Focal Infra: The Tech Leaders You Need To Know in NYC
Infrastructure is becoming one of New York City's most pivotal startup sectors. Here are the teams we see leading the way.
There are three powerhouse, publicly traded, tech Infrastructure businesses in NYC: DataDog, MongoDB, and Digital Ocean. An inspiring array of startups are trying to join them. Some are far along and some are just getting going, but everyone on this list should be on your radar.
Why? Because Primary was built around the core belief that networks are what will give New York City the edge to become the world's leading startup city. Just look at how many founders cut their teeth at first-gen infra companies, and note how many are now investing in the next wave of companies: Dylan Field of Figma backed Warp, Datadog's Olivier Pomel and Cockroach Labs' Spencer Kimball are angel investors in Estuary, and Preql found funding from Tristan Handy from dbt Labs and Benn Stancil from Mode. We also tapped investors like Bessemer's Michael Droesch, Boldstart's Ed Sim, and OpenView's Kaitlyn Henry for upvotes and commentary on the many exciting startups you'll see below.
There is a serious snowball effect coming together here, and we're looking forward to supporting its continued acceleration. Thoughts? Misses? Up-and-comers to meet? Places where we can help mentor a more diverse set of talent to join this sector and help reset demographic disparities? Get in touch with Brian Schechter and Tobias Citron.
Michael Guarino and Sam Weaver, Cofounders of Plural
Plural makes it easy for companies to access and deploy the best open source solutions. It facilitates more direct relationships between enterprise developers and open source maintainers. Plus, it has also managed to cut the intermediary cost of public cloud providers. It raised $1 million in October 2021 in a pre-seed round led by Primary. Partner Brian Schechter helped Michael Guarino find CEO Sam Weaver—a veteran of Red Hat, MongoDB, and Unqork—who quickly understood the urgent need for these offerings. In January 2022 Plural raised $6 million in a seed round led by SignalFire. Brian says, “Plural is a game changer for engineering teams who want to extract the glorious fruit that is open source software, without the hassle. In just a few clicks, Plural makes it easy to deploy, run, and update many different open source technologies, working together, all in one place.”
Niall Murphy, Blake Bisset, Maggie Johnson-Pint, and Joseph Bironas, Cofounders of Stanza
Stanza helps engineers understand what’s happening, collaborate efficiently, and act intelligently by fusing SRE wisdom with a real-time model of production environments. SRE, site reliability engineering, is the difference between your app loading in 5 seconds or 5 milliseconds, between crashing every 10 times or every 1000.
Niall Murphy was previously Global Head of Azure SRE at Microsoft, and before that, at Google, he quite literally wrote the book on SRE. With Stanza, his team will offer a new type of SRE-as-Software to the long tail of engineering organizations.
Paul Dix, Founder and CTO of InfluxData
InfluxData is the creator of InfluxDB, the leading time series platform for developers building real-time IoT, analytics, and cloud applications with time-stamped data. In February 2019, InfluxData raised $60 million in Series D funding, led by Norwest Venture Partners, and joined by Sorenson Capital, Sapphire Ventures, Battery Ventures, and more.
“A majority of data is best understood in the time dimension, which is why time series data is the foundation of so many of today’s critical technology investments, including IoT, observability, machine learning, and predictive analytics,” said Los Altos-based CEO Evan Kaplan.
Though the company is based in San Francisco, Founder Paul Dix is based in New York City. He joined our NYC Summit earlier this month, where he shared some of his wisdom from building the company and its community:
"My hot take on community is that the community that you’re building is not your top of funnel," he said. "The GTM team is going to pressure you to transfer the community to leads, but that’s not how good communities work; the community is going to take on a life of its own."
"We ended up launching a commercial product in 2016," he said, "and our revenue run rate ended up being insane. I would have loved if I had learned earlier that I was eventually going to commercialize, and it's important to be very clear with your community early on. Have a thesis on what the difference is going to be between closed source and open source, and if you can figure out how to make change iteratively, do so."
Gabi Steele and Leah Weiss, Cofounders and CEOs of Preql
Preql is a no-code data transformation solution that allows business users without advanced SQL and data transformation expertise to manage their own business logic for reporting, a need cofounders Gabi Steele and Leah Weiss came to understand leading data teams at WeWork and then in cofounding data engineering and visualization consultancy Data Culture.
