In 2018, we are experiencing something of a data crisis. The rapid advancement of cloud computing technology has allowed even the smallest of companies to create and store vast amounts of data. However, the ease with which all of this data can be created has, in turn, caused a massive headache when it comes to managing this overwhelming amount of information. Many companies have found help in the form of a business intelligence (BI) platform or data visualization tool, but sometimes those just aren't enough.
Enter Cursor, a self-described "collaborative analytics platform" that aims to solve organizations' data headaches. You can use the platform to write and organize code as well as share it across the entire company. The platform also serves as an internal search tool that can pull up information from sources such as databases and Structured Query Language (SQL) queries. Although Cursor is still a newcomer, professionals at Apple, Cisco Systems, Slack, and Under Amour already use it, according to Adam Weinstein, co-founder and CEO of Cursor.
Weinstein, a former senior employee at LinkedIn, told us that Cursor wants to help users understand their data by eliminating the communication gap among users. The company has already amassed $2 million in funding and, if successful, its tool could prove to be an invaluable one for businesses.
Co-founder and CEO: Adam Weinstein
HQ: San Francisco, California
What They Do: Data search and collaborations
Business Model: Free, with plans to introduce paid plans later
Current Status: Live, with approximately 1,000 regular users
Next Steps: Continue to scale and grow
Why It Works for Business
A common public relations (PR) tagline you'll hear from tech companies is that "data is power." While it's true that using data helps businesses make better decisions, the sheer amount of data we're creating as a society can be astounding. According to a 2017 IBM report, 90 percent of the data existing today had been created in the previous two years. Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created, and that is only expected to get bigger as spaces like the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to grow. Then, consider the fact that handling this data can be all the more complicated when large teams are trying to work with it at once. It only makes sense then that a company like Cursor has emerged to help businesses better leverage and process this flood of information into something useful.
Weinstein ran into this data analytics problem firsthand in his professional life. He was Head of Analytics for Bright.com, a job-matching tool that LinkedIn acquired in 2014. He said that, when he moved into a leadership role at the social networking giant, the scope of the company's analytics operations began to present a challenge.
"I found myself leading part of LinkedIn's analytics team of roughly 300 people," Weinstein said. "The challenge that we came across was that we were globally distributed from California, New York, Beijing, and everywhere in between.
"While the data itself usually lives in a central location, all of that work is actually done on the user's local machine," he continued. "What we struggled with was that someone would do some amount of analysis, whether it was artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), or SQL-related work, and nobody else had visibility into what that person was working on." His story is a good example of a problem that plenty of globally distributed businesses have faced when it comes to working with data.
Cursor is a tool inspired by the pains of handling data work. We know that cloud computing is effective because we can access our data from anywhere we want. Cursor goes a step further, aiming to make it easier to work on that data and collaborate on it from any location. We've seen tools that work in a similar fashion before. After all, GitHub (which is due to be acquired by Microsoft in the near future) has been helping developers collaborate for years. But Cursor is a unique tool in the sense that it's designed to be used by employees of all expertise levels across an organization.
Inside the Platform
Cursor is part data catalog, part development environment. Users login to the system, and they have the option to connect with some of the most popular databases available today, including Microsoft Azure SQL Database and MongoDB Atlas. The platform will walk you through the necessary steps to connect a database, and it even offers a host of demo databases for employee training.
Cursor can do a number of things to help you make better sense of your company's data. After connecting your data sources, you are greeted with a Search module that looks like any search engine page you would use to find movie showtimes, a good recipe, or game schedules. Type in "NFL," for example, and the system will pull up all of the code you've written across databases related to that term. Click a particular result, and you can pull up code of the table it's from, and run queries right from the solution. Cursor can even store free-form content, such as an article or notes taken on a subject. If someone has posted a guide or some other note on your search term, then that will show up on the page as well. Cursor claims that your data is never seen by the company, and administrators can set permissions that govern who can see and access data. If you're interested, then the platform is free for early adopters.
When Weinstein and his teammates at LinkedIn experienced their organization's data challenges, it gave them an idea. "First, we looked for a solution in the market and there wasn't one," he said. "We asked ourselves, 'How do we solve this collaboration problem among analysts or data practitioners?'" From there, Weinstein and his colleagues built the first rudimentary version of Cursor for internal use.
Cursor formally launched as a company on Aug. 21, 2017 (Weinstein told us that it's only a coincidence that this was the same date as the solar eclipse). For a startup that's been around for just under one year, Cursor has gained some respectable traction. When it launched, the company had courted employees at places such as Apple and LinkedIn to get them to use the product. Cursor also asked several data consulting firms to try out the software, and used that feedback to improve the platform.
At the time of this writing, the platform has approximately 1,000 users, according to Weinstein. In addition to tech companies, Weinstein said that large, respected organizations—such as Allstate Insurance, Farmers Insurance Group, and Terminix—all have data connected to Cursor, trusting the startup with handling and collaborating on their data.
Research firm IDC forecasts revenue for data analytics solutions to surpass $210 billion. When you take that into account, it's understandable that a company like investment firm Toba Capital would want a piece of that pie. The firm has invested $2 million into Cursor. When we spoke with partner Patrick Mathieson, he said that, in Toba Capital's view, Cursor solves a "unique and growing problem" that makes it valuable in the long term. As more professionals use the platform, word is expected to spread, driving up the company's value.
When we asked Weinstein what the future holds for Cursor, he said that the company wants to continue building out the software as much as it can. "For the rest of this year, we are working on building out more hardened enterprise functionality," he said. "When you look at the needs of an enterprise, there are all sorts of security, permissions, and infrastructure support you need to make it viable. We'll continue to add additional ecosystems into the mix." Weinstein added that Salesforce integration is also coming at some point in the near future.
Ask the Experts: Startup Advice
Lonne Jaffe, Managing Director at Insight Venture Partnerssaid that Cursor is an interesting case of an in-house tool being turned into a standalone business.
"This tech was built in-house by LinkedIn and, in many ways, it's better by an order of magnitude than something made by a vendor. It was created to solve a problem of discoverability and search," Jaffe said. "After all, if you've ever tried to find information with, say, a company intranet, you know what a pain it is. Cursor is solving an unsolved problem, and I think they're built for long-term success."
With that in mind, Cursor is still a smaller player, with only $2 million in funding and approximately 1,000 users. According to Jaffe, however, Cursor could rise very quickly as a popular tool for business.
"Adoption curves can be pretty rapid," he said. "I'm not saying that it will become a household name over the next 12 months, but it's hard to think of a company to which this product would not be helpful. Once word gets out, Cursor's popularity could skyrocket in a very short amount of time."