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Wei Tang, Founder Stealth: Being fast and agile gave us the competitive advantage

Wei Tang is the Founder of Stealth. Dr. Tang has more than 20 years of experience in database core research and development. He has worked in the optimizer group in Teradata US for 11 years. He also served as Senior Manager at LinkedIn, where he led a team to develop the next generation distributed graph database powering LinkedIn’s economic graph vision. Before starting a company of his own, he served as senior director of database development at Splice Machine in San Francisco.

Dr. Tang holds a Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology, a master’s degree from the University of Alberta, Canada, and a bachelor’s degree from Peking University, all in the area of Computer Science.

More about the startup and Wei’s professional experience can be found below:

What’s the story behind Stealth?

First of all, at this moment, we have not come out of stealth mode yet. I hope the next story will be more revealing.

Throughout my career, I’ve always been a builder and problem solver. When I was at Teradata, my job was to help build an industry-leading optimizer that will be best at making decisions so databases can run queries faster and predictable; When I joined LinkedIn, my job was to build a massive graph database to make meaningful connections and interactions instantaneous between hundreds of millions of professionals worldwide; When I was at Splice Machine, a small startup in San Francisco, my job was to lead a team of enthusiasts to build a product to compete against the Goliaths of big data platform vendors. I like to build databases and data infrastructure with blazing speed and limitless scale.

But I was always trying to find better problems to solve and getting closer to people. I have been an engineer by profession. However, I’ve been hearing louder and louder my inner entrepreneurship calling. I was not satisfied with the road ahead of me, although so certain and tempting. I’ve seen enough companies struggling with different software products that are out of touch, outdated, slow, complex, isolated, expensive, difficult to use, especially in the domain of data infrastructure. None of the solutions were elegant enough. I kept thinking, there’s got to be a better way to build a data platform that is cheaper, faster, and seamless for enterprises craving for unleashing the power of data. It has to be a full data platform that eliminates the barriers for all users who have been trapped in data silos (system admin, DBA, DevOps, data engineer, data scientist, business analyst, executives, and auditor). Heck, the platform should be so easy to use that it can even drive itself (like a self-driving car). What’s more, the more you use it, the faster it should run (because it can learn from past workload patterns)!

The only way to solve the problem and quench my entrepreneurship thirst was to start a company. Fortunately, I found my co-founders who were also Teradata veterans. We all agreed on the direction of the product, market, and execution. The rest is history. Within a year, we have built a product that’s validated by customers and market.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

To figure out what the big picture will look like 3 years down the road and still be practical for the next month and where our product and market fit will be. We had to become very agile in execution. There are many competing products in the market. Customers are quite fragmented. No single product will satisfy every requirement a customer may have. Being fast and agile gave us the competitive advantage. That said, the speed of delivery would have been impossible without our experience and the compassion we had toward customers’ pains. Of course, the lack of money and short of hands are common difficulties every startup would face. 

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

Whenever I was at my wits’ end, my team could always back me up and push through challenges and deliver. We have a small team. Everyone has to wear many hats at the same time. But nobody complained, as long as we see problems solved and better problems emerging from our customers and partners. I was happy about my team’s unrelenting focus and agility. Our first product was released within 6 months after we formed the company.

What is your vision for the future of Stealth?

In the past, databases and data infrastructures have been deemed heavy and inflexible. I want to totally change that perception. I want to build a data platform that will make the narrative of data easy for everyone. I’m building a foundation of connected digital enterprises as LinkedIn did for working professionals. It should serve companies big and small with insights fast and deep, garnered from and empowered by data. 

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

Prepare for the worst and be flexible, and willing to think the unthinkable. The bottom line is that when you truly believe in something, you’ll find ways to get it done. Have grit. This pandemic may be the biggest challenge humanity has seen in the past few decades. Everybody, rich or poor, has been hit. It’s been especially hard for families with seniors and small kids. In this uncertain time, we need to be strong and resourceful. Businesses will have to find more ways to serve their customers better, more efficiently, with lower cost. This is where true entrepreneurship will shine. Business owners will have to dig deep into their network and find help whenever they can. I’ve been using LinkedIn as a platform to connect people who may help me and oftentimes people reach out to me to offer help and guidance. The strong human connection will go a long way in difficult times. I also opted in a mentorship program on the platform to offer advice and guidance to young professionals in the tech field. I’d suggest others offer free help as well. Be empathetic.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

I have developed the habit of listening to podcasts or audiobooks before falling asleep. My most favorite topics are technology, entrepreneurship/leadership, biography, and history. I like to listen to Masters of Scale and The Knowledge Project. 

I enjoyed these books lately: The Lean Entrepreneur, Valley of Genius, and How Asia Works.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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