Exclusive Interview: Eric Gries, Lucid Imagination
July 27, 2010
It’s not everyday that you find a revolutionary company like Lucid Imagination that’s blazing a new trail in the Open Source world whose CEO described the firm as being at 90 degrees to the traditional search business model.
Still, that’s the way that Eric Gries refers to Lucene/Solr’s impact on the search and content processing market. “The traditional search industry has not changed much in 30 years. Lucid Imagination’s approach is new, disruptive, and able to deliver high value solutions without the old baggage. We have flipped the old ideas of paying millions and maybe getting a solution that works. We provide the industrial strength software and then provide services that the client needs. The savings are substantial. Maybe we are now taking the right angle?”, he asked with a big smile?”
This pivot in the market reflects the destabilizing impact of open source search, and the business that Mr. Gries is building at supersonic speeds. “Traditional search is like taking a trip on a horse drawn cart. Lucid Imagination’s approach is quick, agile, and matched to today’s business needs.”
A seasoned executive in in software and information management, Mr. Gries uses the phrase to capture his firm’s meteoric rise in the Open Source world and how the success of its Open Source model is giving traditional competitors such as Autonomy, Endeca, and Microsoft Fast indigestion.
Mr. Gries’s background speaks of the right pedigree for a professional who is at the helm of a successful startup.
He got his start at Cullinet Software. “I started in the computer sciences and joined my first company as part of the development team,” Cullinet Software was an early leader–databases were young, and relational databases, made famous by Larry Ellison, were just getting out of the gate,” he recently told Beyond Search. After he got his MBA, he moved more into the business side, among other things, building the Network System Management Division at Compuware. He’s brought solid credentials in software services from his experience to the new venture at Lucid Imagination, a start up with substantial venture backing.
Eric Gries, the mastermind of the Lucene Revolution. Source: Lucid Imagination, www.lucidimagination.com
He was first attracted to search and data and the relevant issues there. The lure of Open Source came later.
“The thing that attracted me to Open Source at first was the fact that search was really growing in leaps and bounds,” he said and he’s understandably proud of what the company has been able to accomplish so far.
“Lucene/Solr is software that is as good or better than most of the other commercial offerings in terms of scalability, relevance and performance.”
He talked recently about how it was important to him to put together the right kind of advisory guidance, drawing on people with real world experience in the technology and business of Open Source.
“I was new to the space, so very early on I put together a very strong advisory board of Open Source luminaries that were very helpful.”
Lucid Imagination, of which Gries is President and CEO, was launched in 2009, and is only in its second year of operation. Lucid closed millions of dollars worth of business in their first year. The recipe for success that includes a deep level of involvement and collaboration with the community outside Lucid, communities and and ensuring the technology gets the right kind of attention in terms of vital needs like quality and flexibility that drive the appetite of organizations for search technology.
The value of the business is about search, not open source. The company is riding on the trends of search and Open Source which Mr. Gries says is being accepted more and more as a mainstay of the enterprise.
The establishment has taken notice as well with companies who understand the value of trailblazers like Red Hat — ‘opening doors’ for Lucene/Solr according to Mr. Gries — and in turn helping them to establish themselves as a second generation supplier of Open Source technology solutions.
Mr. Gries’s enthusiasm for his new type of business model is infectious and he enjoys pointing out the pride and dedication that goes into the work that gets done at Lucid, located in the heart of Silicon Valley.
“We added low cost to the metrics of scalability, relevance and performance so there’s really no good reason to use any commercial software with all due respect,” he added.
One of the more interesting aspects of Lucid is the fact that the firm has received $16 million in venture funding and is already getting an impressive list of clients on their roster that includes names like LinkedIn, Cisco, and Zappos, now a unit of the giant Amazon.
It’s clear that Mr. Gries has been able to understand that Open Source has been able to displace some commercial search solutions, and for him the reasons are simple that the software is downloaded at the blistering pace of thousands of units a day.
“Now the software is good and industry sees that there is a commercial entity committed to working with them, we want the enterprise to see they can work with Open Source,” he noted.
Still, while there is what’s been described as considerable momentum among some developers for this technology, some senior information technology managers and some purchasing professionals are less familiar with Open Source software and Lucene/Solr.
That’s where Mr. Gries understands the need to get the word out on the firm. He has learned that the education of the market is critical and hopes to build on the successes that Lucid Imagination achieved with sponsoring a developer conference in Prague earlier this year . It was so successful another—the Lucene Revolution— is planned for Boston in October.
Mr. Gries prides himself on the fact that the products created are all about a fresh business model with no distance between the developer and user. He’s proud of the success that the Lucene/Solr technology and community, along with his company, have enjoyed so far and likes to point out in his own way that one of their biggest goals beyond added value is increasing their market exposure for what he call this second generation Open Source.
“We are at 90 degrees to the typical search business model. We’re disruptive. We are making the competition explain a business model that is not matched to today’s financial realities. The handcuffs of traditional software licenses won’t fit companies that need agility and high value solutions,” he said. “ The software is already out there and running mission critical solutions. One of our tasks to to make sure people understand what is available now, and the payoffs available right now.”
He points to the fact that success came so early for Lucene/Solr the company has just put their 24/7 customer service in place.
Open source means leveraging a community. Lucid combines the benefits of open source software with exceptional support and service. For more information about the company, its Web site is at www.lucidimagination.com.
Stephen E Arnold, July 27, 2010
I have been promised a free admission to the Lucene Revolution in October 2010.