After 30 years, ‘Crossing the Chasm’ is due for a refresh

When I was at Open Market in the 1990s, our CEO gave out the recently published book “Crossing the Chasm” to the executive team and told us to read it to gain insight into why we had hit a speed bump in our scaling. We had gone from zero to $60 million in revenue in four years, went public at a billion-dollar market cap, and then stalled.

We found ourselves stuck in what author Geoffrey Moore called “the chasm,” a difficult transition from visionary early adopters who are willing to put up with an incomplete product and mainstream customers who demand a more complete product. This framework for marketing technology products has been one of the canonical foundational concepts to product-market fit for the three decades since it was first published in 1991.

Why is it that in recent years, wild-eyed optimistic VCs and entrepreneurs keep undershooting market size across the tech and innovation sector?

I have been reflecting on why it is that we venture capitalists and founders keep making the same mistake over and over again — a mistake that has become even more glaring in recent years. Despite our exuberant optimism, we keep getting the potential market size wrong. Market sizes have proven to be much, much larger than any of us had ever dreamed. The reason? Today, everyone aspires to be an early adopter. Peter Drucker’s mantra — innovate or die — has finally come to pass.

A glaring example in our investment portfolio is database software company MongoDB. Looking back at our Series A investment memo for this disruptive open-source, NoSQL database startup, I was struck that we boldly predicted the company had the opportunity to disrupt a subsegment of the industry and successfully take a piece of a market that could grow as large as $8 billion in annual revenue in future years.

Today, we realize that the company’s product appeals to the vast majority of the market, one that is forecast to be $68 billion in 2020 and approximately $106 billion in 2024. The company is projected to hit a $1 billion revenue run rate next year and, with that expanded market, likely has continued room to grow for many years to come.

Another example is Veeva, a vertical software company initially focused on the pharmaceutical industry. When we met the company for their Series A round, they showed us the classic hockey stick slide, claiming they would reach $50 million in revenue in five years.

We got over our concerns about market size when we and the founders concluded they could at least achieve a few hundred million in revenue on the backs of pharma and then expand to other vertical industries from there. Boy, were we wrong! The company filed their S-1 after that fifth year showing $130 million in revenue, and today the company is projected to hit $2 billion in revenue run rate next year, all while still remaining focused on just the pharma industry.

Veeva was a pioneer in “vertical SaaS” — software platforms that serve niche industries — which in recent years has become a popular category. Another vertical SaaS example is Squire, a company my partner Jesse Middleton angel invested in as part of a pre-seed round before he joined Flybridge.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-marketing-tech, #mongodb, #nosql, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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Meroxa raises $15M Series A for its real-time data platform

Meroxa, a startup that makes it easier for businesses to build the data pipelines to power both their analytics and operational workflows, today announced that it has raised a $15 million Series A funding round led by Drive Capital. Existing investors Root, Amplify and Hustle Fund also participated in this round, which together with the company’s previously undisclosed $4.2 million seed round now brings total funding in the company to $19.2 million.

The promise of Meroxa is that can use a single platform for their various data needs and won’t need a team of experts to build their infrastructure and then manage it. At its core, Meroxa provides a single Software-as-a-Service solution that connects relational databases to data warehouses and then helps businesses operationalize that data.

Image Credits: Meroxa

“The interesting thing is that we are focusing squarely on relational and NoSQL databases into data warehouse,” Meroxa co-founder and CEO DeVaris Brown told me. “Honestly, people come to us as a real-time FiveTran or real-time data warehouse sink. Because, you know, the industry has moved to this [extract, load, transform] format. But the beautiful part about us is, because we do change data capture, we get that granular data as it happens.” And businesses want this very granular data to be reflected inside of their data warehouses, Brown noted, but he also stressed that Meroxa can expose this stream of data as an API endpoint or point it to a Webhook.

The company is able to do this because its core architecture is somewhat different from other data pipeline and integration services that, at first glance, seem to offer a similar solution. Because of this, users can use the service to connect different tools to their data warehouse but also build real-time tools on top of these data streams.

