Blog A License to build the future

A License to build the future

Tristan Handy

Nov 11, 2020

Company News

Only recently, I had the pleasure of writing a blog post wherein I announced our Series A. It was a big moment for us, the moment we got to join the "big kids table," the moment Fishtown Analytics evolved from a cute little company into a group of humans committed to doing something big and hard. If you haven't read the post before, it's a good read---it contains a lot of my personal thinking about how open source software and venture capital can fit together in a positive-sum way.

In announcing our Series B, I'm not going to retread that same terrain. I have no desire to bore you---and most fundraising announcements are, in fact, dreadfully boring---so I'm going to keep this short and to the point. Moreover, I'll focus on what's in it for you, a member of the dbt community.

An unlooked-for opportunity

To be blunt: I did not expect to be writing a successor post to the Series A announcement quite so quickly! Sure, our numbers for the past six months have been good. There are now 3,000 companies using dbt every week, 8,000 folks in Slack, and 490 companies paying for dbt Cloud. All of that is legitimately exciting, but none of these lines were discontinuous and we fully expected that it would be 18-24 months from our A to our B (the industry mode).

What happened, instead, is that our space has become incredibly hot (see: Snowflake IPO). This, when combined with the genuine enthusiasm of dbt users, drove a tremendous amount of pre-emptive investment interest. There was a lot of demand to lead our B much sooner than we had imagined.

Our first answer to this interest was to say "no thanks." We had spent almost none of the cash we had raised in the A and so, ipso facto, we had no need to raise again. Why sell more of the company if we were just going to stash the cash in a bank account?

I'll spare you the back-and-forth debate that went on in my head and tell you where I ended up: Cash gives us time, and time gives us the freedom to think big.

We optimize for the long-term

Our mission is to empower analysts to create and disseminate organizational knowledge. And, quoting from our values:

We optimize for the long-term.

While we pursue the mission with intense focus, we recognize that creating the change in the world that we wish to see will not happen overnight. We think, plan, and act for the long-term.

Getting very in-the-weeds: we're planning on being at roughly 60 people and 15 engineers by EOY this year and about 110 people and 35 engineers by EOY 2021. Even with that significant increase in burn, we now have runway through EOY 2024---4 full years.

Why should you care about this? This massive amount of runway actually translates very directly into both how we build product and what we can build. It allows us to build a team of world-class engineers and then have them build things the right way. It allows us to expand the breadth of what dbt can do in meaningful ways. It lets us architect our organization---our culture, our processes, our team---for the long term.

Let me take a really specific example. We chose the words in our mission statement carefully: to empower analysts to create and disseminate organizational knowledge. So far, we've primarily focused on the creation of knowledge---that's what you're doing when you build a dbt model, after all. But knowledge creation is perhaps the easier part of the equation. As you know if you've spent any time enabling data consumers, the hardest part in data is the "last mile"--- answering questions from data consumers, at scale, like:

  • Where can I find data about [x]?
  • Does this dataset capture what I'm looking for?
  • Is this data correct?
  • Is this data recent?
  • How frequently is this data updated?
  • How often is this data broken?
  • Whom should I talk to with questions?
  • If this dataset breaks, is it anyone's job to fix it or will it just stay broken?
  • How does this dataset map to other datasets that I use?
  • ...

This list could go on for much longer. These are the kinds of questions that absolutely must be answered in order to bring data consumers---the folks who spend their days making decisions using the data you produce---into the process. Without this, these users are second-class citizens, largely disempowered and requiring intercession to get the knowledge they need. This isn't what "disseminating knowledge" looks like, and getting shoulder-tapped all day to answer questions like these isn't the highest-leverage use of your time.

This is a big, hard problem. And it's one that we've waited years to invest resources in tackling, because we knew it was too heavy of a lift to accomplish previously. But we've finally started--- in fact, we'll have the very first news to share on this within the next month. It's just a first step on a very long road, but it's a step that we can confidently make now that we have the space to do so.

This is just one example. Since the raise, there have been so many examples of the positive impacts that long-term thinking can bring: both to Fishtown Analytics as a company and, in turn, to the dbt Community.

Build to last

If you can't tell, I have a chip on my shoulder. As a career data analyst, I've always felt like we were under-appreciated and underestimated: by our companies who don't create career paths for us, by the vendors that built our tools, by the VCs who fund the vendors who built our tools... "Data analysts don't code!" "You expect data analysts to [learn git / use the command line / install a python package]?!" I've heard it all, and it's hard not to take it personally.

When I look at the moment in time that we currently occupy, I see an opportunity to fix all of that. I see an opportunity to truly improve the lives of data analysts everywhere: creating higher-leverage tooling, better career paths, and a community of practice with deep social capital.

Pasting again from our values:

We are humble.

While we believe that we are building something exceptional, that knowledge does not make us feel proud, it makes us feel humble. It imbues us with a deep sense of responsibility towards our clients, coworkers, and the community at large.

The opportunity we have is meaningful, and I feel an incredible sense of responsibility to create something real, something lasting. This fundraise helps us live in that mindset every single day.

Last modified on: Feb 27, 2024

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