It is not uncommon for a technology company to be born by accident. Famously, Slack was created out of a now-defunct gaming company. Similarly, Dropbase founders Jimmy Chan and Ayazan Jakan were testing a product they had built while in the Y Combinator Winter 20 batch and accidentally stumbled upon what became Dropbase.
The two founders were struggling to move spreadsheet data into a SQL database where they could work with it. Even though they were technical people, they couldn’t get everything working without a lot of hassle. They created a tool to make it easy to drag and drop a .csv file into a Postgres database and start querying it.
Chan says this was a eureka moment for them, realizing that if they had trouble doing it, so would many others, so they shifted gears to create Dropbase.
“We were thinking there must be an easier way to do it. I want to drag and drop a .csv file directly into a SQL database. And that’s when we came up with the name Dropbase, because you pull it into a Postgres database, and we give you credentials to the database and you can immediately access that .csv file in the hosted cloud database. So that’s how we started.” Chan told TechCrunch.
They had to overcome some big hurdles that anyone who works with data knows, such as reconciling differences in the same data that can confuse a conversion filter. “After you drag and drop a .csv file, there are usually many problems with the file. Sometimes different parts of the world interpret .csv files differently. For example, in French, they use semicolons instead of commas. And so, first of all, we will investigate. We look at a sample of the data and try to guess what is the best way to open the file.
That said, another issue is that the data may not always be in the format you expect it to be in the table, so how do you make it consistent? They introduced the concept of a check to ensure that the data is in the correct format to pass conversion filters, but Chan passes these simple syntax checks.
“They’re really semantic checks. So what I mean is that not only is your zip code in a certain format, but we can check that your dates are within a certain range or after a certain time or before a certain time. Or if your numbers should at least be something. So it’s a little more [sophisticated] Check,” he explained.
Once you show the problems to the user and clean up the rest of the problems, it says it’s available to load the database and query it in SQL. “The benefits of having data in a SQL database is that you can quickly query it. The first thing is that you can easily connect a data tool like a BI tool or another data tool to a downstream tool. And over time you can build a lot of historical data sets,” he said.
The latest features in the product include a new tool called Dropmail that allows users to convert a .csv file into a SQL database, and the ability to host your own data with Snow Sync.
The company has so far raised a $1.75M pre-seed round led by Google’s Gradient Ventures from YC and others.