Cockroach Labs, the ambitious database company with a funny name, has gone from strength to strength over the last few years. Started with three ex-Googlers in 2014, it successfully navigated in its early years the perilous waters of being an early database company that customers need to trust for mission-critical applications. Over time, it’s gained tremendous momentum with a now long list of marquee customers, and was most recently valued at $5B.
In part because we at FirstMark are proud investors in the company, we’ve featured Cockroach Labs several times at Data Driven NYC over the years: in 2014 (video), 2018 (video) and 2020 (video), and it’s been really fun to see their tremendous progress.
It was great to host CEO Spencer Kimball once again and check in on the latest, as well as lessons learned building a successful open source enterprise software company.
We covered a bunch of really interesting things, including:
The origins of the company
The evolution of the database market from SQL to NoSQL to NewSQL to cloud
The current opportunity around serverless
Open source license questions
Go to market: community led, bottoms up, top down?
Who’s the perfect first sales hire for an enterprise software company
In addition to his role as co-founder and Chief Analytics Officer of Mode, a leading collaborative data platform, Benn Stancil is a prolific and thought-provoking writer about the broad data space. Over the last couple of years in particular, he’s produced a series of insightful and entertaining posts on his newsletter: https://benn.substack.com/
We had welcomed Benn at Data Driven NYC back in 2019 to talk about Mode (see the video, “The case for hiring more data analysts“), and it was great to have him back from a wide-encompassing conversation where he addressed some of the “sacred cows” of the data world.
One of the most interesting conversations on the space we’ve had recently, highly recommended watch!
The only thing better than VC pontification in general is VC pontification *in French*
Thanks Sabrina Quagliozzi and BFM Business for giving me the opportunity to chat about the current state of VC markets on Tech & Co. at the NASDAQ on Times Square.
Certainly a big pull back in venture and growth investing so far this year – the header above says “Markets: after the party, investors have a hangover” (!)… but many reasons to be hopeful, as the long term trends around digital transformation, AI and automation will only accelerate from here.
Also, the NYC tech ecosystem is on 🔥🔥 and a perfect home in the US for European startups
In a world where everything moves ever faster, it seems inevitable that data infrastructure will need to move sooner or later to a predominantly real-time paradigm. Yet the infrastructure for real-time data is still trailing far behind its batch processing cousin.
Enter Estuary, a real-time data ops platform, in which my firm FirstMark led a large seed round last year. Estuary enables you to synchronize your data products across all your systems (whether databases, SaaS, pub/sub, etc) in real-time, and also to join aggregate, join, or otherwise take action on, your data while in motion. Estuary is not a database – instead it makes your databases real time. It abstracts away the complexity of building real-time, data-intensive applications at scale.
It was a lot of fun to host at Data Driven NYC Estuary’s co-founder and CTO Johnny Graettinger for a fun, approachable and educational talk about the company, its product and the real-time data world.
Since its creation in 2014, Ledger (in which FirstMark is a very proud investor) has rapidly evolved to become one of the key global players in the entire crypto and web3 ecosystem.
Ledger is mostly known as the world’s top provider of hardware wallets. Over 15% of the world’s crypto assets are secured through Ledger Nanos, with more than 4 millions units already sold in 180 countries.
But Ledger goes much beyond hardware, providing apps and services through Ledger Live, enterprise solutions, and more.
It was great to get a chance to chat with Ledger’s CEO, Pascal Gauthier, in the context of Crypto Driven.
We had a wide ranging conversation, covering in particular:
the fundamental benefits of hardware to secure digital assets
what core technology exists within a Ledger device
Ledger Live, the company’s app and software platform for buying, selling, swaping and staking crypto
Ledger Enterprise, the company’s B2B offering
Some of the new products announced at Ledger’s bi-annual flagship event, Ledger Op3n, including Ledger Market, a new secure NFT Platform, and Ledger Enterprise Create, a secure platform for brands to scale their Web3 operations with a key focus on NFTs, giving them the treasury management, NFT creation and ownership capabilities they need.
In the world of data infrastructure, dbt Labs has undoubtedly been one of the most exciting startups to watch. The company is the creator and maintainer of dbt, a data transformation tool that enables data analysts and engineers to transform, test and document data in the cloud data warehouse. Beyond this, the company is empowering a new generation of data analysts and enabling them to create and disseminate organizational knowledge.
dbt’s CEO, Tristan Handy, is also one of the most thoughtful and interesting CEOs in the space, having played a pivotal role in the emergence of what’s often referred to as the “Modern Data Stack”, a suite of tools and processes that leverage the power of cloud data warehouses to bring data processing to the modern era.
