Investors dump $250m on analytics biz like a ton of Databricks

Series E funding round values company at $2.75bn

Analytics biz Databricks has doubled its total funding with a $250m investment, valuing the company at $2.75bn.

The firm, founded in 2013, was based on open-source analytics engine Apache Spark created by Matei Zaharia, who is now chief technologist at Databricks.

The biz today announced its Series-E funding, which takes its total investment to date to $498.5m, and was led by venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz.

It also saw Microsoft invest in Databricks for the first time, which followed a collaboration to launch Azure Databricks – which deployed the company's analytics tech as a first-party service on Microsoft's cloud platform – in 2017.

The last time the firm raised cash was in summer of 2017, but CEO Ali Ghodsi wouldn't be drawn on whether more rounds were planned or a public offering was on the cards.

Rather, he told The Register that the aim was "building a great, sustainable, viable company that will be around for decades to come". He added that an IPO "is obviously an option down the line, but right now we're focused on growing as fast as we possibly can".

The exec was more keen to focus on the message of strong growth and customer demand, pointing to the fact the firm had gone from "zero to $100m in annual recurring revenue in less than three years", passing the $100m mark last year.

He said there was a "tremendous interest" among enterprises for its United Analytics platform – Databricks counts names like Hotels.com, Shell and HP among its 2,000 customers. The firm's pitch is that companies have struggled to make the best use of the data they have amassed because it is held in silos, with little communication between IT teams and data scientists.

The Unified Analytics platform aims to make it easier for enterprises to build data pipelines across their data silos, and prepare labelled data sets with which to build models and carry out data analytics on large-scale data sets.

Ghodsi said that the cash would be used in three ways. One is to expand faster in the APAC and EMEA markets, noting that it takes a lot of resource to set up new offices in different countries, and deal with different laws.

Another will see Databricks "double down" on products, having launched two new products last year, in the form of ML Flow, its machine learning tool, and Delta, its next-generation engine to follow on from Spark. This will involve a big increase in its engineering team, especially in its Amsterdam base.

Overall, Ghodsi expected the efforts to see the company to double in size; at the moment it has some 600 employees globally, with its biggest offices bring in Amsterdam, London and Singapore, as well as its San Francisco HQ.

Finally, the firm will continue its focus on different verticals. Ghodsi said it had started in healthcare and then fintech at the end of last year and was this year moving into the federal space, mass media, and retail and consumer packaged goods.

The latter is partly due to Databricks' collaboration with Microsoft, which Ghodsi described as a "one-of-a-kind" partnership through the launch of the first-party service on Microsoft's cloud platform, Azure Databricks.

He said it was unique because the partnership is run and operated by Databricks engineers, rather than handing over the rights. "We have to hit the SLAs, make sure it's reliable. If it goes down at 4am, we get the pager," Ghodsi said.

"It required very tight collaboration with Microsoft to enable this," and this close relationship was part of the reason the bigger firm entered into the fundraising round.

Ghodsi also noted that another of the investors, Coatue Management, had joined the round after having been a long-time customer of Databricks. Other investors are NEA, Battery Ventures, Green Bay Ventures, and Geodesic. ®

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