Image Credits: Meroxa

“We aren’t a point-to-point solution,” Meroxa co-founder and CTO Ali Hamidi explained. “When you set up the connection, you aren’t taking data from Postgres and only putting it into Snowflake. What’s really happening is that it’s going into our intermediate stream. Once it’s in that stream, you can then start hanging off connectors and say, ‘Okay, well, I also want to peek into the stream, I want to transfer my data, I want to filter out some things, I want to put it into S3.”

Because of this, users can use the service to connect different tools to their data warehouse but also build real-time tools to utilize the real-time data stream. With this flexibility, Hamidi noted, a lot of the company’s customers start with a pretty standard use case and then quickly expand into other areas as well.

Brown and Hamidi met during their time at Heroku, where Brown was a director of product management and Hamidi a lead software engineer. But while Heroku made it very easy for developers to publish their web apps, there wasn’t anything comparable in the highly fragmented database space. The team acknowledges that there are a lot of tools that aim to solve these data problems, but few of them focus on the user experience.

Image Credits: Meroxa

“When we talk to customers now, it’s still very much an unsolved problem,” Hamidi said. “It seems kind of insane to me that this is such a common thing and there is no ‘oh, of course you use this tool because it addresses all my problems.’ And so the angle that we’re taking is that we see user experience not as a nice-to-have, it’s really an enabler, it is something that enables a software engineer or someone who isn’t a data engineer with 10 years of experience in wrangling Kafka and Postgres and all these things. […] That’s a transformative kind of change.”

It’s worth noting that Meroxa uses a lot of open-source tools but the company has also committed to open-sourcing everything in its data plane as well. “This has multiple wins for us, but one of the biggest incentives is in terms of the customer, we’re really committed to having our agenda aligned. Because if we don’t do well, we don’t serve the customer. If we do a crappy job, they can just keep all of those components and run it themselves,” Hamidi explained.

Today, Meroxa, which the team founded in early 2020, has over 24 employees (and is 100% remote). “I really think we’re building one of the most talented and most inclusive teams possible,” Brown told me. “Inclusion and diversity are very, very high on our radar. Our team is 50% black and brown. Over 40% are women. Our management team is 90% underrepresented. So not only are we building a great product, we’re building a great company, we’re building a great business.”  

#api, #business-intelligence, #cloud, #computing, #data-management, #data-warehouse, #database, #developer, #drive-capital, #enterprise, #heroku, #hustle-fund, #information-technology, #nosql, #product-management, #recent-funding, #software-engineer, #startups, #web-apps

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Microsoft Azure expands its NoSQL portfolio with Managed Instances for Apache Cassandra

At its Ignite conference today, Microsoft announced the launch of Azure Managed Instance for Apache Cassandra, its latest NoSQL database offering and a competitor to Cassandra-centric companies like Datastax. Microsoft describes the new service as a ‘semi-managed offering that will help companies bring more of their Cassandra-based workloads into its cloud.

“Customers can easily take on-prem Cassandra workloads and add limitless cloud scale while maintaining full compatibility with the latest version of Apache Cassandra,” Microsoft explains in its press materials. “Their deployments gain improved performance and availability, while benefiting from Azure’s security and compliance capabilities.”

Like its counterpart, Azure SQL Manages Instance, the idea here is to give users access to a scalable, cloud-based database service. To use Cassandra in Azure before, businesses had to either move to Cosmos DB, its highly scalable database service which supports the Cassandra, MongoDB, SQL and Gremlin APIs, or manage their own fleet of virtual machines or on-premises infrastructure.

Cassandra was originally developed at Facebook and then open-sourced in 2008. A year later, it joined the Apache Foundation and today it’s used widely across the industry, with companies like Apple and Netflix betting on it for some of their core services, for example. AWS launched a managed Cassandra-compatible service at its re:Invent conference in 2019 (it’s called Amazon Keyspaces today), Microsoft only launched the Cassandra API for Cosmos DB last November. With today’s announcement, though, the company can now offer a full range of Cassandra-based servicer for enterprises that want to move these workloads to its cloud.

