Grafana Labs Is Changing How We Process Analytics and Data

Grafana Labs co-founders Anthony Woods, Raj Dutt, Torkel Ödega

Three men in different corners of the world have created powerful dashboards that visualise data in real time and unlock improvements to business processes.

What is it?

An open-source analytics platform that gives companies an operational dashboard to monitor applications in real time. Grafana visualises big data and says it can save a company millions of dollars by reducing downtime. An online gaming client cut its “time to resolution” for infrastructure issues by 5 per cent with the dashboard – downtime costs the client US$2.85 million a minute.

Where did the idea come from?

In 2014, co-founder Torkel Ödegaard built an app-insights dashboard based on Kibana, an open-source software project, and released it as Grafana. Anthony Woods and Raj Dutt were brainstorming an observability and monitoring startup. “We’d seen how popular Grafana was so we started on a proof of concept, building on top of it,” says Woods, an Australian then based in Singapore. “We invited Torkel to come from Stockholm and spend a week with us in New York, where Raj was based.” They hit it off and decided to join forces.

How did you get it off the ground?

Six months later, Woods moved back to his hometown, Perth. The founders discussed if they should all live in the same city but decided to create a remote company. “It gave us the opportunity to go where the best talent was ... and helped us get great engineers who were looking for flexibility with time and location.” Dutt “had connections with angel investors who were eager to provide some seed capital”.

Is it available to everyone?

Its commercial clients, such as Salesforce, which uses Grafana to monitor more than 3 million transactions a day, pay the bills but the platform remains open source. “There was amazing adoption early on and we’d see it pop up in different places. One of our people was watching the SpaceX launch and saw a Grafana dashboard in the control room.”

What have you learnt?

“We were very frugal. We worried about biting off more than we could chew and we never wanted to trim down our headcount. We grew the product and were able to tap into the venture capital market and money to help us accelerate.”

Biggest challenge?

“Hiring was going to be a challenge and we wanted to make sure we had the foundation to be able to build a bigger team.” Getting the right talent is critical. “We brought on Alice Farrell, now our VP of People Ops, when we were only about 30 people and that’s been really positive.”

What’s next?

Open source continues to be important to Grafana and Woods says they’ll keep investing in it. On the commercial front, they’re building and improving turnkey solutions. “We’re making it easier for users to understand their systems and environments. We have a ‘big tent’ philosophy – we support interoperability between different systems, whether that’s another open-source project or even a direct competitor. We want users to bring their data together and have Grafana as the single pane of glass to view it.”

Need to know

Co-founders: Anthony Woods, 39, Raj Dutt, 42, and Torkel Ödegaard, 40
First customer: Grafana Labs launched in 2014 and signed its first deal the following year with a Fortune 500 company. Today, its observability platform is used by more than 1500 customers, including eBay, PayPal, Sony and the two major telcos and several banks in Australia.
Investors: Lightspeed Venture Partners, Lead Edge Capital, GIC, Sequoia Capital and Coatue
Staff: More than 500 and growing
Headquarters: Fully remote team in more than 40 countries on six continents
Market valuation: US$3 billion as of Series C investment round last August

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