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o1lab

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How my open source project got angel investment from a user itself! 🎃

Let's admit it, open source can be overwhelming when it comes to finding support financially.

Today, I would like to share an unlikely journey of an open source project that evolved over the years and got a small angel investment from its user itself.

📙 Bit of project history

NocoDB is my open source project and it is an open source Airtable alternative.

GitHub logo nocodb / nocodb

🔥 🔥 The Open Source Airtable Alternative - Powered by Vue.js ❤️

NocoDB
🎃 The Open Source Airtable Alternative 🎃

Turns any MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, SQLite & MariaDB into a smart-spreadsheet

Build Status Node version Twitter

WebsiteDiscordTwitter

The Open Source Airtable Alternative - works on MySQL, Postgres SQL Server & MariaDB

NocoDB - The Open Source Airtable alternative | Product Hunt

Quick try

1-Click Deploy

Heroku

Deploy NocoDB to Heroku with 1-Click

Using Docker

docker run -d --name nocodb -p 8080:8080 nocodb/nocodb:latest
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To persist data you can mount volume at /usr/app/data/.

Using Npm

npx create-nocodb-app

Using Git

git clone https://github.com/nocodb/nocodb-seed
cd nocodb-seed
npm install
npm start

GUI

Access Dashboard using : http://localhost:8080/dashboard

Join Our Community


Screenshots

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Features

Rich Spreadsheet Interface

  •  Search, sort, filter, hide columns with uber ease
  •  Create Views : Grid, Gallery, Kanban, Gantt, Form
  •  Share Views : public & password protected
  •  Personal & locked Views
  •  Upload images to cells (Works with S3, Minio, GCP, Azure, DigitalOcean, Linode, OVH, BackBlaze)
  •  Roles : Owner, Creator, Editor, Viewer, Commenter, Custom Roles.
  •  Access Control : Fine-grained access control even at database, table & column level.

App

In its previous avatar NocoDB was known as Xmysql:

  • Xmysql was a hobby project first posted on HN. It created instant REST APIs on any MySQL database. Many people started to use it in production although it wasn't production ready which eventually made me to work on this full time.
  • Over time, it evolved to create instant APIs over few more databases, along with a desktop app.

After talking to many customers, I started pivoting towards NocoDB (a nocode/lowcode platform). One of the user - Vasyl, found our previous posts on Hacker News and contacted us to discuss an issue he was facing..

👋 First meeting with customer

I was running late to the meeting by 4 minutes.

I was frantically switching Chrome tabs...

  • Mail. Click.
  • Calendar. Click.
  • Invitation. Click.

I joined the meeting with a sheepish grin, expressing my apologies for being late.

This was my first meeting with Vasyl, Founder of Servired: a freight company that operates in Europe.

  • Quick intros were exchanged...
  • Backgrounds of each other exchanged...

📞 The conversation

Vasyl proceeded to describe a UI issue that would occur while loading certain fields.

I told Vasyl: "Let's create a fresh project".

He then opened Evernote to look up his AWS database credentials.

I ask him "Where did you come across us?"

He says "I was googling : how to create REST APIs for mysql automatically and found you on Hacker News"

He then asked me for the price of our product.

I say "It's free & open source!".

He says "Sorry, I don't get that?".

I then checked to see whether he was unable to find the correct database credentials.

He replies "No no..I meant to ask, why is your product free? You can charge me hourly if you can sort this issue out!".

I then said "Let's have a look, must be a bug on our end...".

🚚 Business Problem

Vasyl explained that his trucking industry has a massive problem... DUIs! If a truck driver involved in an accident is charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence of alcohol), company cannot claim insurance and can go bankrupt! Several already are affected by this! One potential solution that he proposed was to make driver take breath checks during work (using a breathalyzer) and dump results to a cloud database powered by APIs. Company then monitors data for anamolies!

While Vasyl is not a programmer, he learned many programming skills out of frustration to solve his own business problems without technical engineering support, all by himself. There is much to admire about him!

I helped to sort out the UI issue he was facing.

And importantly, also showed early prototype of NocoDB - he was thrilled to say the least! So, I gave him early access + my direct contact details for any help.

⏰ Two hours after our meeting

Vasyl ping'd me on Telegram, nothing tech this time. Instead, he asked if he could make an investment.

Woah! It was disbelief in a pleasant way.

I confirm whether he wanted to invest personally or as part of a VC. It is very unusual for a customer to be your first investor. He then asked details about the minimum check size I would accept, and I mentioned x. He wanted to put in 3x.

Another Zoom meeting.

Again, switching tabs on my desktop. Then Chrome tabs.

  • Mail. Click.
  • Calendar. Click.
  • Invitation. Click.

My first question : "What made him want to invest?"

He then told me how painful his problem is, in general. How treacherous his own journey has been to create a simple business solution. And countless hours he spent on internet. Lessons and expenditures from old IT projects. Outsourcing to companies. Working with freelancers. Code maintenance headaches. Endless meetings.
He deeply understands IT solutions for non-IT folks is a costly affair. And he believed NocoDB in the hands of business owners could be a huge game changer. But hey, thats usually my pitch.

So we nod in unison. And we smile. We arrive at an agreement. Quick handshake. All done virtually.

