Noteable’s Pierre Brunelle On Balancing Short- And Long-Term Goals To Drive Growth

6 min read January 12, 2022
Spotlight

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The world is awash in data. IDC estimates that 74 zettabytes of data will be created in the world this year. Just how much data is this? One zettabyte is equal to a trillion gigabytes, and if each gigabyte were a brick, with one zettabyte, you could build 258 entire Great Walls of China, each with 3,873,000,000 bricks. And more data is being created every second; by 2024, there will be at least 149 zettabytes circulating.

Yet many companies struggle to find the data they need, let alone translate it into predictive machine learning models. That’s why Noteable is tackling data accessibility and collaboration. Their product, an easy-to-use, enterprise-grade computational notebook based on the Jupyter open-source framework, allows anyone in a company to access, visualize, and share data.

Noteable’s cloud-based and secure deployment options, no-code visualizations, and collaborative environment make it easy for teams to work with data in a single platform. Noteable is built for businesses by the experts behind the most successful enterprise-grade and open-source notebook initiatives.

We recently sat down with co-founder Pierre Brunelle to get his take on why balancing expectations around short- and long-term goals is critical for company growth.

Why did you want to start Noteable?

Data is a company’s most critical asset today, but it’s often locked away in places where few people can find or use it. Back in 2014, data scientists began using Jupyter open-source notebooks to visualize data, execute and render code, and share models with one another. Basically, data scientists deployed notebooks to build and train machine learning algorithms.

When I was working at Amazon doing technical product management, my teams used Jupyter notebooks, but we had issues integrating the open-source tools with our workflows. Another challenge was that many other teams at Amazon — such as marketing, customer success, and sales — also needed to interact with and share data, but they weren’t coders who felt comfortable using notebooks.

To overcome these challenges, we built our own notebook solutions on top of Jupyter. It was incredibly successful, and that got me thinking there had to be a better way for people to collaborate with data.

How did Noteable get off the ground?

I met my co-founders, Michelle, Elijah, and Matthew, at an event that Netflix hosted; they were all working on complex data issues at Netflix, and I was doing the same at Amazon, and we talked for hours about how we were building our own custom notebook solutions on top of Jupyter to make it easier for everyone in our companies to see and use data.

For many months, we kept in touch, and in 2020, we took the plunge to start Noteable together. It was the height of the pandemic and a bit of a crazy time to start a company, but we were all very good at one thing — building solutions on top of Jupyter to democratize access to data — and knew we could create a successful company centered on that one thing.

Why can’t teams just use analytics platforms to visualize data?

A big difference between a notebook and an analytics platform is that notebooks allow users to describe and share the data discovery and modeling process, not just the results. And notebooks allow anyone to share their findings and models with anyone else in a visual format, making it simple to collaborate.

About 90% of data scientists already use Jupyter-based notebooks, and Noteable will bring these power-users better tools: integration with all workflows, security, managed cloud, etc. We will also expand the use of notebooks to anyone who wants to use them across an organization.

A marketing manager could use a Noteable notebook instead of a spreadsheet to get key campaign information, or a project manager could get the data they need to decide on a new feature.

How does Noteable attract and keep talent?

We started in the middle of the pandemic, so we had to build a remote-first team. From day one, we focused on creating a very specific culture, even though we were all remote.

With the talent market so tight right now, especially for software engineers, we’ve been able to retain all of our employees. I truly believe that is because we are all aligned on the same vision: to enable everyone with data.

We offer competitive salaries and amazing benefits, but what really sets Noteable apart is our culture built on strong communication and empathy.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far as a founder?

Every day, I face the challenge of balancing expectations around long-term and short-term goals. The way I tackle this is to plan for one thing, but prepare for everything.

Stakeholders pressure for exploitation (short-term) because they want to see results, whereas our employees want to focus on exploration (long-term) to ensure future business sustainability. Noteable is very people-centric, which means I really care about our customers, but also our investors, partners, and all our employees, so I spend most of my time thinking about how to satisfy all the people I care about!

I got lucky that, as a former product manager, I was used to that balancing act. People say being a PM is like being a mini-CEO of your product, so I had the training to establish a shared vision across our company by building consensus on priorities.

Do you have any advice on choosing investors?

Yes, work with investors who actually understand what you are building. We chose to work with BCV because Aaref Hilaly, and the whole BCV team, just gets what we do. Noteable is a technical company, but we’re gearing our product toward both techies and non-techies, and that is both a challenge and opportunity that Aaref, who founded two software companies himself, just implicitly understands.

Many VCs wanted to give us term sheets, but when we sat down with them to talk about open source, data, and ML, their eyes kind of glazed over. With BCV, it was immediately clear that Aaref would be our partner, rolling up his sleeves and digging deep into the code with us, but also seeing the bigger picture of how software companies grow and the challenges ahead.

Noteable is a collaborative notebook platform that enables teams to use and visualize data, together. BCV announced its first investment in the company in November 2021, leading Noteable’s $21 million Series A round. Here’s our take.

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