Is it possible for a startup to give its product away for free and evolve into the next unicorn, in other words, into a company that is valued at 1$ billion? This is Mr. Costa Tsaousis’ vision, who is the founder and CEO of Netdata.
The 52-year-old Greek engineer believes that humankind owes a great deal to open source, as he pointed out to Outliers, Endeavor Greece’s podcast series whose media partner is MoneyReview. That is the reason why in 2014 after developing an infrastructure monitoring software, he gave it away for free to GitHub and to the open source community. It went viral within a couple of hours.
“Born and raised in Chaidari,” as he himself explains, Mr. Tsaousis started taking an interest in computers when he was at High School. A friend of his showed him Spectrum, and this changed his life for ever, as he found himself graduating from High School at the top of his year, in spite of being a bad student up to that time.
At those years, anyone who wanted to get acquainted with computers had great difficulty in finding information. “There was no internet and the books were scarse,” he recollects. He even remembers that a friend of his would travel to Germany every year to visit CeBIT, the largest German computer expo, and he would come back with a box full of compact disks he had burned there. “That was our basic input, our open source software,” he explains.
After fulfilling his military service duty, Mr. Tsaousis built his first internet service provider in Greece, namely the Acropolis.Net. His next business venture was Comnet, a company whose clientele included HellasOnline and OTEnet. “By the end of 1999, 70-80% of the Greek internet was provided through our own software,” he says.
In the end, this company was acquired by HellasOnline, where Mr. Tsaousis worked as an engineer and manager for the next few years before moving to Viva in 2009.
He developed Netdata while he was working in Viva, because he soon realized that the monitoring systems available could not fulfill his needs. Mr. Tsaousis sacrificed all his leisure time, cut down on his sleeping hours, holidays, on the time he spent with his children, in order to dedicate himself to this project. When Netdata went viral in 2016, he was exhilarated, but it took him two more years to leave Viva and found his own company.
Netdata has raised a total funding of 31$ millions from Bain Capital Ventures, Marathon Venture Capital and other capital market companies.
Today, Netdata’s open source software attracts more than 10,000 new users and achieves 500,000 downloads daily. Every year, the company doubles its numbers.
Netdata Cloud, which has been offering purchasable additional features since May 2020, has 40,000 registered users and attracts 150 new users every day. Leading tech companies, such as Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn and Slack, can be found among its clients.
Netdata is based in the USA, employs 49 people worldwide, and aims to hire 17 more employees in 2021. However, it has no headquarters. All its employees work remotely from the countries they reside, but the engineering part is mainly developed by Europeans (Greeks, Russians, Italians, Polish, Spanish, English etc.). “Remote working gives you the opportunity to hire interesting people, but it is a challenging task to work in 20 different time zones, like we do,” Mr. Tsaousis admits.
The article was originally published at moneyreview.gr