and keeping our options open while prioritizing effectively. HarperDB has continuously benefitted from utilizing the tools around us and standing on the shoulders of geniuses in communities like Node.js to improve our product offerings. It’s important to recognize when something needs to be built from the ground up versus when something already existing can be adapted or improved. Our team is great at that. 

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