Start-up

2 ex-Facebook employees just came out of nowhere with $21.5 million in funding for their new startup


For the past two years, a startup founded by two former Facebook employees had been lying low.

Since 2016, the employees at Rockset were quietly working on a new kind of data platform. But on Thursday, the startup formally launched its product and announced it had raised $21.5 million in seed and series A funding from the top-tier Silicon Valley venture firms Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital.

Rockset’s new cloud-based data platform is targeted at developers building data-driven applications and data scientists managing this data. Right now, software teams using traditional databases — like those from Oracle — have to take extra steps to prepare data to be read by software. Rockset aims to cut the middleman, speeding the process by which data and apps can “talk” to each other.

“There’s nothing like this out there,” Venkat Venkataramani, Rockset’s cofounder and CEO, tells Business Insider. “One of the challenges has been how quickly we can build for the market. We’ve been working very, very hard.”

Before leaving to start Rockset, Venkataramani spent eight years at Facebook managing online data and search infrastructure, which supported Facebook‘s growth to a peak of 1.5 billion users at the time from 40 million. He credits Facebook with much of the philosophy he learned and now applies at Rockset.

For example, he says, Facebook is known for being fast and never going down (well, almost). And from Facebook, he realized that he wanted Rockset to make complex problems as simple as possible.

“I walked away thinking, the world [of data infrastructure] is way too complex,” Venkataramani said. “It’s not available for everyone. We started thinking, why does it have to be complex? What’s the simplest product we can build?”

Read more:Facebook’s product for businesses, Workplace, is taking a step to distance itself from the social network after a string of scandals

Leaving Facebook to start something new was a risk. Venkataramani left in 2015, but he says it still “feels like yesterday.” Ultimately, he says, he settled into a groove to the point at which things were “really comfortable” at Facebook, to the point where he “personally got uncomfortable.”

“I didn’t feel like I was learning as much as I used to,” he says. “I wanted to make myself uncomfortable again.”

He and his fellow cofounder, Dhruba Borthakur, another former Facebook employee, started talking to other developers about his vision, writing out the problems on a whiteboard. The two ultimately teamed up to make Rockset a reality.

With the funding, Rockset plans to hire more employees as it grows its customer base. Rockset now has 16 employees, and the company is about to add four employees who have been hired but have not yet started.

“Product engineers should be bottlenecked by their creativity, not what the data infrastructure can do for me,” Venkataramani said. “We value how much we can add to customers’ lives. We take complex, hard things and make them as easy as possible.”

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