ClickHouse, Inc. founders: Aaron Katz, Alexey Milovidov and Yury Izrailevsky

In this post: Clickhouse

Our road to ClickHouse started like a good spy novel, with a complex series of introductions over Telegram, clandestine text conversations spanning months before we finally managed to meet the team “face-to-face” (aka over Zoom). But the ClickHouse project has been a labor of love for more than a decade. The brilliant Alexey Milovidov first designed and built ClickHouse more than 10 years ago at Yandex (the largest internet company in Europe) to power Yandex Metrica (their version of Google Analytics). It was written in C++ to be lightning fast and optimized to handle massive data scales updating in real time.

The founders open sourced the project in 2016 and since then it’s been among the fastest growing open source databases of all time. It first caught our attention when we realized that everyone from the Fortune 20 (Walmart, Apple, Verizon, Microsoft) to our Series A portfolio companies was raving about it; it takes a special product to have such universal appeal. It compelled us to investigate what was driving this mass adoption when companies are spoiled for choice for databases and warehousing solutions.

"It first caught our attention when we realized that everyone from the Fortune 20 (Walmart, Apple, Verizon, Microsoft) to our Series A portfolio companies was raving about it; it takes a special product to have such universal appeal"
— Mike Volpi & Erin Price-Wright, Index Ventures

When we spoke with customers deploying the ClickHouse open source project, they didn’t focus on competitors, the project’s Russian origins, or the fact it was a community-driven effort rather than a complete enterprise offering. What they said was that ClickHouse was powering their customer-facing applications; that it was liberating data from slow ETL pipelines and walled “data gardens” and letting business users actually ask the questions they needed to ask; that the product allowed them to use data in real time decision-making. Most importantly, ClickHouse is “just so fast.”

When we think about the overlapping trends in the market, the modern tech stack is crying out for a product like ClickHouse to solve the problem of real-time analytics, removing the painful tradeoff between “fast” and “slow,” or “operational” and “analytical,” data. For example: in-product analytics, where the user experience must be excellent; operational intelligence, where having real-time data is critical; and data-driven automation and RPA, where you need extremely low latency on large scale calculations - none of these use cases can tolerate data pipelines that take minutes or hours to run, or PostgreSQL data cuts that restrict a users’ ability to ask arbitrarily complex questions.

We thought to ourselves, if this is how successful the ClickHouse project is today, as an open source project maintained by Yandex, what would happen if the team put this into the cloud, made it dead easy to get started, and integrated it with everything? With Yandex’s blessing and support, we made it our mission to make this happen.

"Assembling ClickHouse, Inc., was an ambitious and delicate process. We had to work with Yandex - who turned out to be a great partner - to extract one of its core technologies along with all of its creators."
— Mike Volpi & Erin Price-Wright, Index Ventures

Assembling ClickHouse, Inc., was an ambitious and delicate process. We had to work with Yandex - who turned out to be a great partner - to extract one of its core technologies along with all of its creators. Alexey and his team of ClickHouse developers, who account for 75%+ of commits on the project, are joining the company in Amsterdam and continue to build towards ClickHouse’s vision. The technologists were complemented by a pair of seasoned entrepreneurs who have been long-time Index friends. Aaron Katz, ClickHouse’s founding CEO, was the CRO at Elastic where he took that company from $15M in sales to over $500M. Yury Izrailevsky who famously created Netflix’s infrastructure and was running the developer products at Google Cloud joined as the head of engineering and product. Of course, inspirational and seasoned leaders like Aaron and Yury bring an army of talented individuals with them who are transforming ClickHouse into a world-class commercial product.

There were times when we were not so sure we could pull this off. But, thanks to the persistence of our collaborators, Aaron, Yury, Alexey, Peter Fenton at Benchmark and our good friends at Yandex, what was just a twinkle in our eye is now a brand new company. Today, as ClickHouse, Inc. “the company” has its coming out party, we are excited and honored to be part of the team that will bring this incredible product to a new phase in its life. Of course, the journey for ClickHouse is just beginning. Its life as an enormously successful open-source project inspired us to get this ball rolling, but we cannot wait to see what the future holds for ClickHouse.

"There were times when we were not so sure we could pull this off. But, thanks to the persistence of our collaborators, Aaron, Yury, Alexey, Peter Fenton at Benchmark and our good friends at Yandex, what was just a twinkle in our eye is now a brand new company."
— Mike Volpi & Erin Price-Wright, Index Ventures
Published — Sept. 20, 2021