Cambridge Intelligence: Ten memories that shaped us

2021 marked a significant milestone at Cambridge Intelligence as we reached our 10 year anniversary.

It’s been a time for reflection, gratitude and celebration. I’ve also had some fun rummaging through old photos and souvenirs and collecting memories from teammates to learn more about the people we’ve met, the places we’ve traveled to and the character-building experiences we’ve shared.

In this blog post, I’ll walk you through some of the top highlights from an incredible decade.

1: Cooking up KeyLines

Google began in a garage, Dell started out in a college dorm room. Cambridge Intelligence came to life at the kitchen table of Joe, our founder and CEO, back in May 2011.

Joe working in his kitchen

The work of a CEO never stops: Joe working from the kitchen table, and later struggling to get away from code during his first family vacation since starting the business

He quickly realized that they couldn’t launch a business in such close proximity to the fridge – so Joe moved to a real desk, at the University of Cambridge ideaSpace enterprise accelerator.

2: The first sale

Joe shared a photo of himself ringing the “sales bell” (an ideaSpace tradition) to mark his first commercial deal in November 2011. He remembers, “It felt pretty good – now all I had to do was finish building the product!”. Thank goodness for ideaSpace’s 24-hour access, as Joe ended up coding around the clock for the next three months before KeyLines was complete and ready for release.

Joe ringing the sales bell

Joe ringing the ideaSpace bell, marking the business’ first ever sale

3: “One of the friendliest bunches you’ll come across”

In 2012, Joe had started growing the team. Consultants Rasmus and Kaush joined Joe at a networking event for young startups. Whilst there, Joe announced the very first meeting of the Cambridge JavaScript and NodeJS meetup.

Joe and Rasmus presenting

Joe and consultant Rasmus, presenting at a network event for startups in Cambridge

One of the early meetup members was to become a very familiar face. “We were very pleased (and lucky) to be joined by Phil Rodgers, who I’d worked with previously at i2,” says Joe. “He was a meetup regular for some time, and in 2013 I asked him to join the team.”

Kaush is now our director of customer success and Phil is our longest-standing developer.

“I was impressed at the networking event by a demo of KeyLines. At the time I was still working at i2, but when Joe offered me a role with Cambridge Intelligence I couldn’t resist the excitement of learning some new technologies with a small but rapidly evolving startup.”
– Phil Rodgers

Despite struggling with some dreadful WiFi, Joe and the team were able to wire in their guest speaker Isaac Schlueter, author of npm, from San Francisco. They had some lovely feedback after the event – one guest commented, “One of the friendliest bunches I’ve come across!”

4. Graph viz for dummies – first edition

By 2013, more than half of our customers were in the US, so we needed representation over the pond. In February, we incorporated Cambridge Intelligence Inc in Nevada, and Corey Lanum joined the business.

corey presenting and book

Corey speaking at one of the first GraphConnect conferences, and taking receipt of the first copies of his bestseller

He has since spoken at events around the world, from Japan to San Francisco, and has literally written the book on graph visualization.

5. An afternoon at the BBC

One of the more unexpected events of 2013 which stood out to Joe was a “nerve-wracking” afternoon at the BBC, where he explained the role of graph visualization to the audience of Newsnight, their flagship news program.

6. A trip to Downing Street

In 2015 members of the team were invited to the Prime Minister’s Office at No 10 Downing Street, to explain to the PM’s advisers how our work can help to prevent large-scale cybercrime at both a government and industry level.

That led to an invitation for Joe and Corey to join a UK trade mission to Washington DC, where they met with US federal government and security agencies, industry leaders from the American Bankers Association, and some of the world’s largest defense and military contractors.

Corey said: “It was a lot of fun getting to meet David Cameron on the trade mission along with the other companies. After talking briefly with each of us individually about what we did, he admitted to the group that he didn’t understand any of it but at least expressed a sincere desire to help us be successful. Also, the biggest exposure I’ve personally had was his office tweeting out a photo of me at the event to his 2.5 million followers.”

corey presenting and book

A screenshot of the PM’s Twitter timeline

7. A royal connection

Later in 2015, we were selected for a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation – one of the most prestigious business awards in the UK. Paola and Andrew, our Marketing Director, took a trip to the Palace to meet the queen and sample the vol-au-vents.

corey presenting and book

Paola and Andrew meeting the queen, and Joe meeting David Cameron

“Meeting the queen was a pretty incredible experience. And mingling with the royals afterwards was just surreal. At one point I turned around to find Prince Phillip looking at me. He asked me which company I was from, and when I told him, he laughed “Cambridge Intelligence – isn’t that an oxymoron?”
– Andrew Disney

8. CDVC: Data visualization specialists assemble

2017 was the year of our first Connected Data Visualization Consortium (CDVC) meeting. We hosted around 30 of our customers in Winston Churchill’s War Bunker, underneath the Treasury building in Westminster, London.

the first CDVC, plus Dan presenting at a more recent (virtual) meeting

Dan presenting at the first ever CDVC meeting in London, and at a more recent virtual CDVC meeting

Our Head of Product Management, Dan Williams, remembers that first event: “It was a room filled with dials and switches, with no windows or natural light, but the history must have inspired our guests as the engagement was fantastic. We’ve since taken CDVC all over the world and, more recently, continued it as a virtual event.

“At the inaugural CDVC meeting, we shared the first sketches of KronoGraph. In our most recent meeting, we had a customer share their implementation of the product for the first time.”

9. Predicting the FIFA Men’s World Cup

In 2018, we dipped our toes into the dangerous art of predicting the future. Developer Julia Robson recalls: “We’re always on the lookout for interesting datasets to visualize and new applications for our tools. In 2018 we used graph analysis to predict the World Cup with surprisingly accurate results.

“However, when we tried again the following year, our prediction was that France would win the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Fortunately, we didn’t bet too much on it as they got knocked out by the USA within 24 hours.”

10. Back in the kitchen

2020 was a year when so many things got turned upside down.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced us out of the office and into full-time remote working. We found ourselves back in our kitchens, spare rooms and home studies, but the team pulled together fantastically. Our usual socials continued, with socially distanced picnics, remote chocolate making, and even a full chef-created Christmas dinner.

two of many socially-distanced social events of 2020

Two of the many socially distanced social events of recent times

It also saw the launch of KronoGraph – first proposed at CDVC in 2017.

“Launching a new product is a massive deal at the best of times. Doing it whilst moving to remote working was an incredible feat. The whole team – from developers and product managers, to sales, marketing and operations – worked together brilliantly.”
– Clara Donald, Head of Development

2021 – looking to the future

It’s remarkable to look back on everything that’s happened and how far we’ve come in a decade. From Joe’s kitchen table to a team of 60 people, spread from Vancouver to Singapore. From a handful of KeyLines users in Australia, to thousands of developers across more than 40 countries.

2021 - Looking to the future

Looking to the future in 2021

Fancy joining our journey?

Check out our career and internship opportunities, or come and say hello at our next JavaScript meetup.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the talent and innovation of the team who’ve contributed over the years. Thank you to each of them, and to all our customers, partners and friends as well. Here’s to the next decade!”
– Joe Parry

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