Focal Infra: The NYC Tech Leaders Reshaping The Way We Build

Here are the startup leaders making waves in the tech infrastructure field.

Focal Infra: The NYC Tech Leaders Reshaping The Way We BuildFocal Infra: The NYC Tech Leaders Reshaping The Way We Build

New York is becoming an increasingly important market for dev-focused startups, with talented engineers leaving many successful tech companies here to start their own startups. Some of the most successful software infra companies of the last decade—MongoDB, Datadog, and Digital Ocean—call NYC home. We expect that to accelerate in the years to come.

Here at Primary, we are active investors in the next generation of dev-focused startups. We compiled this list of the most exciting ones in New York City that have successfully raised their seed or Series A in the past year.

Matthew Parkhurst and Shreyas Iyer, Cofounders of Antimetal

Matthew Parkhurst and Shreyas Iyer started Antimetal to help companies manage their cloud infrastructure costs using AI and machine learning. Launched in 2022, Antimetal has developed an AI engine that forecasts cloud usage, generates recommendations on saving opportunities, and aims to support DevOps teams in meeting their goals. Notable customers of the product include Politico, Quartr, and Gnosis Freight. Earlier this year, the team raised $4.3 million in a seed round led by Framework Ventures with participation from Polygon, Alchemy Insights, Builder Capital, Chapter One, and IDEO CoLab Ventures.

John Roa, Founder and CEO of Caden

Serial entrepreneur John Roa founded data intelligence startup Caden with the goal of empowering users to take control of their personal data and earn money from it. On the Caden mobile app, users connect to online services they already use – such as Netflix or Uber – and they can see their usage stats as well as opt-in to make money from parts of their data by sharing it anonymously with third parties. Prior to founding Caden in 2021, John sold Äkta to Salesforce in 2015. In August of this year, Caden closed a $15 million Series A round led by Nava Ventures to further develop its data-driven platform. AME Cloud Ventures, Streamlined Ventures, Montage Ventures, Industry Ventures, 1707 Capital, and AAF Management also participated in the round.

Arjun Prakash and Derek Ho, Cofounders of Distyl

Palantir veterans Arjun Prakash and Derek Ho spent years working alongside each other and always knew they wanted to start a business together. After seeing firsthand the transformative potential of AI, the duo founded Distyl AI in 2022 to offer generative AI solutions and infrastructure to enterprises. In less than 18 months, Distyl AI has already deployed products built on Distillery, Distyl's enterprise AI platform, resulting in operational impact at several Fortune 500 companies. With Arjun in San Francisco and Derek in New York City, Distyl AI brings together the best of both coasts to create best-in-class outcomes for clients. In April 2023, the team announced a partnership with OpenAI and nabbed a $7 million seed investment in a round led by Coatue and Dell Technologies Capital.

Mati Staniszewski and Piotr Dabkowski, Cofounders of ElevenLabs

Founded by childhood friends Mati Staniszewski and Piotr Dabkowski in 2022, ElevenLabs is an AI-driven platform that generates synthetic voices for everything from creators to publishers. Prior to ElevenLabs, Mati worked at Palantir as a deployment strategist and Piotr at Google as a machine learning engineer. Thinking about the low-quality dubbing of Hollywood movies they watched during their childhoods in Poland, the duo looked to start a platform to offer a better experience for multilingual viewers. In June of this year, the team announced a $19 million Series A round co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and entrepreneurs Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross, bringing its value to around $99 million. ElevenLabs is based in New York and London.

Ian Amit and Matthew Sweeney, Cofounders of is an AI-powered platform that aims to transform how security and DevOps teams solve and remediate cloud infrastructure security issues. Prior to founding Gomboc in 2022, Ian was CSO at Cimpress and Rapid7 while Matt held leadership roles at Google’s Mandiant and Fortinet. In August of this year, the team emerged from stealth to announce $5 million in seed funding led by Glilot Capital and Hetz Ventures.

Sarmad Qadri, Suyog Sonwalkar, and Andrew Hoh, Cofounders of LastMile AI

Sarmad Qadri, Suyog Sonwalkar, and Andrew Hoh met each other while leading product and software engineering teams at Meta. Having defined and built the developer tool stack that machine learning engineers and data scientists used, the trio realized a new suite of developer tooling was required for software engineers to build Generative AI-powered applications. The team has built developer tools and a platform to enable software engineers to experiment with and productionize generative AI applications. In September of this year, the team raised $10 million in a seed round led by Gradient Ventures, Google's AI-focused fund.