In May of this year, the company announced its $7 million seed round, led by Bessemer Venture Partners with participation from Felicis, and top founders in the analytics ecosystem including Taylor Brown from Fivetran, Keenan Rice from Looker, Tristan Handy from dbt Labs, Eldad Fakash from Firebolt, and Benn Stancil from Mode.
Eliot Horowitz, Founder and CEO of Viam
Viam addresses robotics issues with hardware and software integrations. Viam has built a novel platform that relies on standardized building blocks—not custom code—to create, configure, and control robots. Founder and CEO Eliot Horowitz was a pioneer of infra as Cofounder and CTO of MongoDB, and now is pushing forward its next iterations.
In February 2022, Viam announced a $30 million Series A led by Tiger Global with participation from returning investors Union Square Ventures and Battery Ventures. Griffin Schroeder, a Partner at Tiger Global, said, “The latest investment will enable Viam to expand its team size and support ongoing research and development (R&D) to enhance its platform.”
Zach Lloyd, Founder and CEO of Warp
Warp, a Rust-based coding terminal, speeds up coding and application development. In April 2022, Warp announced a $17 million Series A led by Dylan Field, Cofounder and CEO of Figma. Elad Gil, former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, and Salesforce’s Cofounder and Co-CEO Marc Benioff also participated.
Primary’s Brian Schechter says, “Warp is a reinvention of one of the most-used developer tools, the command-line terminal. Hugely ambitious! But with little innovation in twenty-plus years, it's ripe for disruption. With features like native input, blocks, and ai search, Warp is a blazingly fast Rust-based terminal that makes developers and development teams 10x more productive in the command-line. Warp is free and available on Mac now.”
Martin Mao and Rob Skillington, Cofounders of Chronosphere
Chronosphere's Cofounders Martin Mao and Rob Skillington met at Microsoft, where they were instrumental in transferring Office to Office 365. After moving on to work for Uber, the duo set out to build an end-to-end solution for companies hoping to gather and analyze data in the could.
Chronosphere's world-class software helps organizations operate at scale and make data-driven decisions. After just three years, in October 2021, it was minted a unicorn, raising $200 million in Series C funding led by General Atlantic.
Merrill Lutsky, Tomas Reimers, and Greg Foster, Cofounders of Graphite
Graphite is a modern code review tool for fast-moving teams. Founded in 2020 by Merrill Lutsky, Tomas Reimers, and Greg Foster, Graphite helps engineers write and review smaller pull requests, stay unblocked, and ship faster.
In May 2022, Graphite announced a $20 million Series A led by a16z. As Peter Levine of a16z said, “We believe Graphite will become a key product in the modern DevEx stack of every organization.”
Raj Dutt, Torkel Ödegaard, and Anthony Woods, Cofounders of Grafana Labs
Grafana Labs is an open-source software platform that supports monitoring, visualization, and metric analytics. In April 2022, Grafana Labs raised a $240 million Series D led by GIC and J.P. Morgan. With this new funding, Grafana plans to enhance its capabilities, premiere an open source software, and execute a product roadmap.
In July, over 80 partners signed on to Grafana Labs' partner program, and bookings generated by those partners increased by 230%. Grafana Labs' more than 2,000 customers include Bloomberg, Citigroup, Dell Technologies, Salesforce, and TomTom.
Tristan Handy, Drew Banin, and Connor McArthur, Cofounders of dbt Labs
dbt Labs empowers data practitioners to create and share organizational knowledge, and is a pioneer of analytics engineering. Over 25,000 data practitioners use the service, revolutionizing how data teams collaborate.
In February 2022, dbt labs received $222 million in Series D funding. Altimeter led; Amplify Partners, a16z, and Sequoia participated. The new round of funding will pave the way for dbt Labs to build the next layer in the modern data stack.
Helen Altshuler, Cofounder and CEO of EngFlow
EngFlow provides a platform that builds source code and runs tests across a cluster of machines and executes remotely and caches the results. Cofounders Helen Altshuler and Munich-based Ulf Adams came up at Google, where they saw the need for this type of solution. As Ulf put it, “...we’re basically breaking up the build process into smaller steps, and then we’re distributing those steps across multiple machines so instead of running it on your laptop, we can run it in a data center [in the cloud]. So if it’s not moving quickly enough for you, you can just add a couple more machines and make it faster.” EngFlow observability platform allows customers to get insights into their builds and tests and proactively investigate and correct failed, slow or flaky builds and tests.
