In the summer of 2019, we met Alex Gallego – a force-of-nature technical entrepreneur with a big idea for the future of data infrastructure and distributed systems. Haystack ended up investing in the seed round of Alex’s company – then called Vectorized – alongside Arif Janmohammed at Lightspeed. That company is now called Redpanda and has evolved into a true market leader in real-time data streaming – and now they announced their $100M Series C yestertoday.
Since we began working with them four years ago under their original name “Vectorized,” Alex and his team have stayed true to their original thesis and vision. Alex understood that the world’s largest companies were beginning the process of moving their data architectures and distributed systems from batch to real-time, but that existing solutions like Apache Kafka were not speedy enough and too expensive to operate, did not scale well, and lacked simplicity and ease-of-use for developers. Redpanda’s vision was to create the alternative engineers deserve. To have a shot at this, the team would require significant engineering resources to build a system that perfected those ideals while delivering speed, reliability, and performance. If they could clear this technical hurdle, the belief was that a large market awaited them.
That was the bet. Fast-forward to today in 2023, Redpanda has multiple product lines that serve large customers across industries such as financial services and companies leveraging data for AI/ML models. They have an exceptional engineering team and a growing GTM organization. The company has raised successive rounds of capital, in small part due to efforts of outside board members Arif from Lightspeed and David “Muni” from GV, as well as Nnamdi Iregbulem from Lightspeed who participates on the board. Alex and his executive team, with the support of the board, have demonstrated a consistent level of cautious optimism, intellectual honesty about what was working (and what wasn’t), and truly long-term support, especially given the Series A and B rounds were done during the height of the pandemic lockdowns. We would like to thank Alex (and the exec team), Arif, and Muni for always welcoming our insights and suggestions, they all treated us like partners and for that we are grateful.
As a brief aside, this is a special time for us at Haystack and this investment presents the long-term vision for what a small-but-mighty investment platform could look like. We have been blessed to invest in every round of the company so far, beginning with their first official commitment. My colleague Aashay picked up on Vectorized very early through his networks. My colleague Divya helped underwrite our Series B investment 16 months ago out of our small companion fund, and both Aashay and Divya led the charge for on this Series C many months ago to put our fund in position to continue investing with our limited partners. I want to give credit to both Aashay and Divya for their steady stewardship of our investment over many challenging years.
Raising a growth round these days is no picnic. As I reflect back on our evolving relationship with Redpanda, I keep coming back to one element – watching Alex grow as a technology executive and overall leader. When we invest in seed, we are ultimately taking a bet on the upward trajectory of the founders in some way. They have to grow and evolve super quickly once they taste the first bites of success. On this more qualitative measure, I can confidently state that the Alex of 2023 is different from the Alex of 2019 we met. Mind you, 2018 Alex was very impressive! But over the past four years, through the pandemic, through the tech bubble, through the banking crisis, and through the major market turn, Alex has evolved more like a prized fighter would, constantly in the gym or running, cutting down his fighting weight, training all throughout the night, and demanding the best from his colleagues, his investors, and himself. To Alex and the team – congrats on this mini-milestone, and we look forward to the next board meeting!