A Milestone Series B for MinIO

MinIO Series B
Photo credit: DTC

Congratulations to MinIO! Why We Invested in Dell Technologies Capital’s Newest Unicorn

On behalf of everyone at Dell Technologies Capital, congratulations to Anand Babu Periasamy, Garima Kapoor, Harshavardhana, and the MinIO team on its $100M Series B funding round led by our friends at Intel Capital. We are thrilled to participate once again along with Softbank and other top tier investors. As we celebrate the company, I wanted to share why we joined MinIO early on its journey, leading their Series A back in 2017.

As an seed-stage company, one of the things that impressed us the most was that MinIO was quick to recognize the explosive growth of unstructured data and the subsequent need for cloud-native object storage. They saw that the data lake would increasingly become the heart of every business, but also that there’d be challenges in how to process the data captured there and turn it into something highly usable .

The closest thing the industry had for large-scale data infrastructure was Hadoop, but while it paved the way, it was hard to operate and fundamentally incompatible with a multi-cloud ecosystem. Customers gravitated towards the AWS S3 model in order to disaggregate storage and compute, which was the anti-thesis of the Hadoop model. But another challenge existed: Amazon S3 is only available within AWS.

MinIO is a high-performance, Kubernetes-native object store. They’ve built a service that is optimized for cloud-native workloads and S3 compatibility. MinIO runs in every major public cloud, private clouds, Kubernetes distributions and – with a binary of less than 100MB – is the only full featured object store capable of running at the edge. Enterprises use MinIO to deliver against ML/AI, analytics, backup and archival workloads – all from their single lightweight platform.

The company is on a similar hypergrowth path as market leaders like Elastic and Hashicorp. The reason, quite simply, is that they’ve taken their time to build the right approach both in terms of their technology and in understanding their customer.

Today, there are no real competitors to MinIO’s object storage technology. For any company that wants to build a data lake on Azure, Google Cloud, on-premises or anywhere else, they need an S3 API and MinIO is the answer. More than 750 organizations, including Microsoft Azure, use MinIO’s S3 Gateway. And published benchmark tests show that MinIO outperforms S3. MinIO also is the only option for customers looking to run containerized applications on-premises. And from what we can see, developers love the experience.

Much of MinIO’s growth is driven by developer customers who are ripping out the traditional data warehouse and Hadoop HDFS-based ecosystem, and then adopting MinIO as the data lake persistence layer. Its hypergrowth is further illustrated by its half a billion+ Docker pulls and more than 31,000 GitHub stars, the most of any object storage database on the market.

We are incredibly proud of the MinIO and the rocket ship they’ve built and can’t wait to see what the next stage of its journey holds!

Gregg Adkin and the DTC Team

 

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The DTC Interview: Venu Gutlapalli of Tag-n-Trac

Venu Gutlapalli
Photo credit:

The DTC Interview
Venu Gutlapalli
CEO and co-founder, Tag’n’Trac

We’re going to the basics and saying, “You want to know where your pallet is at any given point in time? We’ll give you give you that capability.” You don’t need AI and all this predictability. It’s actually real data coming from the field.

We’ve heard plenty about supply-chain challenges of late, but even before the recent crises there were issues. Chief among them? Lack of visibility into both exact locations and conditions for shipments that require specific environmental conditions and delivery timelines.

 That’s the problem that Venu Gutlapalli, CEO and co-founder of Tag-n-Trac, is intent on solving.

 The company, backed by DTC as its Series A lead, has created a platform that gives customers a comprehensive, real-time look into where its shipments are as they move from factory to destination. At the heart of the platform are Tag-n-Trac-pioneered UPC labels that are imbedded with a cellular tracking device and other sensors; they not only monitor where a shipment is at any given moment, but also track things like temperature and humidity levels. Gutlapalli, a Qualcomm veteran, talks about technology, the value of partnerships, and building a supply chain solution at a time when there are problems with the supply chain itself.

WHY THIS, WHY NOW
The fundamental problem we’re wrestling with is… giving greater visibility into the supply chain, at a lower price. Right now, if somebody wants real-time visibility into a shipment, there are two ways to do it. One is a data crawl. You find another system that’s tracking the train or truck or ocean liner your shipment is on — for, say, safety information — and tap into that web site. But it’s not the latest information. The second way is by putting a live tracking device on it – like a GPS-enabled device. But the current trackers are bulky, and they’re around $100 a piece. And you need to reverse-ship them.

