We sometimes meet with clients to find out what they’re working on, what problems they encounter, and what role Selectel plays in all of it. Once such company from St. Petersburg is called Datagrav, and we recently discussed these topics with their CEO, Sergey Kochuguyev.
“We entered a bigger market and immediately learned that when you’re working with major companies and government organizations, you cannot talk about IT systems unless the cloud is Russian. The biggest issue is data hygiene. This isn’t only about personal data; nobody’s willing to store simple notes abroad. Managers don’t want to take any risks, and they have to know where their data is physically located.”
Datagrav is an IT system for group projects. The system can handle a lot of tasks, such as transferring knowledge during employee turnover or finding bottlenecks in organizations with complicated structures. Datagrav is a solution that covers four areas: document collaboration, task planning and delivery, secure data storage and transfer, and knowledge management. According to Sergey Kochuguyev, knowledge management is an artificial memory, a corporate archive; it’s structured information about an organization’s experiences. “Those who have started and completed a dozen projects will understand the importance of this practice.” The company has competitors in each of these fields, but nobody has achieved this kind of synergy.
The company is five years old. It was founded by two people, who later found investors for their idea and expanded their personnel by bringing in programmers. Up until 2011, the creators watched, thought, and made prototypes. That’s when they understood that creating a product from ready-made solutions wouldn’t be possible without breaking a sweat. They acquired their key customers and started to write an engine for them. In those first years, Datagrav developed on anchor clients: energy companies, the Ministry of Energy, and St. Petersburg State University.
The creators believe the idea for a more streamlined information management system had long been in the works among researchers and consulting firms. The main idea that brought about Datagrav was the use of write throughs. “Imagine a consulting firm that gathers data on, let’s say, some exotic country,” explains Sergey Kochuguyev. “You have all sorts of sources and notes are written on notecards. You can do what they do in a library: put cards in storage, assign indexes, and then look them up accordingly; meaning keep files in folders and agree on what they should be called and where they should be put. The problem is that data changes, gets updated, and generalizations can be (or become) incorrect. However, if we were to make a single notecard record and compile documents from that, then all of the documents would automatically change when the notecard changes. There’s one card, but it may affect several documents.”
When the creators started to work with real processes and organizations, it became necessary to consider unlimited access, task assigning, execution monitoring, data migration by project groups, and joint work on documentation. But the central idea was still continuous data.
When Datagrav entered a bigger market, they immediately discovered that when working with major companies and government organizations, you couldn’t talk about IT systems unless the cloud was Russian. As Sergey Kochuguyev explains it, Russian users are not ready to save even simple notes abroad; managers don’t want to take to risk and should know where their data is physically located. Additional, you needed a recognizable brand and to be near the provider; this is more convenient in terms of speed.
Datagrav and Selectel
Datagrav has been with Selectel since 2014. The company is certain there is a current demand on the internal market for (the majority of) technical stacks to be Russian, and there are not many options. Deciding factors include the cloud infrastructure’s capabilities. For example, you have to be able to quickly create images, which in turn ensures a project’s reliability.
In addition to server solutions, Datagrav needed a cloud in Russia. The company develops pilot projects and solutions based on other organizations’ external information management. The cloud itself, however, may cause apprehension in clients; they’re afraid of saving data on the net, and moreso abroad. The company decided that from a marketing standpoint, they needed a Russian cloud provider. Management did a bit of research and chose Selectel: they’re Russian, close to clients, and fast. Datagrav considered the Virtual Private Cloud a convenient service that let them create custom servers from the control panel, copy them, and then fully manage them.
Another argument in favor of Selectel pertains to taxes and accounting, as well as official paperwork. As advice to new startups, Sergey Kochuguyev points out one other point: when a new company thinks about financing, and potential investors perform due diligence, it’s important that the domain and host is registered under a company and not an individual. This avoids conflicts and lowers risks if something happens to the individual.”
The Company Now
Datagrav is now trading on the open market, working with major organizations, state-owned enterprises, and ministries. According to Sergey Kochuguyev, by using a Russian cloud, Datagrav has a marketing advantage: the leading Russian provider and huge data centers; that is convincing and reassuring for clients.
Datagrav has clients in Russia and abroad. Their solutions are used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Energy, Gazprom, and other major Russian companies and think tanks. The next step is to get the word out about their services and work on their branding.