If there’s one thing that gets the attention of investors, even in uncertain times like these, it’s data efficiency. Data is the fuel for machine learning models, and getting it from point A to point B can be expensive and time-consuming. That’s why a startup that can help make that process move faster and with less friction is probably going to be valuable.
Such is the case with Weka, a company that has come up with a way to virtualize data to make it easier to move between sources without having to make a copy first. Today, the company announced a $135 million Series D investment on a $750 million valuation, big numbers in today’s conservative funding environment.
CEO and co-founder Liran Zvibel says the company originally focused on increasing data throughput for high-performance computing scenarios.
“The initial focus was high-performance computing environments. And that's really where the first phase of the company started. But increasingly, over the last two or three years, people have been taking concepts from high-performance computing, scientific computing and applying them in a commercial context, trying to build large enterprise workloads,” Zvibel told TechCrunch.
He says that although network and compute have sped up, especially with the increased use of GPUs to help power data-intensive workloads, storage has remained a legacy bottleneck, and that’s the weak link his company is trying to attack.
“Most people have made the leap to GPUs, and they made the leap to fast networking, but they're trying to underpin it with storage technology and storage architectures from the 1990s,” he said.
He claims to have invented an entirely new way of moving data. “We've invented a whole set of new algorithms, data structures, control structures, even network protocols. We're not leveraging TCP/IP. We have a network protocol that allows you to leverage RDMA zero copy-like performance even on a public cloud,” he said.
“And we sat down, we implemented all of that new new kind of computer science theory. And now we can actually show customers the huge advantages they can get with this new approach.”
He admits the technology in some ways sounds like it’s science fiction, so companies often start small to prove it works, and once they do they sign much bigger deals. “When we come in and we tell the story, it sounds like a fairy tale or a science fiction. So customers tend to start small. When they realize we're actually doing what we say we do then they really go into hyperdrive,” he said.
The company offers their solution as a service, but sometimes it’s delivered on prem and increasingly in the cloud, with 43% of transactions in Q3 coming from public cloud business.
They currently have 300 employees and expect to double in the next 12-18 months. He says that hiring a diverse workforce is top of mind for the company. “At the end of the day, we're hiring the best talent we can find because building that is the most important thing, but we are putting a lot of thought and effort on turning over every rock to make sure we are more and more diverse.”
Today’s round of funding was led by Generation Investment Management with participation from a large group that includes traditional VC firms, as well as many strategic investors. The list includes 10D, Atreides Management, Celesta Capital, Gemini Israel Ventures, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hitachi Ventures, Key1 Capital, Lumir Ventures, Micron Ventures, Mirae Asset Capital, MoreTech Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Nvidia, Qualcomm Ventures and Samsung Catalyst.
Today’s $750 million valuation doubles the previous valuation, according to the company. Weka has now raised more than $293 million, per Crunchbase.