We solve the problem by… taking a bar code label and a tracker and merging them together at a low cost — below $10. And now that the tracking device is actually inside the label, we can add other sensors to track variables like temperature, pressure, humidity and so on. If it’s a perishable or a high-value good like a food or beverage or pharmaceutical, those variables are essential to understand.

We saw the opportunity to create a company because… when it came to solving some of these warehousing and shipping issues, most manufacturers just hire some big consulting company that are good at warehouse management software. If you’d ask consultant-types how shipments are tracked, they’d often just say, “I’ll go to China and buy some device and put it in the bottom of the shipment.” Those off-the-shelf solutions aren’t customizable and can be expensive.

We looked at the problem and said it’s possible to build a platform that’s focused on lowering costs and lets developers write customizable applications on top to manage specific workflows. And it can offer more real time data: your shipment is on a truck that is actually 30 minutes away from the warehouse, this is how much inventory is coming from it, this is how much inventory you’re expecting.

TALKING TECH
A tech breakthrough that’s been crucial to us is… FPC — flexible printed circuits. The traditional way of manufacturing a tracking device, like a cell phone or a watch, is that you first make a PCB, then you put a battery to it, then you build an encapsulation like a plastic casing. But that’s where the cost goes up because you have all these layers of manufacturing.

With flexible printed circuits, all the components are printed: the sensors are printed, the battery is printed, and then we encapsulate it all inside a UPC label. And the label material is the same as before.

With flexible printed circuits, all the components are printed: the sensors are printed, the battery is printed, and then we encapsulate it all inside a UPC label. And the label material is the same as before. It’s just that we’re putting in a very thin intermediate layer.

The most exciting thing about technology these days is… the way semiconductor technology continues to evolve. Every five years computational power doubles or triples, but the power consumption also goes down and the cost goes down. When I started as a cellular engineer at Qualcomm, we used to make cell phones that were like bricks, and the battery would die in six hours or so. You’re now squeezing an entire cellular function into a paper-thin label.

LEARNING AND INSPIRATION
One important thing I’ve learned about building a team is… when we’re trying to come up with is something that doesn’t exist, look for people who want to innovate and think out of the box to come up with solutions.

You don’t need to invent everything yourself… If somebody has already solved a certain piece of the puzzle, then partner with them to bring it into your solution.

A second important thing I’ve learned about building a team is… You don’t need to invent everything yourself. We’re exploring a lot of partnership opportunities. If somebody has already solved a certain piece of the puzzle, then we want to partner with them to bring it into our solution.

Don’t give up if somebody says that’s not working, that’s not available, you can’t do this. Stay at it. If someone can’t deliver, find another partner.

The key to being a successful startup is… don’t give up if somebody says that’s not working, that’s not available, you can’t do this. Stay at it. If someone can’t deliver, find another partner. We searched for one year for a label printer that can help us. We went to every expo. And then after one year we found two printers that can actually do the job, and both the printers are working now.

The biggest irony about what we’re doing is .. we’re trying to solve supply-chain problems and,  because of this whole semiconductor supply-chain issue, we ourselves are stuck with supply-chain problems. [laughs] You’re trying to solve a problem, and you’re a victim of it, too.

OFF THE CLOCK

Go on a trip where there are no cell phones, nothing. Just go and get your brain out of fundraising, value add, customer delivery, all that.

I give my mind a rest by… backpacking and traveling. Sometimes I go on a trip where there are no cell phones, nothing. Just go and get your brain out of fundraising, value add, customer delivery, all that.

In five years…I see us as a full-platform enabler for customers — specifically in pharma, food and automotive enterprises — solving this whole real-time visibility issue in a really good way. Not data and AI and all the fancy terms people are throwing around out there. We’re going to the basics and saying, “You want to know where your pallet is at any given point in time? We’ll give you give you that capability.” You don’t need AI and all this predictability. It’s actually real data coming from the field.

 

 

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2021 had its work cut out for it.

After a period of the most intense uncertainty many of us have ever experienced, we started the year with a cautious optimism. Vaccines and new therapeutics were on the horizon, job creation numbers were up, Q1 corporate earnings were “roaring past expectations” leading to a hope that stability and a return to “normal” might be around the corner.