Erik Bernhardsson, Founder and CEO of Modal Labs

After seven years of working at Spotify as an engineering manager and six years as CTO at, Erik Bernhardsson founded Modal Labs in 2021 to provide cloud-based infrastructure solutions to data teams, particularly for AI applications. In October of this year, the team nabbed $16 million in a Series A funding round led by Redpoint Ventures, bringing its total investment to $23 million. With brands like Substack and Ramp already using the platform, Modal will use the fresh funding to grow its team.

Brandon Duderstadt and Andriy Mulyar, Cofounders of Nomic AI

Founded in 2022 by Brandon Duderstadt and Andriy Mulyar, Nomic AI wants to make generative AI explainable and accessible to everyone by contributing to an open-source ecosystem through its products. Currently, the startup offers two products: GPT4All, an open-source AI model similar to ChatGPT that is freely downloadable for anyone, and Atlas, a tool for visualizing and interacting with the massive unstructured datasets required to build generative AI models. A couple of months ago, the team closed a $17 million Series A funding round led by Coatue Management, placing the company's valuation at $100 million.

Yoav Regev, Asaf Kochan, Ron Reiter, and Yair Cohen, Cofounders of Sentra

Sentra, a data-centric startup helping cloud-native platforms keep their data secure throughout the entire lifecycle, was founded in 2021 by Yoav Regev, Asaf Kochan, Ron Reiter, and Yair Cohen - all of whom are former members of IDF’s Unit 8200. In 2023, the team raised a $30 million Series A round led by Standard Investments with participation from Munich re Ventures, bringing its total financing to $53 million. Sentra has distinguished itself, being recently named as a Sample Vendor in the Data Security Posture Management category by Gartner in its Hype Cycle Report for Data Security.

Akash Sharma, Noa Flaherty, and Sidd Seethepalli, Cofounders of Vellum

Akash Sharma, Noa Flaherty, and Sidd Seethepalli met while working together at Dover (YC S19). They've been building generative AI apps for the last 4 years and realized that a lot of internal tooling is needed to make these apps well. Backed by Y Combinator and leveraging these learnings, Vellum is building an AI product development platform. This summer, the team secured a $5 million seed round with participation from Y Combinator, Rebel Fund, Pioneer Fund, and Eastlink Capital, among others.

Sarah Nagy, Founder and CEO of Seek AI

After more than a decade of working as a quant and data scientist, Sarah Nagy founded Seek AI in 2021 to develop a Generative AI platform that lets anyone in an organization request the data they need from within their business and receive it – quickly and easily. At the beginning of this year, the team announced $7.5 million in pre-seed and seed funding with participation from Conviction Partners and Battery Ventures, among others. After building out an engineering and research team and going to market, Seek has customers ranging from startups to the Fortune 100.

Morgante Pell, Founder and CEO of Grit

Prior to founding Grit in 2022, Morgante Pell led the development of various infrastructure and onboarding tools at Google Cloud. That's when he discovered the many challenges that came with modernizing legacy software. With Grit, his team offers companies an AI-powered platform to automate and improve large-scale software maintenance processes. In August of this year, the startup secured $7 million in a seed round led by Founders Fund and Abstract Ventures that will be used for product development and expanding its operations.

Charles Chretien and Conor McCarter, Cofounders of Prequel

Charles Chretien and Conor McCarter founded Prequel in 2020 while at Harvard Business School, and were part of Y Combinator's W21 batch. The startup has built an infrastructure platform that enables SaaS companies to share data with their customers seamlessly. A few months ago, the team closed a $5.2 million seed round led by NextView Ventures and Stage 2 Capital, with participation from Y Combinator, Script Capital, and several angel investors.

Misha Herscu and Skyler Thomas, Cofounders of Cake AI

Misha Herscu and Skyler Thomas created Cake AI to assist companies in adopting advanced AI technologies without requiring extensive teams of specialized engineers. Cake AI provides pre-built stacks of infrastructure along with ready-to-use integrations and recipes for projects, such as retrieval augmented generation and low latency recommendation engines. Prior to Cake AI, Misha founded EnvoyAI, an AI infrastructure company focused on medical imaging, which was acquired by TeraRecon in 2018. Skyler was most recently a Distinguished Engineer at HPE, where he served as the Chief Architect of the Ezmeral Data Fabric.