In October 2021, EngFlow announced its seed round of $3.7 million—led by a16z, with participation from Firstminute Capital, Alchemist Accelerator, and an array of angel investors.
Gideon Mendels and Nimrod Lahav, Cofounders of Comet
Comet helps AI users and teams build reliable machine learning models. It streamlines and connects machine learning model lifecycles to build models. Plus, Comet users get access to machine learning experiment tracking, which allows them to compare, track, explain, and reproduce their own models.
In November 2021, Comet secured $50 million in Series B funding led by OpenView Venture Partners. Return investors Scale Venture Partners, Trilogy Equity Partners, and Two Sigma Ventures also participated.
OpenView Venture Partners’ CEO Kaitlyn Henry says, “Comet is a must-have for folks building a best-of-breed ML stack and working with models in production. It's especially unique the way they combine model monitoring with experiment management. It's such a no-brainer that model performance in production should feed back into experiments, and vice versa.”
Dimitri Sirota and Nimrod Vax, Cofounders of BigID
BigID’s data intelligence platform allows organizations to access their enterprise data and take action for privacy, protection, and perspective. It gives customers the power to protect and create value from their data. In April 2021, it announced $30 million in funding from Advent International—supplementing its $70 million Series D funding. With this new funding, CEO Dimitri Sirota said, “we’ve added employees as we’ve seen broader economic recovery and increased demand. In tandem, we have been busy building a whole host of new products and offerings that we will announce over the coming weeks that will be transformational for BigID.”
Benjamin Darnell, Spencer Kimball, and Peter Mattis, Cofounders of Cockroach Labs
A cloud-native distributed SQL database, Cockroach Labs offers consistency, resilience, data locality, and massive scale to modern cloud applications. In December 2021, Cockroach Labs raised a $278 million Series F, bringing the company to a $5 billion valuation. Greenoaks led alongside Altimeter, Bond, Benchmark, Coatue, FirstMark, GV, Index Ventures, J.P. Morgan, Lone Pine Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and Tiger Global.
Cockroach DB is Comcast, Devsisters, and eBay's transactional database of choice, with over 200 customers and tens of thousands of clusters in deployment around the world.
Mike Freedman and Ajay Kulkarni, Cofounders of Timescale
Mike Freedman and Ajay Kulkarni founded Timescale to pioneer open-source time-series database optimizations for fast ingest and complex queries. Cofounder Ajay Kulkarni says Timescale started in 2015 “under a different name and a different premise. We started off building an IoT platform, and long story short, we were collecting a lot of time-series data from over a hundred thousand devices, and we needed time-series databases to store this data. We used a few off the shelf items, and they didn’t really satisfy our needs, so the first version of time-series was actually something we built internally for our own needs. And, very quickly, the people who were using the platform, the people who we were describing the platform to, who were more interested in the database.”
At Timescale, they believe the inevitable—that a database should be boring, or in other words, manageable, scalable, and reliable. Timescale is the creator of TimescaleDB, a relational database for time-series used to build data-driven products that measure software applications, industrial equipment, financial markets, blockchain activity, consumer behavior, machine learning models, climate change, and more.
In February, Timescale raised $110 million in Series C funding, led by Tiger Global and with participation from Benchmark, New Enterprise Associates, Redpoint Ventures, Icon Ventures, and Two Sigma Ventures—with an overall valuation of more than $1 billion.
Clem Delangue, Julien Chaumond, and Thomas Wolf, Cofounders of Hugging Face
Hugging Face wants to build the future with AI. How? By letting its users build, train, and deploy art models with reference open source in machine learning. In May 2022, Hugging Face raised $100 million in Series C funding. Lux Capital led, and Sequoia, Coatue, Addition, Betaworks, AIX Ventures, Kevin Durant, Thirty Five Ventures' Rich Kleiman, and Olivier Pomel (among others) participated. With the new funding, Hugging Face will double down on its research and open-source products and work towards the responsible democratization of AI.
