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Happy Anniversary, Zebras!  

By Octavia Drexler • Last updated

This story's got it all: strangers meeting and deciding to build something big together, sleeping on friends' couches because they need to save money for the company, happenstance and lightbulb moments, attending events together, playing FIFA together -- all the way to making it (also together.)  

If you think we're re-framing the story of Facebook or Uber or Airbnb or Spotify, think again.  

This is the story of Zebra BI. A startup from Slovenia that took over the world.  

In the beginning, there was...  

A word about a course on data visualization, held in Switzerland, in 2006.  

Doesn't sound like much, but it was music to Andrej's ears. So much so he took two days of vacation, booked a flight, and went over to meet Professor Doctor Rolf Hichert.  

If they ever make a movie about Zebra BI, Hans Zimmer would definitely make the soundtrack for the moment Andrej and Professor Hichert met. By the end of that one training in 2006, the two were already exchanging ideas that would lay the foundation for a fantastic partnership – and what would later become Zebra BI.  

"And I thought, well, this is a smart kid from Slovenia. But I didn't think he might change the world -- or that we might change the world together."  

-- Professor Doctor Rolf Hichert 

Taking roots  

Airbnb started by renting out air mattresses in a loft.  

Zebra BI started off as an Excel plugin.  

Hearing that many other people had the same requirements and needs as the ideas he had been mulling over, Andrej got to work and developed a simple Excel plugin that helped people visualize their data more efficiently.  

When, in 2012, Andrej showed this tool at a conference in Germany, Professor Hichert encouraged him to take this further. Seeing as the feedback was great, Andrej returned home ready to further develop his idea.  

He didn’t lose any time: he posted a job ad for a software developer, met Mitja, and started what we now know as Zebra BI.  

Clients started rolling in – Beta testers at first, Enterprise clients soon followed.  

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Owl Analytics. Cheetah BI.  

Finding a name for the product was tough. The team knew where they wanted to take the product. They knew what the market wanted (and needed.)  

Finding the name for this new product?  

Not as easy as you’d think. 

After much deliberation and what we can only imagine was an exhausting brainstorming session, the team came up with an idea: what if they took inspiration from animals?  

We're not saying Owl Analytics and Cheetah BI weren't options, but we're saying they might have slipped into the discussion before Mitja suggested "zebra."  

Because, like zebras, our reports have stripes!  

Simple. Clean. Visually generous.  

The name clicked – and so, a new story was born.  

Up, Up, Up and Away!  

Žiga joined Zebra BI shortly after the name was set in stone (and written on paper.)  

For years, the company ran with (largely) just him, Andrej, and Mitja -- three people who spent so much time together they became family.  

In 2017, after three years of Zebra BI for Microsoft Office, the team decided to finally go for the big fish: Power BI. That’s when the team started to grow and more zebras joined the story we’re all part of now.  

After four years of constant development and innovation, Zebra BI was ready to take a top spot in the competitive world of business intelligence.  

And they did just that.  

Today, Zebra BI has come a long way. We have more than 3,000 happy clients (including, wait for it, Microsoft themselves). We have been mentioned in Financial Times' list of top 1000 fastest-growing startups in Europe.  

The show does go on  

Ten years.  

Sixty employees.  

Countless sleepless nights.  

Today, Zebra BI is one of the big names in data visualization. It may have started in Slovenia, but it is now a product used by Fortune 500 companies all over the world.  

Those first customers? They've grown, together with us.  

In fact, many of them are so invested in our story they even attended our 10th Anniversary on June 6, in Ljubljana. A testament to how we do things at Zebra BI: we’re more than just a “product”. We’re strategic partners for each and every single one of our clients. Our customers’ success is our success. It was then, during those first years, and it remains one of our core values.  

Zebra BI now caters to Excel, PowerPoint, and Power BI using the same data visualization solutions -- an achievement that couldn't have been possible without visionary leadership and hard work.  

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As for the future?  

We have big plans.  

We won't spoil it, we'll just say we didn't buy the Zebra AI domain in time, and we're now stuck with zebra-ai. 😉 

We have you to thank for ten years of innovation, joy, and a beautiful story in the making.  

You, the people who have been supporting us from Day One, and the people who joined the party later. The oldest and the freshest customers. The people who helped us build this.  

Thank you. Here's to another 100 years of stripes and innovation! 

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