The CEO of Firebolt says he convinced investors to pour $37 million into his data startup without a pitch deck by proving the tech was a 'speedboat' that could take on Amazon, Google, and Snowflake

  • The data warehouse startup Firebolt announced a $37 million round of funding on Wednesday, which it raised without a pitch deck, according to cofounder and CEO Eldad Farkash.
  • Firebolt competes against tech giants like Amazon Web Services, Google, and Snowflake, which all offer data warehouses, but is able to set itself apart with a blazing-fast product, he said. 
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Firebolt cofounder and CEO Eldad Farkash is a self-described "data geek" who has had a "big passion" for building databases since he was 16. 

When he was a teenager, his father asked him for help building databases for his company, and Farkash jumped at the challenge.  

He's been building databases and data startups ever since, including the data analytics startup Sisense, and, most recently, data warehousing startup Firebolt, which he launched in 2004.

"Looking at the market, I saw an opportunity," Farkash told Business Insider. 

Israel-based Firebolt builds a cloud-based data warehouse to manage large magnitudes of data, allowing users to instantly query and gather insights from it. It competes directly with tech giants that build their own data warehouses, like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Snowflake, which just debuted on the public markets this year and is now more valuable than IBM. 

The competition hasn't deterred Farkash or investors: Firebolt announced Wednesday that it has raised a $37 million round of funding with participation from Zeev Ventures, TLV Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Angular Ventures. It did not disclose its valuation.

"The thing is, it's about the need and demand," Farkash said. "We're lucky to be at the right place at the right time, given the things happening around us. Everyone wants to be data-driven now, using data to move their business better."

How Firebolt competes against Amazon, Google, and Snowflake

Firebolt differentiates itself from its competitors in a few ways, Farkash says. First off, it's fast: Firebolt claims that its product is can deliver analytics 182 times faster than its competitors. How? It has to do with the way the team built the database to index data, Farkash says, which makes it easy for users to query what they need.

"Firebolt is very in your face, instant, fast," Farkash said.

When Firebolt pitched to investors, it didn't use a pitch deck. Instead, Farkash and his team let the product speak for itself.

"We have not spent a single second on preparing a presentation," Farkash said. "What we did was focus on early adopters and design partners. We focused on explaining how the technology works and getting validation from the market. That's what made all the difference to raise this money very fast because we had the certificate, the proof, the people speaking on our behalf."

It worked: "We convinced investors very quickly," Farkash said. Firebolt plans to leave larger competitors in the dust:

"If you experience it, it's really in your face compared to other big players," Farkash said of Firebolt's product. "The best way to describe it is a speedboat, a speedboat running along those huge battleships. We're going to continue to be a speedboat as we grow."

How Firebolt wins over customers 

Firebolt takes a bottoms-up approach in selling to customers, talking to engineers and designers about their daily problems handling data so the firm can better understand how to address those issues.

"Data warehousing is a traditional slow-moving, lots of handshaking and coffee-drinking and office-visiting market," Farkash said. The simplicity of Firebolt's product makes it easy for users to try out, he said. 

It also wins them over with pricing:

Data warehouses also often charge per query, limiting the ability for people to work with data since queries can cost thousands of dollars, Farkash says. Instead, Firebolt is a subscription service where users can make as many queries as they want for a set fee and it doesn't limit how much compute power customers can use. 

It can make that offer, in part, because of its tech: It's typical for data warehousing to traditionally be done in private data centers, Farkash says, but Firebolt runs on AWS, which lets it scale computing resources up and down at a lower cost.

To build the top-notch technology, Firebolt needed to hire incredible talent. 

Farkash says he had taken many cold showers where he seriously just considered becoming a "niche" database company, rather than taking on AWS and Google. But instead, the company decided to go all in, spending most of its seed round on engineering talent, with Farkash casting a wide net and hiring people outside Israel he had never met, he said.  

"When people first meet us, they ask, are you really competing with those giants? Why do you do that? Why do you think you can compete with them?" Farkash said, referring to the firm's competition with the likes of Snowflake, Amazon Redshift, and Google's BigQuery. "It only drove us to proving everyone it's possible."

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