In Conversation with Elementl (Dagster), Meroxa and Superconductive (Great Expectations)

This last year has seen tremendous levels of activity for early stage startups in the data infrastructure ecosystem. At our most recent Data Driven NYC, we featured some of the rising stars:

  • Nick Schrock, Founder & CEO, Elementl (Dagster) | Elementl is building the next generation of open source data tools including Dagster, the open-source data orchestrator for machine learning, analytics, and ETL.
  • DeVaris Brown, Founder & CEO, Meroxa | Meroxa is a real-time data platform that gives data teams the tools they need to build real-time infrastructure in minutes.
  • Abe Gong, Founder & CEO, Superconductive (Great Expectations) | Superconductive is the team behind Great Expectations, the leading open source tool for defeating pipeline debt through data testing, documentation, and profiling. The company’s mission is to revolutionize the speed and integrity of data collaboration.
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In Conversation with Ali Ghodsi, CEO, Databricks

Databricks is an enterprise software giant in the making. Most recently valued at $28B in a $1B fundraise announced in February 2021, the company has global ambitions in the data and AI space.

An unlikely story of a company started by seven co-founders, most of whom were academics, built around the Spark open source project, Databricks is heading towards a monster IPO that will accelerate its rivalry with its chief competitor, Snowflake.

I had a chance to interview then co-founder and then CEO Ion Stoica at Data Driven NYC back in 2015, when Databricks was a company very aggressively courted by VCs, but still very early in commercial traction.

It was a real treat to catch up with Ali Ghodsi, who took over as CEO in 2015.

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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In Conversation with Victor Riparbelli (CEO) and Matthias Niessner (Co-Founder), Synthesia

One of the most exciting emerging areas for AI is content generation. Powered by anything from GANs to GPT-3, a new generation of tools and platforms enables the creation of highly customizable content at scale – whether text, images, audio or video – opening up a broad range of consumer and enterprise use cases.

At FirstMark, we recently announced that we had led the Series A in Synthesia, a startup providing impressive AI synthetic video generation capabilities to both creators and large enterprises.

As a follow up to our investment announcement, we had the pleasure of hosting two of Synthesia’s co-founders, Victor Riparbelli (CEO) and Matthias Niessner (co-founder and a Professor of Computer Vision at Technical University of Munich).

Some of topics we covered:

  • The rise of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) in AI
  • Use cases for synthetic video in the enterprise
  • Synthetic videos vs deep fakes
  • What’s next in the space

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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In conversation with Dev Ittycheria, CEO, MongoDB

MongoDB’s path from unlikely NYC enterprise tech startup to global category leader has been amazing to watch.

I’ve had the pleasure of hosting two of MongoDB’s co-founders over the years, first Dwight Merriman back in 2012 (here) and then CTO Eliot Horowitz in 2016 (here). So it was a real treat this time to get to chat with CEO Dev Ittycheria, who has been leading the company since 2014, and it particular has presided over the company’s remarkable ride in public markets since its 2017 IPO.

In addition to being a truly world-class CEO, Dev has had an outsized impact on the New York tech scene, as he’s been playing a central role both at MongoDB and also at Datadog, where he’s been a long time board member (after leading the company’s Series B back in 2014).

We had a wide-ranging conversation where we covered:

  • Dev’s journey as a CEO and investor
  • The evolution of enterprise tech in New York
  • MongoDB’s database as a service offering, Atlas
  • Newest products and product roadmap
  • Open source
  • GTM strategies, bottoms up vs top down
  • Lessons in scaling the team
  • Being a student of the game rather than a master of the game
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In Conversation with Florian Douetteau, CEO, Dataiku

Dataiku (in which I’m a proud investor and board member) has had an impressive ride over the last few years. An early entrant in the enterprise Data Science and Machine Learning platform category, the company successfully expanded from its French/European roots to build a very strong presence in the US (where it is company is now headquartered) and, increasingly, Asia.

Along the way, Dataiku:

  • became a unicorn, most recently raising a $100M Series D in 2020
  • was named a “Leader” in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Data Science and ML Platforms in both 2020 and 2021
  • collected many accolades, such as CB Insight’s “AI 100” and several of Forbes lists: “Cloud 100”, “AI 50” and “America’s best startup employers in 2021”

It was really fun to host CEO Florian Douetteau at Data Driven NYC once again, after previous appearances in 2016 (here) and 2018 (here). We covered a bunch of different topics, including:

  • What enterprise AI is about: not flying cars, but optimizing hundreds of business processes
  • Why enterprises need to move past their fear of data and AI
  • The key principles behind the design of the Dataiku platform: handling the entire data lifecycle, and democratizing data/AI across teams
  • Dataiku’s partnership with Snowflake
  • The upcoming launch of their starter / SMB self-serve product, Dataiku Online

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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In Conversation with Bindu Reddy, CEO, Abacus

At our most recent Data Driven NYC, we had the great pleasure of hosting Bindu Reddy, CEO and co-founder Abacus AI, and formerly GM & creator of AI verticals at AWS, and an ex-Googler. Bindu also has a very witty and entertaining Twitter account (@bindureddy), where she talks about all things machine learning and AI.

