In Conversation with Carolyn Mooney, CEO, Nextmv

Our business lives are full of optimization problems – scheduling, time management, resource planning, pricing, routing, risk management, network optimization, financial engineering, etc. Simply defined, optimization is the science of making the best decision possible, given a set of constraints.

Historically, optimization has been the province of PhDs with deep backgrounds in mathematics, using a generation of software that was developed for academia and large defense contractors.

Enter Nextmv (proncounded “Next Move”), a company in which I’m a proud investor. Nextmv is reinventing the space for the cloud era, making optimization and simulation technologies available to every developer.

It was great to welcome Nextmv’s CEO, Carolyn Mooney, at our most recent Data Driven NYC to talk abotu the space and the company.

We covered:

  • What is decision intelligence, and how does it differ from business intelligence and data science?
  • What is the overlap with the area known as “operations research”?
  • How decision intelligence is broadly horizontal area
  • How Nextmv is democratizing decision intelligence with its cloud product
  • Bonus: Nextmv’s policy of radical transparency on team compensation

Below is the video and full transcript.

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In conversation with Felix Van de Maele, CEO, Collibra

The world of data governance is not the most visible part of the data revolution, yet it is of critical importance. As more and more data floats into the enterprise, and its role is ever more mission critical, one needs to be in full control of it – understand where data resides, who can have access to it, which datasets can be trusted or not, etc.

Enter Collibra, a startup that has had a long march towards success, as it was founded in 2008. Collibra has now become an impressive industry leader and raised a $250 million Series G at a post money valuation of $5.25 billion last year.

We had had the chance to host Stan Christiaens, the co-founder and CTO of Collibra at Data Driven NYC in 2017 (video here), and this time we got a chance to chat with the company’s CEO, Felix Van de Maele.

We had a great conversation, starting with a round of definitions that should be interesting to anyone curious to better understand that side of the data world.

Below is the video and full transcript.

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In Conversation with Amir Haleem, CEO, Helium

In a crypto industry that outsiders often like to criticize for its supposed lack of clear use cases, Helium stands out. The New York Times recently recognized this reality in a recent article, saying “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All.”

Helium is a decentralized wireless network, powered by cryptocurrency. Mostly focused on powering “internet of things” devices for now, it’s been rapidly evolving towards 5G.

The Helium network has experienced remarkable success over the last few years – it’s built a global network of almost 670,000 hotspots deployed around the world (see discussion to understand more about hotspots).

As most “overnight successes”, however, Helium has been many years in the making. I’ve had the honor of being part of (almost) the whole journey, as I wrote on behalf of FirstMark the first institutional check into the company back in 2013 (what would be known today as a pre-seed), and reinvested a number of times since.

Along the way, we’ve had Helium speak at our FirstMark events several times, which is a fun reminder of the journey: then CTO Sean Carey in 2014 (here), and CEO Amir Haleem in 2017 (here) and 2018 (here).

So it was great to welcome Amir back once again to chat about the latest.

Below is the video and full transcript.

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In Conversation with Kyle Samani, Managing Partner, Multicoin

Multicoin Capital is one of the top crypto-native funds, and we’ve had the pleasure of working with them at Helium, a shared investment. The firm was founded in 2017 and they raised their second venture fund ($100M) in 2021, with another one (reportedly) to be announced soon.

At our Crypto Driven event, we hosted co-founder and Managing Partner Kyle Samani, who is widely recognized in the crypto ecosystem for his writing and system-level analysis.

We covered a bunch of interesting topics including:

  • Multicoin’s portfolio strategy and preferred investment structure
  • Their big bet on Solana
  • Why is composability important
  • Why they’re excited about Web3 infrastructure as a key investment them

Below is the video and full transcript.

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In Conversation with Azeem Azhar, Author, The Exponential Age

For all the excitement about the explosive pace of progress in AI and technology that many readers of this blog will share, there’s an undeniable feeling of uneasiness: things are perhaps moving too fast and having second order effects across society that we are just beginning to truly appreciate.