The venture industry put more dollars to work in the first half of this year than it ever has before. And we’re on track to handily beat that new money invested metric in the second half. Our industry is minting unicorns by the dozens with now more than 1,000 companies globally valued at more than $1B. As the world seems awash in liquidity looking for a home, firms are raising bigger funds and are investing more, earlier and at higher valuations than, for those of us who have been around for a while, have seen – even in the hubris of the dotcom days.

Alongside the optimism we were feeling at the start of the year was also a sense that the other shoe could drop at any moment. Covid variants, supply chain challenges and talent shortages have meant the global recovery is being experienced in fits and starts. And in venture, there isn’t an investor among us who’s not wondering if this pace of investment is sustainable and thinking hard about what happens to even the best companies when – not if – this bubble deflates.

Our team has invested more money this year than we ever have before. If we’re being honest, that fact keeps us up some nights.

At DTC, we’ve been no exception to the trend. Our team has invested more money this year than we ever have before*. If we’re being honest, that fact keeps us up some nights. It’s not just about making the economics of today’s valuations work but also, thinking through what we can be doing right now to help our companies prepare for whatever comes next. Be it a crowded marketplace of well-funded competitors, a funding slowdown, or another unprecedented global challenge.

Despite all that’s been endured in the past 20 months and the market unknowns, we are steadfast in our optimism about enterprise technologies and their ability to drive human progress. The companies in our portfolio along with the many great teams we’ve yet to invest in are building real businesses by solving hard problems through innovation in the cloud and at the edge. They’re rethinking the tools we use to store, access, understand, secure, and use data and how applications and services can be built and deployed more effectively.

We’re much more comfortable with the long game of innovation and investment. It takes time to build businesses of consequence and future fundamental technologies.

Another positive change is that as an industry, we are much more comfortable with the long game of innovation and investment. It takes time to build businesses of consequence and future fundamental technologies. It’s been fascinating to watch as teams and technologies continue to grow in influence and value well beyond their IPO or acquisition. Enterprise software companies that have IPOed in the last several years have seen their revenues and valuations increase by orders of magnitude despite new entrants and increasing competition. And in areas like cybersecurity, some very cool technologies born of the venture-backed world have been acquired to modernize the product platforms of the incumbents.

Innovation is happening everywhere.

And one more point for the optimistic column: we’ve embraced that innovation is happening everywhere. In the US, more than 2/3 of venture dollars were used to back companies outside of Silicon Valley, investments in European startups have more than doubled in just the last year from one record high to the next, and the Israeli innovation ecosystem has had its biggest year ever in terms of both investment and realizations. We are a truly global innovation scene.

We have the tremendous opportunity to create real technologies to drive human progress.

Our industry may have started at the intersection of government research and a niche market for hobbyists, but we’re now realizing that we have a broad — and tremendous opportunity here. We can’t predict what 2022 has in store for us on many fronts but one thing we truly believe: There’s never been a better time to invest in innovation and the people who build it.

Scott Darling and the DTC Team

* This year we welcomed companies from across the US, Europe and Israel including Katana Graph, Augtera Networks, Tag n Trac, Bodo.ai, Calamu, Lightspin, Treeverse, Swish.ai and a number of still-stealth companies, to the DTC portfolio. We also deepened our commitment to more than 30 current portfolio companies.

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The DTC Interview: NetSpring Co-founder and CEO Vijay Ganesan

NetSpring CEO Vijay Ganesan
Photo credit: NetSpring

Vijay Ganesan has long had a front-row seat on the impact analytics can have on company performance. Ganesan spent eight years at Oracle, as technical lead for its flagship business intelligence product, then co-founded software analytics company ThoughtSpot, a leader in the space recently valued at $4.2 billion. Now he leads NetSpring, whose new operational intelligence platform pulls together disparate data to help businesses make decisions in real time.

DTC invested in the NetSpring team at the seed stage and then led their Series A. Vijay answered some leading questions we had about innovations in data, team building, and leadership.

Why This, Why Now
The fundamental problem NetSpring hopes to solve is… There are two things happening in business: One is an increasing volume of data in this category we’re calling event data – data coming from sensors, devices, phones, product instrumentation. People are looking for tools to help make sense of that data, and the traditional reporting tools just don’t cut it. The other is a massive increase in business velocity. Businesses are moving faster; COVID has accelerated that transformation.

So the fundamental problem we’re solving is: people have business pressures to do better decision-making on data very, very quickly, and they’re struggling with a hodgepodge of systems to be able to do that. If we can build and provide a robust platform, we can massively impact the operational business agility at companies.