Kaitlyn Henry of Openview Venture Partners said, “It's hard to understand the impact that Hugging Face has had on democratizing ML for the 99%. There's a number of use cases for ML where re-creating the wheel makes no sense whatsoever. The ability to leverage models from the community greatly lowers the barrier to entry for companies of all shapes and sizes to get started.”
Florian Douetteau, Clément Stenac, and Marc Batty, Cofounders of Dataiku
Dataiku operates as an enterprise artificial intelligence and machine learning platform. In August 2021, Dataiku announced a $400 million Series E investment led by Tiger Global, with support from ICONIQ Growth, CapitalG, FirstMark Capital, Battery Ventures, Snowflake Ventures, and Dawn Capital, as well as new investors, including Insight Partners, Eurazeo, Lightrock, and Datadog CEO Olivier Pomel.
Over 450 companies worldwide use Dataiku to systemize their AI and data usage. This allows them to drive diverse use cases like fraud detection, customer churn prevention, predictive maintenance, and supply chain optimization.
Graham Neray, Cofounder and CEO of Oso
Oso is all about enabling a rich ecosystem of third-party collaborations. While AWS, Stripe, and Twilio have made this possible in many areas, Graham Neray and Austin-based Cofounder Sam Scott realized authorization—what users can do within an app—hadn't been addressed, and developers were still building their own solutions.
“We help developers to speed up their authorization roadmaps by up to 4x, and the way that we do that is by providing this library, which comes with pre-built integrations, guides and an underlying policy language,” Graham told TechCrunch.
In 2021, the company announced an $8.2 million Series A led by Sequoia with participation from SV Angel, Company Ventures, Highland Capital, and angel investors, bringing total funding to $10.9 million.
Gleb Mezhanskiy, Founder and CEO of Datafold
Datafold is a data reliability platform that automates data engineering workflows, putting an end to broken dashboards, data syncs, and ML models—and counting Thumbtack, Substack, and Patreon among its clients.
Having worked at Autodesk and Lyft in the Bay Area, Founder and CEO Gleb Mezhanskiy says, “Poor data quality is the primary challenge for companies to become data-driven and a constant source of stress and overwork for data professionals. Top tech companies pour millions of dollars into creating internal data reliability tools and processes, while the vast majority of data teams have to rely on tedious manual testing or risk shipping incorrect data to their stakeholders. We founded Datafold to enable every team that leverages data to make better decisions with tools that help them move fast with high confidence.”
Trevor Shim, Alexander Belanger, and Justin Rhee, Cofounders of Porter
Porter’s cofounders set out to build a DevOps company, but along the way came to understand the complexities of hosting solutions and incurring costs. They joined Y Combinator in 2020 and found other companies, like theirs, were looking to build external solutions.
A fully-managed platform as a service (PaaS), Porter lets teams automate DevOps, and deploys and manages apps within Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and more. Its aim is to build PaaS as an accessible service for any team to manage applications within its own cloud. And others have taken note; in July 2021, Porter announced $1.5 million in seed funding from Venrock, Translink Capital, Soma Capital, and several angel investors.
Stephen Cobbe and Umaimah Khan, Cofounders of Opal
Who remembers the 11 minutes in 2017 when former President Donald J. Trump’s Twitter account was deactivated? Opal’s Cofounder Stephen Cobbe does. He says that was a prime example of an access permission slip-up. Opal could have helped—it lets enterprises build scalable access management workflows and avoid these exact permission problems. The platform takes a holistic approach to access management and broad integration coverage. It lets admins understand and write scalable access policies.
Opal's founding talent hails from companies like Dropbox, Scale, Palo Alto Networks, and more. In June 2022 it announced a $10 million Series A led by Greylock Partners. Cofounder Stephen Cobbe said, “Our funding will support us as we continue to hire a world-class engineering and sales teams to scale our growth.”
Arjun Narayan and Frank McSherry, Cofounders of Materialize
Cofounder Arjun Narayan has “lived, breathed, and been in data for a while, and a little by accident. [He] didn’t intend to fall in love with databases." Narayan's background is data-fueled. A former Ph.D. candidate in distributed systems and big data processing, he then joined Cockroach Labs as a software engineer.
