It’s a rarity for a tech company to make it to a series G funding round. And it’s probably even more unusual to shed essentially all your top level staff, recover, then bounce back to $25 million in funding – within the space of 12 months. But Basho, vendors of the open source Riak database, have done just that. Voxxed caught up with Manu Marchal, EMEA Managing Director, to hear the full details of this unexpectedly speedy comeback story.
Voxxed: First of all, congratulations on the funding! What will this money be used for?
Manu: We’re definitely excited about this, and being able to announce it. We’ll be using it to expand the company and increase our product offering. The main reason for this funding is accelerating growth. 2014 was a big change for the company with our new CEO Adam Wray on board, a new management team, and myself.
Fundamentally, we have amazing tech. If you look at distributed systems in the world – Basho is a hotbed for these engineers. We’ve also been successful here, but we need to pick up the pace. This is something all the new recruits have experience here.
Around the products, there’s a lot of work being done. We’ve got Riak, which is of course a high availability, high scalability, database management system. Last year, we launched Riak 2.0 with new data types, which allow for developers to deal with Riak like it was a relational database.
If you think of NoSQL four years ago, what they could do was very minimal. So the game has been to be able to address more DB use cases. Once you have a DB with all the right characteristics, how do you query data? So we added SOLR and MapReduce, and now with new data types we have a new tool. Developers can develop apps in a much simpler way. You can end up with network partitions with scalable databases – but how do you know the truth about which is the right one out of multiple data sets? Riak is the only database that allows you to know this at a server level. That very powerful for mission critical data.
It’s been a turbulent year for Basho (the company was forced to recruit a new CEO, CTO, CFO, VP of Product, and VP of Engineering, all within Q1) – how have things changed at the company over the past 12 months?
In 2013, Basho had an amazing pool of talent, and a sharp focus on enterprise – which turned out to be right. But, there were things that could have been done better – and there’s definitely been some things that were changed for the better. I think when Adam joined, he was pretty clear about the challenges ahead. When he joined there was uncertainty, but if you look at our financial results at the end of 2014, the year was a success. The vast majority has embraced the change, and the company is very much the same.
Before I joined the company last May, I knew about Riak, but I didn’t know why it wasn’t capturing more headlines. I saw that it wasn’t telling some stories the right way, and maybe some people were discounting it because one big name dropped it, as with other NoSQL databases a few years ago. It wasn’t that Basho was necessarily doing wrong, they were just missing out some opportunities. The bet we made last year was can we do it differently? And to a large extent, I think we’ve succeed.
Riak is unique in their key-value data store model. What kind of use cases does it excel in?
Yeah, and there’s one thing I’m really excited about – and that’s the last level of abstraction you can have. If you look at the way organisations are getting the right databases for the right use cases, you’re going to end up with lots of teams with different NoSQL technology, and that drives up costs. We’re seeing people looking for a uniform abstraction level and uniform API. People want to go back to the lowest level- and Riak, being key value, is ideal for this scenario.
What do you predict for NoSQL in 2015? It seems like a lot of the hype around the technology died down in 2014 as people became more used to it.
Absolutely, the adoption cycle is such that, when tech matures, fewer people talk about it. NoSQL is absolutely maturing. If you look at the NHS dropping Oracle for Riak for what they call “Life or death” data, to me that’s the one customer story that demonstrates that NoSQL has matured.
I think that around 30-40% of devs are aware of NoSQL – Forrester was quoting only 20 % were using in enterprise – but 40% will be in 2017. By taking the assumption that not every data needs to be dealt in an ACID way, you can create databases in a far more relatable, scalable way, that will be much more efficient. NoSQL isn’t just a marketing term – it’s the new generation of data management.