We had the pleasure of hosting Tristan once during the pandemic in 2021 for a greatonlinechat with Jeremiah Lowin, CEO of Prefect. It was a particular treat to welcome back Tristan, this time for our first in-person event since 2020!
As enterprises around the world deploy machine learning and AI in actual production, it’s becoming increasingly critical that AI can be trusted to produce not just accurate, but also fair and ethical results. An interesting market opportunity has opened up to equip enterprises with the tools to address those issues.
At our most recent Data Driven NYC, we had a great chat with Krishna Gade, co-founder and CEO of Fiddler, a platform to “monitor, observe, analyze and explain your machine learning models in production with an overall mission to make AI trustworthy for all enterprises”. Fiddler has aised $45 million in venture capital to date, most recently a $32 million Series B just last year in 2021.
We got a chance to cover some great topics, including:
What does “explainability” mean, in the context of ML/AI? What is “bias detection”?
What are some examples of business impact of “models gone bad”?
A dive into the Fiddler product and how it addresses the above?
Where are we in the cycle of actually deploying ML/AI in the enterprise? What’s the actual state of the market?
In the ever vibrant world of the “Modern Data Stack” (an ecosystem of mostly young tech startups that represent the rising generation of data software vendors, and integrate well with one another), Hex has been getting increasing visibility and momentum. At its core, Hex is a collaborative data platform where teams can explore, analyze, and share. It aims to bring together the best of notebooks, BI & docs into a seamless, collaborative UI.
The company was founded in 2019 and you raised a total of $73.5 million in venture capital to date, including most recently a $52 million Series B.
CEO Barry McCardel joined us at Data Driven NYC for a deep dive in to the product, the company, the data space and his journey from doing “unholy things in Excel” as a young consultant to building a great startup.
Meltem is one of the most visible and most thoughtful personalities in the crypto / web3 world and it was a real pleasure to welcome her at Crypto Driven.
In addition to running her always entertaining Twitter account, Meltem is Chief Strategy Officer of CoinShares, a digital asset investment firm that manages $4B in assets on behalf of a global client base. She previously played a senior strategic and investing role at Digital Currency Group (in which my firm FirstMark is a proud investor).
We covered some great topics including:
The three phases of evolution of the crypto market
How crypto is impacting culture
Why Bitcoin has a unique place in the pantheon of crypto currencies
Why Meltem is a shitcoin minimalist
Why Meltem is excited about BitFi (DeFi on top of bitcoin)
Are we witnessing a major VC pullback? Is it temporary? What does that mean for startups? Certainly the topic du jour in startup circles.
Here’s what I’m seeing.
IS THE PULLBACK REAL?
Yes. The market is a bit all over the place, not everyone fully agrees on what’s happening, and certainly a number of financings are still taking place. But the pullback is real and already starting to show in the data (CB Insights Q1’22 report).
My sense is that the current reality of the market is a lot worse, because deal data is a trailing indicator – financings are often announced months after they closed.
We’ve rapidly, perhaps brutally, transitioned from a hyper frothy VC environment to a world where many deals are not getting done.
As more and more companies around the world rely on data for competitive advantage and mission-critical needs, the stakes have increased tremendously, and data infrastructure needs to be utterly reliable.
In the applications world, the need to monitor and maintain infrastructure gave rise to an entire industry, and iconic leaders like Datadog. Who will be the Datadog of the data infrastructure world? A handful of data startups have thrown their hat in the ring, and Monte Carlo is certainly one of the most notable companies in that group.
Monte Carlo presents itself as an end-to-end dataobservability platform that aims to increases trust in data by eliminating data downtime, so engineers innovate more and fix less. Started in 2019, the company has already raised $101M in venture capital, most recently in a Series C announced in August 2021.
It was a real pleasure to welcome Monte Carlo’s co-founder and CEO, Barr Moses, for a fun and educational conversation about data observavibility and the data infrastructure world in general.
Chainalysis has been been playing a key role in the crypto ecosystem. As the leader in the blockchain data and intelligence market, it’s made it easier for many financial and government institutions to feel more comfortable with the space.
Chainalysis has been growing fast, having raised $360 million of venture capital to date, including most recently in Series E at $4.2 billion valuation.Before founding Chainalysis, he was the COO of Payward, the leading Euro to Bitcoin exchange. Importantly he was also a co-founder of the crypto exchange, Kraken, in San Francisco. He holds a PhD in quantum mechanics, no big deal.