Elizabeth Nammour and Julie Trias, Cofounders of Teleskope

Elizabeth Nammour and Julie Trias first met while working as data security engineers at Airbnb, where they saw firsthand the challenges that came with keeping up and protecting exponentially increasing business and customer data. With this in mind, they founded Teleskope in 2022 aiming to tackle those problems. The cybersecurity startup uses AI models to help organizations automate data protection at scale, from detection to remediation. The team raised a pre-seed round from Lerer Hippeau in March of 2022.

Elliott Green, Ziad Obermeyer, Niyum Gandhi and Sendhil Mullainathan, Cofounders of Dandelion

Founded by Elliott Green, Ziad Obermeyer, Niyum Gandhi, Sendhil Mullainathan, Dandelion is catalyzing AI healthcare innovation and precision medicine with its real world data platform. Aimed at healthcare and life sciences innovators, the platform offers safe and ethical access to the highest fidelity clinical data available, which enables companies to build AI led products or insights. The founding team consists of experienced executives from within health tech, hospital systems, and academia (e.g., Oscar Health, UChicago, Mass General Brigham, UC Berkeley). Dandelion recently closed a $15 million seed round led by Primary along with Sharp HealthCare, Moxxie Ventures, Convergent Ventures, and Floating Point.

Boris Bogatin and Toufic Boubez, Cofounders of Catio

Serial entrepreneurs Boris Bogatin and Toufic Boubez cofounded Catio this year with the goal of building a cloud architecture platform for companies that helps evaluate, plan, and grow cloud-native tech stacks, with the support of AI. Boris, who founded companies such as Siden and NearVerse, is based in New York while Toufic, who has exited companies to Computer Associates and Splunk, works from Vancouver. Earlier this year, the team received a $1.4 million pre-seed funding round, according to Crunchbase.

Ben Colman, Ali Shahriyari, and Gaurav Bharaj, Co-Founders of Reality Defender

Creating AI-generated content is easier than ever. This is why Ben Colman, Ali Shahriyari, and Gaurav Bharaj launched Reality Defender in 2021: to help enterprises, companies, and governments proactively catch deepfakes and AI-generated content with its robust and hyper-accurate detection platform. Prior to Reality Defender, Ben served as a VP at Goldman Sachs, Ali held the position of Director of Product at the AI Foundation, and Gaurav led the research division of the AI Foundation as VP of Research. A Y Combinator graduate and winner of SXSW Pitch 2023, the Reality Defender team recently landed $15 million in Series A funding led by DCVC this past October.

Serge Rider, Founder and CTO of DBeaver

Serge Rider started DBeaver as a hobby in 2010. Because of its popularity, the project evolved into a full-fledged company in 2017, offering open-source database management tools to more than 8 million users. In 2018, Tatiana Krupenya joined the company as CEO. This year, the team garnered more than 5,000 paying customers paying for the commercial version of its product and closed a $6 million seed round to boost the company's growth.

Graham Neray and Sam Scott, Cofounders of Oso

Oso, founded by Graham Neray and Sam Scott in 2018, builds a cloud service and library to help developers structure more flexible and secure authorization. Oso helps developers at Pagerduty, Chief, Wayfair, Intercom, Productboard, and thousands of others build applications 10x faster with 10x less risk. This summer, Oso raised a $15 million Series A-1 round led by Felicis with participation from Sequoia and Harpoon Ventures, putting its total investment to more than $25 million.

Ryan Abernathey and Joe Hamman, Cofounders of Earthmover

Climate scientists Ryan Abernathey and Joe Hamman met each other while working on open-source projects, such as Xarray, Zarr, and Pangeo Project. Motivated by the mission of building a data platform that would contribute to the progress of scientific research around climate change, the duo teamed up to start Earthmover in 2022. That same year, the team received a $1.7 million pre-seed investment from Liu and Costanoa. Last month, Earthmover launched its Arraylake data platform into private beta.

Donny Greenberg, Josh Lewittes, and Caroline Chen, Cofounder of Runhouse

Founded last year by self-described "ML DevX maniacs" Donny Greenberg and Josh Lewittes, Runhouse is a Python framework for composing and sharing production-quality backend apps and services ridiculously quickly and on your own infra, like Google Docs for ML developers. Its simple PyTorch-like APIs turn existing functions and classes into production-shareable apps and services, providing auth, certs, secrets, scaling, lineage, automation, and reproducibility out of the box. The team raised $5.0 million in Seed funding this past June.