#amazon, #apache-cassandra, #api, #apple, #aws, #cloud, #computing, #data, #data-management, #datastax, #developer, #enterprise, #facebook, #microsoft, #microsoft-ignite-2021, #microsoft-azure, #mongodb, #netflix, #nosql, #sql, #tc

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Datastax acquires Kesque as it gets into data streaming

Datastax, the company best known for commercializing the open-source Apache Cassandra database, is moving beyond databases. As the company announced today, it has acquired Kesque, a cloud messaging service.

The Kesque team built its service on top of the Apache Pulsar messaging and streaming project. Datastax has now taken that team’s knowledge in this area and, combined with its own expertise, is launching its own Pulsar-based streaming platform by the name of Datastax Luna Streaming, which is now generally available.

This move comes right as Datastax is also now, for the first time, announcing that it is cash-flow positive and profitable, as the company’s chief product officer, Ed Anuff, told me. “We are at over $150 million in [annual recurring revenue]. We are cash-flow positive and we are profitable,” he told me. This marks the first time the company is publically announcing this data. In addition, the company also today revealed that about 20 percent of its annual contract value is now for DataStax Astra, its managed multi-cloud Cassandra service and that the number of self-service Asta subscribers has more than doubled from Q3 to Q4.

The launch of Luna Streaming now gives the 10-year-old company a new area to expand into — and one that has some obvious adjacencies with its existing product portfolio.

“We looked at how a lot of developers are building on top of Cassandra,” Anuff, who joined Datastax after leaving Google Cloud last year, said. “What they’re doing is, they’re addressing what people call ‘data-in-motion’ use cases. They have huge amounts of data that are coming in, huge amounts of data that are going out — and they’re typically looking at doing something with streaming in conjunction with that. As we’ve gone in and asked, “What’s next for Datastax?,’ streaming is going to be a big part of that.”

Given Datastax’s open-source roots, it’s no surprise the team decided to build its service on another open-source project and acquire an open-source company to help it do so. Anuff noted that while there has been a lot of hype around streaming and Apache Kafka, a cloud-native solution like Pulsar seemed like the better solution for the company. Pulsar was originally developed at Yahoo! (which, full disclosure, belongs to the same Verizon Media Group family as TechCrunch) and even before acquiring Kesque, Datastax already used Pulsar to build its Astra platform. Other Pulsar users include Yahoo, Tencent, Nutanix and Splunk.

“What we saw was that when you go and look at doing streaming in a scale-out way, that Kafka isn’t the only approach. We looked at it, and we liked the Pulsar architecture, we like what’s going on, we like the community — and remember, we’re a company that grew up in the Apache open-source community — we said, ‘okay, we think that it’s got all the right underpinnings, let’s go and get involved in that,” Anuff said. And in the process of doing so, the team came across Kesque founder Chris Bartholomew and eventually decided to acquire his company.

The new Luna Streaming offering will be what Datastax calls a “subscription to success with Apache Pulsar.’ It will include a free, production-ready distribution of Pulsar and an optional, SLA-backed subscription tier with enterprise support.

Unsurprisingly, Datastax also plans to remain active in the Pulsar community. The team is already making code contributions, but Anuff also stressed that Datastax is helping out with scalability testing. “This is one of the things that we learned in our participation in the Apache Cassandra project,” Anuff said. “A lot of what these projects need is folks coming in doing testing, helping with deployments, supporting users. Our goal is to be a great participant in the community.”

#apache-cassandra, #cassandra, #cloud, #computing, #data, #data-management, #databases, #datastax, #developer, #enterprise, #graph-databases, #nosql, #tc

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Supabase raises $6M for its open-source Firebase alternative

Supabase, a YC-incubated startup that offers developers an open-source alternative to Google’s Firebase and similar platforms, today announced that it has raised a $6 million funding round led by Coatue, with participation from YC, Mozilla and a group of about 20 angel investors.

Currently, Supabase includes support for PostgreSQL databases and authentication tools, with a storage and serverless solution coming soon. It currently provides all the usual tools for working with databases — and listening to database changes — as well as a web-based UI for managing them. The team is quick to note that while the comparison with Google’s Firebase is inevitable, it is not meant to be a 1-to-1 replacement for it. And unlike Firebase, which uses a NoSQL database, Supabase is using PostgreSQL.