Materialize incrementally holds materialized views of data. The SQL streaming database builds internal tools, interactive dashboards, and customer-facing experiences. In September 2022, it announced a $60 million Series C round led by Redpoint Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and more. CEO Arjun Narayan said Materialize will use the funding to grow its engineering team and bring its cloud service from beta to general availability.
Sandy Bird and Brendan Hannigan, Cofounders of Sonrai Security
Sonrai Security is a leading platform for enterprises to understand, track, and govern risk across their public cloud. In October 2021, Sonrai announced a $50 million Series C funding. ISTARI led, and existing investors Polaris Partners, Menlo Ventures, TenEleven Ventures, and New Brunswick Innovation Fund participated. Sonrai said it will use its new funding to speed up research and development and expand global sales and marketing.
Bryan Helmkamp, Founder and CEO of Code Climate
Code Climate helps fill communication gaps, and identify and solve bottlenecks. It raised $50 million in Series C fundraising in September 2021. PSG led this round. Previous investors like Union Square Ventures, Foundry Group, Lerer Hippeau, and NextView Ventures also participated.
CEO and Cofounder Bryan Helmkamp said that the investment “will help us further our vision of helping engineering and business executives align engineering initiatives with business priorities, deliver high-quality code quickly and consistently, and improve teams’ processes and skills to create a high performing culture.”
Benjamin De Groot and Peter Valdez, Cofounders of Shipyard
Shipyard is designed to generate full-stack ephemeral environments on every pull request. Shipyard’s platform integrates with a company's development workflow. It then oversees ephemeral environments for development, QA, product, and sales teams. Using Shipyard allows product managers and engineers to then build, share, test, and establish applications and products improvements. In October 2020, Shipyard announced a $2.3 million seed round led by Contour Venture Partners, with participation from Array Ventures, Heavybit, Work-Bench, and Bossanova Investimentos.
Akshat Bubna and Erik Bernhardsson, Cofounders of Modal
Modal Labs lives at the intersection of data and infrastructure. Modal makes running code in the cloud easier. It helps developers access containerized, serverless computing without the hassle of managing their own infrastructure. Cofounder Erik Bernhardsson, former CTO of Better.com, is the mind behind Spotify’s music recommendation feature—including Discover Weekly playlists.
Donald J. Duet and J Ram, Cofounders of Concourse Labs
Concourse Labs accelerates enterprise digital transformation through automated cloud governance. By securing all cloud configurations, Concourse Labs puts a stop to the leading cause of cloud data breaches. In June 2020, it announced a $15.2 million Series A round led by ForgePoint Capital. This new funding accelerated enterprise digital transformation by automating cloud governance.
Christian Rocha and Toby Padilla, Cofounders of Charm
Charm builds tools to make the command line glamorous. In April 2021, Charm announced a $3 million seed round led by Cavalry Ventures. Command line users have a “strong desire to use open source software,” Toby Padilla said. “It also allows Glow to be bundled and distributed with other open-source tools, like Linux distributions and package managers. Since the majority of our users are developers, being open source also helps with adoption.”
Eric Meadows, Founder and CEO of SourceField.io
SourceField.io promises a productivity pickup of up to 30%. It helps identify bugs as quickly as possible and was built on Eric Meadows’ experience at companies like Tesla, Major League Baseball, and Origin, which participated in Y Combinator. Made by developers for developers, and the team uses its own software to improve its own software.
John Graettinger and David Yaffe, Cofounders of Estuary
“At Estuary, we bring the best of both worlds to data integrations: the simplicity and data retention of batch systems and the [low] latency of streaming,” said Cofounder David Yaffe. Estuary gives organizations real-time access to their data—without the headache of infrastructure. It captures data from SaaS or other tech sources, transforms it, and materializes it back into the same types of systems in a millisecond.
In October 2021, Estuary raised $7 million in a seed round. FirstMark Capital led in funding. Angel investors—like Datadog CEO Olivier Pomel and Cockroach Labs CEO Spencer Kimball—also joined.
Ivan Malopinsky, Founder of Metadash
Ivan Malopinsky had a vision to reimagine cloud management from the ground up. As a founding engineer at Better.com, Malopinsky helped scale the company from a tiny startup to a $7B+ fintech unicorn. After his experience at Better, he created Metadash to help teams scale and secure infrastructure with a universal cloud console that optimizes security, stability, and spend.