The Exponential Age is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It’s a bold exploration and call-to-arms over the widening gap between AI, automation, big data and other emerging technologies, on the one hand, and our ability to deal with their impact, on the other hand. Those technologies are growing at an exponential pace but our society is not. This “exponential gap” explains many problems of our time – from political polarization to ballooning inequality to unchecked corporate power.

It was a real pleasure to host at our most recent Data Driven event its excellent author, Azeem Azhar, an entrepreneur, investor, renowned technology analyst and host of the global tech podcast Exponential View.

Below is the video and full transcript.

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In Conversation with Emil Eifrem, Founder and CEO, Neo4j

The last couple of years have seen a dramatic acceleration in the adoption of graph databases, a category of databases that stores nodes and relationships instead of tables, or documents.  That acceleration has clearly benefited Neo4j, which had a banner year in 2021, surpassing $100M in ARR and closing a $325M series F financing round at over $2B valuation, which it calls “the largest funding round in database history”.

That would make Neo4j an overnight success, except for the fact that Neo4j started in 20007, pioneered the space and literally coined the term “graph database”.

Neo4j’s CEO, Emil Eifrem, had spoken at Data Driven NYC back in 2015 (the same night as the CEO of Snowflake and the CEO of Airtable, a pretty stacked line up considering those three startups combined went on to represent many billions of market cap/valuations).

So it was particularly fun to have Emil back at the event and exciting to hear about the major progress the company has experienced over the last few years. Emil spoke from Sweden at around midnight his time, bringing impressive energy despite the late hour and it was a great conversation.

Below is the video and full transcript.

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In conversation with Richard Craib, Founder, Numerai

I’ve been interested in the intersection of AI and crypto for a while (see AI & Blockchain: An introduction), and Numerai is one of the most exciting companies I came across in that world. Numerai is a new kind of crowdsourced quant hedge fund, which provides data for free and enables any data scientist around the planet to contribute models they believe will beat the stock market. Numerai offers its own token, called Numeraire, to incentivize participants.

As it turns out, this model delivers exciting results, and Numerai announced a few months ago that it had outperformed market neutral hedge funds by 29%.

It was a real pleasure welcoming Richard Craib, founder of Numerai, to Data Driven NYC to talk about the very exciting work Numerai has been doing.

Below is the video and full transcript.

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New Investment: Softr

At FirstMark, we believe that every company is going to become not just a software company, but a data company.

For that to happen, it is essential that technologies that leverage data be democratized. For the foreseeable future, the global demand for digital innovation will continue to vastly outweigh the number of developers, engineers and scientists. Therefore, some of the technical complexity must be abstracted away to enable a broader group of people to build data-driven products and companies.

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My VC resolutions for 2022

1. Be a mentor: give interns the chance to ghost-write my meme tweets and Web3 thought leadership posts

2. Improve work/life balance: minimize non-public effort, such as board work, due diligence

3. Show humility: use the word “humbled” more often

4. Think ahead: e.g., take pics with early stage founders for future “how it started, how it’s going” IPO posts

5. Be proactive: e.g, remove names of unsuccessful investments from all my social profiles

6. Listen more: speaking 90% of the time in meetings is too much – 80% is plenty

7. Share knowledge: be better at telling founders what to do based on my own experience as a founder 17 years ago in a different industry

8. Add value: reply to every single founder question with 🚀🚀🚀

Happy new year everyone, let’s go!

Celebrating 10 years of Data Driven NYC

Sometime in the Fall of 2011, I was looking for a community in New York where a non-technical person like me could learn about about “Big Data”. 

I couldn’t find any.  So, on a whim on a November Sunday night, I logged on and created a group.  

After thinking about it for about 30 seconds, I came up with a oh-so-catchy name for it:  the New York Data Business Meetup. 

And so started a 10-year journey of community and network building, and an immensely fun and rewarding chapter of my professional life.

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I am a VC. Here’s my daily routine.

I am a venture capitalist. Here’s my daily routine.

8am: Wake up hungover from a crypto dinner.

While in bed, tweet how refreshed I feel from a great night on my Eightsleep and my 1-hour morning meditation.

9am: look at my reflection in the mirror and say “you are *not* getting disrupted by Tiger”. Repeat 10x, increasingly loudly.