Indeed, the team relies heavily on existing open-source projects and contributes to them where it can. One of Supabase’s full-time employees maintains the PostgREST tool for building APIs on top of the database, for example.

“We’re not trying to build another system,” Supabase co-founder and CEO Paul Copplestone told me. “We just believe that already there are well-trusted, scalable enterprise open-source products out there and they just don’t have this usability component. So actually right now, Supabase is an amalgamation of six tools, soon to be seven. Some of them we built ourselves. If we go to market and can’t find anything that we think is going to be scalable — or really solve the problems — then we’ll build it and we’ll open-source it. But otherwise, we’ll use existing tools.”

Image Credits: Supabase

The traditional route to market for open-source tools is to create a tool and then launch a hosted version — maybe with some additional features — to monetize the work. Supabase took a slightly different route and launched a hosted version right away.

If somebody would want to host the service themselves, the code is available, but running your own PaaS is obviously a major challenge, but that’s also why the team went with this approach. What you get with Firebase, he noted, is that it’s a few clicks to set everything up. Supabase wanted to be able to offer the same kind of experience. “That’s one thing that self-hosting just cannot offer,” he said. “You can’t really get the same wow factor that you can if we offered a hosted platform where you literally [have] one click and then a couple of minutes later, you’ve got everything set up.”

In addition, he also noted that he wanted to make sure the company could support the growing stable of tools it was building and commercializing its tools based on its database services was the easiest way to do so.

Like other Y Combinator startups, Supabase closed its funding round after the accelerator’s demo day in August. The team had considered doing a SAFE round, but it found the right group of institutional investors that offered founder-friendly terms to go ahead with this institutional round instead.

“It’s going to cost us a lot to compete with the generous free tier that Firebase offers,” Copplestone said. “And it’s databases, right? So it’s not like you can just keep them stateless and shut them down if you’re not really using them. [This funding round] gives us a long, generous runway and more importantly, for the developers who come in and build on top of us, [they can] take as long as they want and then start monetizing later on themselves.

The company plans to use the new funding to continue to invest in its various tools and hire to support its growth.

Supabase’s value proposition of building in a weekend and scaling so quickly hit home immediately,” said Caryn Marooney, general partner at Coatue and Facebook’s former VP of Global Communications. “We are proud to work with this team, and we are excited by their laser focus on developers and their commitment to speed and reliability.”

#caryn-marooney, #cloud-computing, #coatue, #computing, #database, #developer, #firebase, #google-cloud, #nosql, #platform-as-a-service, #postgresql, #recent-funding, #serverless-computing, #startups, #supabase, #tc

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VESoft raises $8M to meet China’s growing need for graph databases

Sherman Ye founded VESoft in 2018 when he saw a growing demand for graph databases in China. Its predecessors like Neo4j and TigerGraph had already been growing aggressively in the West for a few years, while China was just getting to know the technology that leverages graph structures to store data sets and depict their relationships, such as those used for social media analysis, e-commerce recommendations, and financial risk management.

VESoft is ready for further growth after closing an $8 million funding round led by Redpoint China Ventures, an investment firm launched by Silicon Valley-based Redpoint Ventures in 2005. Existing investor Matrix Partners China also participated in the Series pre-A round. The new capital will allow the startup to develop products and expand to markets in North America, Europe, and other parts of Asia.

The 30-people team is comprised of former employees from Alibaba, Facebook, Huawei, and IBM. It’s based in Hangzhou, a scenic city known for its rich history and housing Alibaba and its financial affiliate Ant Financial, where Ye previously worked as a senior engineer after his four-year stint with Facebook in California. From 2017 to 2018, the entrepreneur noticed that Ant Financial’s customers were increasingly interested in adopting graph databases as an alternative to relational databases, a model that had been popular since the 80s and normally organizes data into tables.

“While relational databases are capable of achieving many functions carried out by graph databases… they deteriorate in performance as the quantity of data grows,” Yu told TechCrunch during an interview. “We didn’t use to have so much data.”