“What is available now really only works for the Ubers and the Netflixes of the world. And so, that convinced me there’s an opportunity for a company here.”

We started a company because… I spent six months asking: If I was consulting for a company that had a need for better operational intelligence, what would I do? And what I came away with was, right now, it is colossally complex. You have to string together a bunch of different tools to build something useful. What is available now really only works for the Ubers and the Netflixes of the world. And so, that convinced me there’s an opportunity for a company here.

“Stream processing has gone mainstream. It’s no longer that the data lands somewhere, and then it’s processed offline. People are processing data as it’s coming in…  Which is a great enabler for us.”

The trends that make this the right time to build NetSpring are… There are two megatrends happening that are enablers for us. One is, stream processing has gone mainstream. It’s no longer that the data lands somewhere, and then it’s processed offline. People are processing data as it’s coming in, thanks to companies like Confluent and projects like Apache Kafka. Even in an average enterprise, it is entrenched. Which is a great enabler for us. Because you need to have the infrastructure to capture the data before you can have the analytics about that data.

The second big trend is the lakehouse movement. There’s this big debate going on – warehouse vs. lakehouse. I think it’s a major shift that’s happening, and we’re big believers in the lakehouse style of architecture. It means the central depository of data in your enterprise is your cloud data lake. It is not your data warehouse. If you think about it, for an enterprise the ideal scenario is that all data sits in one place. And cloud data lakes make that viable. They’re cheap. They’re secure. They’re highly scalable. They’re reliable.

Learnings & Inspiration
One thing I’ve learned about startups is… the articulation of the pain point you’re solving for has to be crisp. Product is very important. But enterprises are bombarded by hundreds of startups. So you have to be very very crisp in articulating the value proposition. It’s not about your technology; it’s about their pain point.

A leader who inspires me is…Larry Ellison of Oracle. For just sheer grit and determination and getting the job done.

The key to building a strong team is…finding people who are driven to make an impact. In talking to somebody who’s potentially going to join us, I don’t sell them NetSpring. I tell them, “Look, you’re at Google, you’re at a fantastic place. You should be happy. You shouldn’t be leaving. You should be staying there.” And for people who are very passionate and driven, that sort of irritates them and their response is usual: No, no, no! That’s a trick I use. I flip it.

One thing I’ve learned about investors is… It’s like in a very fancy restaurants: you never see the waiters, but when you need them, they’re there. They’re watching you from a distance, and if you’re looking for a spoon, they’re there to give you a spoon. The best investors are like that. They give you the support you need when you need it, but they get out of your way. Because they trust you know what’s good for the company.

“The important thing with a team when you have a setback is, how are we going to fix it? It’s really always looking forward.”

One thing I’ve learned about setbacks is… how you manage it for the team. How do you react to it? Do you get agitated? Are you finger pointing? Or are you calm? The important thing with a team when you have a setback is, how are we going to fix it? It’s really always looking forward.

Off the Clock
I relax by… listening to Indian classical music. Music does something remarkable to your body and mind. It has this sort of regenerative impact. It’s like are change of the batteries.

Five years from now… if you walk into an enterprise and look at what they have for data and analytics, you should see three things: an event processing bus; a cloud data lake; and NetSpring. That’s what we call the modern data and analytics stack.

That’s our vision: We are going to be the predominant platform for data analytics for the enterprises in this new modern world.

 

 

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What “Founder Friendly” Means to Us

DTC named to Inc.'s 2021 Founder Friendly Investors list
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We’re not big on awards or “best of” lists for ourselves here at DTC but being named to Inc.’s 2021 Founder-Friendly Investors list is one accolade we’re proud to have earned.

Being an entrepreneur is hard. It requires a herculean amount of work and dedication. To see a vision through to reality, you’ve got to execute flawlessly in building your team, your tech and a viable business. It’s a tough and often lonely row.

As a part of Dell Technologies, we’re fortunate to be a part of one of the largest founder-led companies in the world. We think this connection helps us in being able to see life and business through a founder’s eyes. We’re here to offer perspectives and access to opportunities to the entrepreneurs who choose to work with us. Ours is not to define success for our portfolio companies but to partner, encourage, and ultimately respect their journey.

We’ll take this as an opportunity to thank the many founders that have partnered with us over the years. We are here because of you.

The DTC Team

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