10am: Look at the list of deal announcements on VC newsletters. Feel vaguely nauseous. “Should have done that one”. Then “oh, that one, too. And probably that one…”

11am: Haven’t tweeted in a while. Time for some thought leadership. What would Naval say?

11:30am: Debate how to reach out to a founder to tell them I “heard good things”. Email? Too cheugy. Text? Creepy. Telegram? Bit desperate. Signal? This job is so hard.

Continue reading “I am a VC. Here’s my daily routine.”

In Conversation with Mark Grover, CEO, Stemma

As the volume of data in the enterprise continues to explode, with ever large amounts stored in data warehouses and data lakes, the problem of data discovery has become an increasingly painful one. How do data analysts, data scientists and business people find not just data, but the right data for the problem they need to solve? How do they know how it was produced, how recently it was updated and whether that’s the right dataset they need to use? In addition, from an organization’s perspective, there’s a question of data governance – how to manage access in a way that preserves data security and privacy, and ensures compliance with data protection regulations (GDPR, CCPA, etc.).

Data catalogs have been a powerful response to those problems, and that category has seen renewed activity in the last couple of years with a whole new group of startup entrants.

At our most Data Driven NYC, we got a chance to chat Mark Grover, co-founder and CEO of Stemma and the co-creator of Amundsen, the leading open source data discovery and metadata engine. Mark built Amundsen while he was a product manager at Lyft and started Stemma to offer a fully managed Amundsen.

It was a fun conversation about the space. Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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In Conversation with Aaron Katz, Co-Founder & CEO, ClickHouse

Ask anyone who spends time in the data ecosystem, and the name “ClickHouse” is one that has come up countless times in conversations over the last few years.

ClickHouse is a real-time OLAP (meaning, analytical) database that is known for its performance and scalability, and has a wide footprint of users around the world.

ClickHouse started its life at Yandex, the Russian search giant. It was originally created as an internal web analytics tool called Metrica, which evolved around 2009 into “Clickstream Data Warehouse” or ClickHouse for short.

The product was open sourced in 2016 and became a very popular project, with adoption at impressive scale by a number of companies including Yandex (10s of trillions of rows), Uber, Ebay, Cloudflare, Spotify, Deutsche Bank, and more.

ClickHouse was spun out into early 2021 into ClickHouse, Inc., a commercial company co-founded by Aaron Katz, Alexey Milovidov (ClickHouse’s creator), and Yury Izarilevsky (ex-Google VP Engineering), with a focus on bringing ClickHouse to all types of companies via a managed version.

ClickHouse Inc raised a $50M Series A announced in September, followed closely by a $250M Series B last month, in which my firm, FirstMark, participated.

It was a treat to welcome Aaron Katz, the Co-Founder and CEO of ClickHouse, Inc. to Data Driven NYC. Prior to co-founding ClickHouse, Aaron had extensive experience as a world-class sales leader, most recently as the Chief Revenue Officer at Elastic and the Senior Vice President of Enterprise Sales at Salesforce

Below is the video and below that, the transcript.

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2021 MAD Landscape: The Top 10 Trends

For anyone interested in a quick overview of our long-form 2021 Machine Learning, AI and Data (MAD) Landscape, here are the Cliffs Notes! My co-author John and I did a presentation at our most recent Data Driven NYC, focused on top 10 trends in this year’s landscape.

As a preview, here they are:

  • Every company is a data company
  • The big unlock: data warehouses and lakehouses
  • Consolidation vs data mesh: the future is hybrid
  • An explosive funding environment
  • A busy year in DataOps
  • It’s time for real time
  • The action moves to the right side of the warehouse
  • The rise of AI generated content
  • From MLOps to ModelOps
  • The continued emergence of a separate Chinese AI stack

Below is the video from the event, and below that, the transcript.

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A guide to understanding founder/VC fundraising conversations


“Let’s take it from the top” = I have not read your deck

“There’s a lot to unpack here” = I have no idea what you just said

“We’re a very collaborative VC firm” = who else is in?

“Before VC, I was an operator” = I was a product manager for 9 months at YouTube, 10 years after it was acquired

“We can move aggressively” = we’ll take our time unless you’re also talking to Tiger?

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