Information explosion is one reason why Chinese companies are turning to graph databases, which can handle millions of transactions to discover patterns within scattered data. The technology’s rise is also a response to new forms of online businesses that depend more on relationships.

“Take recommendations for example. The old model recommends content based purely on user profiles, but the problem of relying on personal browsing history is it fails to recommend new things. That was fine for a long time as the Chinese [internet] market was big enough to accommodate many players. But as the industry becomes saturated and crowded… companies need to ponder how to retain existing users, lengthen their time spent, and win users from rivals.”

The key lies in serving people content and products they find appealing. Graph databases come in handy, suggested Yu, when services try to predict users’ interest or behavior as the model uncovers what their friends or people within their social circles like. “That’s a lot more effective than feeding them what’s trending.”

Neo4j compares relational and graph databases (Link)

The company has made its software open source, which the founder believed can help cultivate a community of graph database users and educate the market in China. It will also allow VESoft to reach more engineers in the English-speaking world who are well-acquainted with the open-source culture.

“There is no such thing as being ‘international’ or ‘domestic’ for a technology-driven company. There are no boundaries between countries in the open-source world,” reckoned Yu.

When it comes to generating income, the startup plans to launch a paid version for enterprises, which will come with customized plug-ins and host services.

The Nebula Graph, the brand of VESoft’s database product, is now serving 20 enterprise clients from areas across social media, e-commerce, and finance including big names like food delivery giant Meituan, popular social commerce app Xiaohongshu, and e-commerce leader JD.com. A number of overseas companies are also trialing Nebula.

The time is ripe for enterprise-facing startups with a technological moat in China as the market for consumers has been divided by incumbents like Tencent and Alibaba. This makes fundraising relatively easy for VESoft. The founder is confident that Chinese companies are rapidly catching up with their Western counterparts in the space, for the gargantuan amount of data and the myriad of ways data is used in the country “will propel the technology forward.”

#ant-financial, #asia, #china, #data-management, #database, #databases, #enterprise, #graph-database, #graph-databases, #hangzhou, #matrix-partners-china, #neo4j, #nosql, #open-source-software, #redpoint-ventures

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Microsoft partners with Redis Labs to improve its Azure Cache for Redis

For a few years now, Microsoft has offered Azure Cache for Redis, a fully managed caching solution built on top of the open-source Redis project. Today, it is expanding this service by adding Redis Enterprise, Redis Lab’s commercial offering, to its platform. It’s doing so in partnership with Redis Labs and while Microsoft will offer some basic support for the service, Redis Labs will handle most of the software support itself.

Julia Liuson, Microsoft’s corporate VP of its developer tools division, told me that the company wants to be seen as a partner to open-source companies like Redis Labs, which was among the first companies to change its license to prevent cloud vendors from commercializing and repackaging their free code without contributing back to the community. Last year, Redis Labs partnered with Google Cloud to bring its own fully managed service to its platform and so maybe it’s no surprise that we are now seeing Microsoft make a similar move.

Liuson tells me that with this new tier for Azure Cache for Redis, users will get a single bill and native Azure management, as well as the option to deploy natively on SSD flash storage. The native Azure integration should also make it easier for developers on Azure to integrate Redis Enterprise into their applications.

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft will support Redis Labs’ own Redis modules, including RediSearch, a Redis-powered search engine, as well as RedisBloom and RedisTimeSeries, which provide support for new datatypes in Redis.

“For years, developers have utilized the speed and throughput of Redis to produce unbeatable responsiveness and scale in their applications,” says Liuson. “We’ve seen tremendous adoption of Azure Cache for Redis, our managed solution built on open source Redis, as Azure customers have leveraged Redis performance as a distributed cache, session store, and message broker. The incorporation of the Redis Labs Redis Enterprise technology extends the range of use cases in which developers can utilize Redis, while providing enhanced operational resiliency and security.”

#caching, #cloud, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-storage, #computing, #data-management, #developer, #enterprise, #flash, #google, #google-cloud, #microsoft, #nosql, #redis, #redis-labs, #search-engine

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