This was a very educational and approachable conversation, where we covered:

  • some key definitions: neural networks, weights and biases, supervised vs unsupervised learning, feature store
  • Applying neural networks to structured, tabular data
  • Abacus’ vision around “autonomous AI”
  • How companies wait too long to start experimenting in ML/AI

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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In Conversation with Dave Burgess, Head of Data Engineering, Pinterest

Pinterest is near and dear to our hearts at FirstMark because we had the good fortune of being the first institutional investor back in 2009 when the company was just getting started (fun fact: the founders were in New York for a brief moment in time before moving to the Bay Area). Pinterest has had a remarkable ride ever since, and it’s a $49B market cap public company at the time of writing.

So it was a particular pleasure to welcome Dave Burgess, Head of Data Engineering, to come and talk to the Data Driven NYC audience about all things data at Pinterest.

We covered a bunch of interesting topics, including:

  • Pinterest’s newly open sourced project, QueryBook
  • The stack Pinterest uses to manage is 400 petabytes of data
  • The use cases for data analytics and machine learning at Pinterest

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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In conversation with Arjun Narayan, CEO, Materialize

Real-time data streaming is an increasingly crucial part of the data ecosystem. While financial services (trading) initially represented the bulk of the demand for streaming, the emergence of more mature technology in the space has unlocked more use cases, which in turn created more demand for better technology.

At a recent Data Driven NYC, we had a very interesting conversation with Arjun Narayan, CEO of Materialize, “the only true SQL streaming database for building internal tools, interactive dashboards, and customer-facing experiences”. Materialize is headquartered in New York and has raised $40M in venture capital money (with a new round rumored to be announced soon, at the time of writing).

This was a very educational discussion, where we covered the following topics:

  • What is streaming? What is Kakfa?
  • Why is there a need for a streaming database for analytics?
  • Why is SQL underrated?
  • What is Materialize?
  • Partnering with DBT to make streaming ubiquitous
  • Materializes’s roadmap

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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In conversation with Chip Huyen, Writer and Computer Scientist

At our most recent Data Driven, we had the great pleasure of hosting Chip Huyen, a writer and computer scientist who also teaches machine learning design at Stanford, for a fascinating and fun conversation.

We covered a range of topics, including:

  • What is machine learning design?
  • The MLOps landscape, and how it’s both overdeveloped and under-developed
  • What is online machine learning?
  • The divergence between East and West for machine learning and data infrastructure
  • A couple of book recommendations

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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In Conversation with Jack Hanlon, VP Data, Reddit

While it’s been around for 15+ years, Reddit has been on a tear lately: a $367M Series E round announced a few weeks ago, rumors of an IPO, and plenty of Internet action with r/wallstreetbets in particular.

Interestingly, there was a major gap for many years between the central role Reddit has been playing on the Internet and its relatively small team size. While companies like Facebook are largely AI companies (see our conversation with Jerome Pesenti, Head of AI, Facebook), Reddit’s data team was tiny.

Enter Jack Hanlon, VP Data at Reddit and our guest at our most recent Data Driven NYC event. Jack has been tasked with leading the data team into rapid growth, and we had a really interesting conversations, in particular around the following points:

  • How is the data team at Reddit organized? (preview: data science, data platform, machine learning, search)
  • What’s the data stack? (preview: switch from AWS to GCP, Kafka, Airflow, Colab, Amundsen, Great Expectations, Druid/Imply…)
  • What are the key use cases for data science and machine learning at Reddit?
  • A book recommendation: “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men”

Anecdotally, Jack is our second speaker in recent memory who was a regular attendee in the early years of Data Driven NYC, before ascending to leadership responsibilities in a major Internet company! (the other being Alok Gupta, who spoke about leading data at DoorDash).

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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In conversation with Guy Podjarny, Founder & President, Snyk

In just a few years of hyper growth, Snyk has become a $2.7B unicorn, most recently raising $200M in September 2020. A developer-first security company, it has also helped usher the “DevSecOps” category.

At our most recent Data Driven NYC, we had the pleasure of hosting its Founder & President, Guy Podjarny, zooming in late at night from Israel.