Screen Shot 2021-09-20 at 16.37.29

💰 Investment

I am based in the UK. Early on, I discovered that SeedLegals makes it really simple to take investments for a new startup. For this angel investment, I used ASA/SeedFAST (equivalent to the Y Combinator SAFE in the US). These documents are well templated and assisted throughout by SeedLegals. However, SeedLegals takes a 1% cut on each transaction... too pricey!! This has to change for the better in the UK.

📢 Announcing to the team 🙌

One week later, I get a mobile notification that the investment has arrived.

First, I went to announce this to the youngest member of our team. She was looking at a Muhammad Ali's poster in the room...shadow boxing (almost)! I announced to her that we got our first angel check! She was still shadow boxing... I say, "Time for a picture!"... She doesn't say much.

Anyways, I go ahead to take a picture and there she is captured giving a right cross to her own cheek. She looks at me and smiles. With her, a small team smiles.

Screen Shot 2021-09-20 at 16 37 29

👶 That's my daughter Gia, 3 months old, caught giving a right cross to her self!

And our journey continues. Helping one developer, one entrepreneur and one thinker at a time...


PS :

Getting started with NocoDB is simple :

npx create-nocodb-app nocodb
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or

docker run -d --name nocodb -p 8080:8080 nocodb/nocodb
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NocoDB just went past 2+ Million Docker downloads within just 15 weeks into the launch.

Please star/watch us on Github for future updates

GitHub logo nocodb / nocodb

🔥 🔥 The Open Source Airtable Alternative - Powered by Vue.js ❤️

NocoDB
🎃 The Open Source Airtable Alternative 🎃

Turns any MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, SQLite & MariaDB into a smart-spreadsheet

Build Status Node version Twitter

WebsiteDiscordTwitter

The Open Source Airtable Alternative - works on MySQL, Postgres SQL Server & MariaDB

NocoDB - The Open Source Airtable alternative | Product Hunt

Quick try

1-Click Deploy

Heroku


Deploy NocoDB to Heroku with 1-Click


Using Docker

docker run -d --name nocodb -p 8080:8080 nocodb/nocodb:latest
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

To persist data you can mount volume at /usr/app/data/.

Using Npm

npx create-nocodb-app

Using Git

git clone https://github.com/nocodb/nocodb-seed
cd nocodb-seed
npm install
npm start

GUI

Access Dashboard using : http://localhost:8080/dashboard

Join Our Community


Screenshots

2

1

7

5

6

3

4

11

10

8

9

Features

Rich Spreadsheet Interface

  •  Search, sort, filter, hide columns with uber ease
  •  Create Views : Grid, Gallery, Kanban, Gantt, Form
  •  Share Views : public & password protected
  •  Personal & locked Views
  •  Upload images to cells (Works with S3, Minio, GCP, Azure, DigitalOcean, Linode, OVH, BackBlaze)
  •  Roles : Owner, Creator, Editor, Viewer, Commenter, Custom Roles.
  •  Access Control : Fine-grained access control even at database, table & column level.

App

And join our thriving community at :
📣 Github : https://github.com/nocodb/nocodb
📣 Discord : https://discord.gg/5RgZmkW
📣 Twitter : https://twitter.com/nocodb

Discussion (17)

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abhinav1217 profile image
Abhinav Kulshreshtha

Congratulations on getting your first investment. I am playing with nocodb for personal projects and it is amazing. It is really great that I can play with api and coding, while my non-tech cousin can get all the information in simple spreadsheet format.

Best thing is that you got investment, not from an finance investor, but from someone who is actually going to use the product, in a real world, non-tech industry. The feedback you will get will help you polish the product in ways no cheque will be able to.

Thanks for showing the world that successful business can be built on open-source ideologies. We need these stories.

Congratulations on your investment, and also on becoming a dad. She is your good luck charm, with cute cheeks.

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rsmithlal profile image
Robert Smith

This is so cool! I'm glad you posted about this =) I'm going to check it out. I love the experience of airtables but I want to control my own data and experience. If this works as well as it seems to, I'd be happy to contribute to the project as I use it for my own purposes <3

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o1lab profile image
o1lab Author • Edited

Please do, more than happy to accept PRs & suggestions

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kishanbsh profile image
Kishan B

Excellent story and a great product. Kudos!!

I also have a roughly similar experience. your post encourages me to write about it :-) Thanks for sharing :-) !

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o1lab profile image
o1lab Author

Thank you.

Would love to read about it. :)

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nicemit profile image
Amit

This is great! Really inspiring.
Thank you for sharing, I will check out NocoDB and use it in my projects as well!

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nicemit profile image
Amit

I do have a follow up question, will it work with BigQuery tables?

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o1lab profile image
o1lab Author

not yet :)

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dimsane profile image
Dwaipayan Sen

This made my day, all the best for the long way ahead!

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o1lab profile image
o1lab Author

:D

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get1page profile image
1Page

Amazing story Naveen :) Keep up the great work!

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o1lab profile image
o1lab Author

Thank you Pooran

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luccaprado profile image
Lucca Prado

This is really encouraging! Congratulations!!!

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o1lab profile image
o1lab Author

Thank you

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aliadnan profile image
Ali Adnan

NocoDB is awesome ! .. best wishes for future . and excellent story write up 👌🏼👍🏼

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mmmiitr profile image
madan

Thanks for sharing.