We covered many interesting topics, including:

  • What does DevSecOps mean?
  • How did Snyk initially get developers to care, and how did they expand horizontally from there?
  • What is infrastructure as code?
  • Thoughts Snyk Code and Snyk’s vulnerability database
  • The nuances of combining a bottoms-up, freemium motion focused on developers, with an enterprise motion focused on economic buyers of Snyk’s products.

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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Introducing Kedro: Yetunde Dada, Principal Product Manager at QuantumBlack

If you follow the various talks at Data Driven NYC, and the data ecosystem on general, it’s plenty apparent that the overall tooling for data, data science and machine learning is still in its infancy, particularly compared to the software stack.

While this may feel ironic (yes, I really do think) given the billions in venture capital money that have been poured in the space, it’s worth remembering that the data stack (at least in its “big data” phase) is relatively recent (10-15 years), while the software stack has had several decades of evolution.

In many organizations, the data science and machine learning stack looks a collection of various tools, some open source, some proprietary, glued together with one-off scripts. Teams started experimenting with one tool, then another, then created ad hoc pathways to make it all work together over time, and before you knew it, you ended up with complex environments that are painful to manage.

In response to this situation, various machine learning frameworks have emerged to make abstract away the complexity. Several of those frameworks were developed internally at large tech comapanies to solve their own problems, and then open sourced.

Kedro is one such example. It was developed and maintained by QuantumBlack, an analytics consultancy acquired by McKinsey in 2015. It’s McKinsey’s first open-source product.

Kedro is somewhat hard to categorize. If it had its own category, it might be considered a Machine Learning Engineering Framework.  What React did for front-end engineering code is what Kedro does for machine learning code. It allows you to build “design systems” of reusable machine learning code.

At our most recent Data Driven NYC, we had the great pleasure of hosting Yetunde Dada, a Principal Product Manager at QuantumBlack, who has been the key driving force behind Kedro.

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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In conversation with Alok Gupta, Head Of Data Science & Machine Learning at DoorDash

Hosting Alok Gupta at our most recent Data Driven NYC was special for a couple of reasons.

First, because Alok is the very talented head of data science and machine learning in a company that has all sorts of really interesting use cases for AI and just had a phenomenal IPO, valuing it at $60B at the time of writing.

Second, because it was a homecoming of sorts for Alok, whose journey in the field of data science was inspired in part by Data Driven NYC – as he puts it:

This also feels like it nicely completes my journey starting 8 years ago when I was working on Wall Street in 2013 and started coming to your monthly evening talks at the Bloomberg building to learn more about ‘Data Science’. That was really a launching point for me to switch from trading to DS, and I’m grateful to be able to give back in a small way :).

One of those stories that brings joy to the heart of the organizers of this community!

Here are the video, as well as a full transcript for easy perusal:

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In Conversation with Tristan Handy (Fishtown/DBT) and Jeremiah Lowin (Prefect)

As we close an incredibly active year in the world of data infrastructure, it was a particular treat to host at Data Driven NYC two of the most thoughtful founders in the space, for an in-depth conversation about key trends.

Tristan Handy, is the Founder & CEO of Fishtown Analytics, makers of DBT. DBT is one of the most popular, open-source, command-line tools that enable data analysts and engineers to transform data in their warehouse more effectively. Based in Philadelphia, the company raised both a $12.9M Series A and a $29.5M Series B, back to back in 2020. Tristan also does a great weekly newsletter, The Data Science Roundup.

Jeremiah Lowin, Founder & CEO of Prefect. Prefect is the new standard in dataflow automation, trusted to build, run, and monitor millions of data workflows and pipelines. As another leader in the open-source world, Prefect powers data management for some of the most influential companies in the world.

We had a wide ranging conversation, covering lots of topics: the modern data stack, data lake vs data warehouse, empowering data analysts, workflow automation etc.

Video and full transcript below!

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In Conversation with Amit Bendov, CEO, Gong

It wasn’t a walk in the park. Today, Gong is a super hot company. But at that time, we got a lot of no’s, by not stupid people.  There were a lot of objections, like salespeople are going to hate it as a big brother, and Google and Amazon will compete with you“, says Amit Bendov, the CEO of Gong.

From those early days of facing skepticism, Gong has indeed become a hot startup loved by customers and ushering its own category, revenue intelligence. It’s also had tremendous fundraising success with VCs, raising $305M in less than 18 months, including a $200M round on a $2.2B valuation, announced in August 2020.

We were thrilled to welcome back Amit at Data Driven NYC, where he had spoken a few years ago, when he was CEO of SiSense.

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