Sep
16
2021
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Confluent CEO Jay Kreps is coming to TC Sessions: SaaS for a fireside chat

As companies process ever-increasing amounts of data, moving it in real time is a huge challenge for organizations. Confluent is a streaming data platform built on top of the open source Apache Kafka project that’s been designed to process massive numbers of events. To discuss this, and more, Confluent CEO and co-founder Jay Kreps will be joining us at TC Sessions: SaaS on Oct 27th for a fireside chat.

Data is a big part of the story we are telling at the SaaS event, as it has such a critical role in every business. Kreps has said in the past the data streams are at the core of every business, from sales to orders to customer experiences. As he wrote in a company blog post announcing the company’s $250 million Series E in April 2020, Confluent is working to process all of this data in real time — and that was a big reason why investors were willing to pour so much money into the company.

“The reason is simple: though new data technologies come and go, event streaming is emerging as a major new category that is on a path to be as important and foundational in the architecture of a modern digital company as databases have been,” Kreps wrote at the time.

The company’s streaming data platform takes a multi-faceted approach to streaming and builds on the open source Kafka project. While anyone can download and use Kafka, as with many open source projects, companies may lack the resources or expertise to deal with the raw open source code. Many a startup have been built on open source to help simplify whatever the project does, and Confluent and Kafka are no different.

Kreps told us in 2017 that companies using Kafka as a core technology include Netflix, Uber, Cisco and Goldman Sachs. But those companies have the resources to manage complex software like this. Mere mortal companies can pay Confluent to access a managed cloud version or they can manage it themselves and install it in the cloud infrastructure provider of choice.

The project was actually born at LinkedIn in 2011 when their engineers were tasked with building a tool to process the enormous number of events flowing through the platform. The company eventually open sourced the technology it had created and Apache Kafka was born.

Confluent launched in 2014 and raised over $450 million along the way. In its last private round in April 2020, the company scored a $4.5 billion valuation on a $250 million investment. As of today, it has a market cap of over $17 billion.

In addition to our discussion with Kreps, the conference will also include Google’s Javier Soltero, Amplitude’s Olivia Rose, as well as investors Kobie Fuller and Casey Aylward, among others. We hope you’ll join us. It’s going to be a thought-provoking lineup.

Buy your pass now to save up to $100 when you book by October 1. We can’t wait to see you in October!


Jun
02
2021
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Confluent’s IPO brings a high-growth, high-burn SaaS model to the public markets

Confluent became the latest company to announce its intent to take the IPO route, officially filing its S-1 paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this week. The company, which has raised over $455 million since it launched in 2014, was most recently valued at just over $4.5 billion when it raised $250 million last April.

What does Confluent do? It built a streaming data platform on top of the open-source Apache Kafka project. In addition to its open-source roots, Confluent has a free tier of its commercial cloud offering to complement its paid products, helping generate top-of-funnel inflows that it converts to sales.

Kafka itself emerged from a LinkedIn internal project in 2011. As we wrote at the time of Confluent’s $50 million Series C in 2017, the open-source project was designed to move massive amounts of data at the professional social network:

At its core, Kafka is simply a messaging system, created originally at LinkedIn, that’s been designed from the ground up to move massive amounts of data smoothly around the enterprise from application to application, system to system or on-prem to cloud — and deal with extremely high message volume.

Confluent CEO and co-founder Jay Kreps wrote at the time of the funding that events streaming is at the core of every business, reaching sales and other core business activities that occur in real time that go beyond storing data in a database after the fact.

“[D]atabases have long helped to store the current state of the world, but we think this is only half of the story. What is missing are the continually flowing stream of events that represents everything happening in a company, and that can act as the lifeblood of its operation,” he wrote.

That’s where Confluent comes in.

But enough about the technology. Is Confluent’s work with Kafka a good business? Let’s find out.

May
06
2020
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Confluent introduces scale on demand for Apache Kafka cloud customers

We find ourselves in a time when certain businesses are being asked to scale to levels they never imagined. Sometimes that increased usage comes in bursts, which means you don’t want to pay for permanent extra capacity you might not always need. Today, Confluent introduced a new scale-on-demand feature for its Apache Kafka cloud service that will scale up and down as needed, automatically.

Confluent CEO Jay Kreps says that elasticity is arguably one of the most important features of cloud computing, and this ability to scale up and down is one of the primary factors that has attracted organizations to the cloud. By automating that capability, they give DevOps one less major thing to worry about.

“This new functionality allows users to dynamically scale Kafka and the other key ecosystem components like KSQL and Kafka Connect. This is a key missing capability that no other service provides,” Kreps explained.

He points out that this is particularly relevant right now with people working at home. Systems are being taxed more than perhaps ever before, and this automated elasticity is going to come in handy, making it more cost-effective and efficient than was previously possible.

“These capabilities let customers add capacity as they need it, or scale down to save money, all without having to pre-plan in advance,” he said.

The new elasticity feature in Confluent is part of a series of updates to the platform, known as Project Metamorphosis, that Confluent is planning to roll out throughout this year on a regular basis.

“Through the rest of the year we’ll be doing a sequence of releases that bring the capabilities of modern cloud data systems to the Kafka ecosystem in Confluent Cloud. We’ll be announcing one major capability each month, starting with elasticity,” he said.

Kreps first announced Metamorphosis last month when the company also announced a massive $250 million funding round on a $4.5 billion valuation. In spite of the current economic situation, driven by the ongoing pandemic, Confluent plans to continue to build out the product, as today’s announcement attests.

Apr
21
2020
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Confluent lands another big round with $250M Series E on $4.5B valuation

The pandemic may feel all-encompassing at the moment, but Confluent announced a $250 million Series E today, showing that major investment continues in spite of the dire economic situation at the moment. The company is now valued at $4.5 billion.

Today’s round follows last year’s $125 million Series D. At that point the company was valued at a mere $2.5 billion. Investors obviously see a lot of potential here.

Coatue Management led the round, with help from Altimeter Capital and Franklin Templeton. Existing investors Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $456 million.

The company is based on Apache Kafka, the open-source streaming data project that emerged from LinkedIn in 2011. Confluent launched in 2014 and has gained steam, funding and gaudy valuations along the way.

CEO and co-founder Jay Kreps reports that growth continued last year when sales grew 100% over the previous year. A big part of that is the cloud product the company launched in 2017. It added a free tier last September, which feels pretty prescient right about now.

But the company isn’t making money giving stuff away, so much as attracting users, who can become customers at some point as they make their way through the sales funnel. The beauty of the cloud product is that you can buy by the sip.

The company has big plans for the product this year. Although Kreps was loath to go into detail, he says that there will be a series of changes coming up this year that will add significantly to the product’s capabilities.

“As part of this we’re going to have a major new set of capabilities for our cloud service, and for open-source Kafka, and for our product that we’re going to announce every month for the rest of the year,” Kreps told TechCrunch. These will start rolling out the first week in May.

While he wouldn’t get specific, he says that it relates to the changing nature of cloud infrastructure deployment. “This whole infrastructure area is really evolving as it moves to the cloud. And so it has to become much, much more elastic and scalable as it really changes how it works. And we’re going to have announcements around what we think are the core capabilities of event streaming in the cloud,” he said.

While a round this big with a valuation this high and an institutional investor like Franklin Templeton involved typically means an IPO could be the next step, Kreps was not ready to talk about that, except to say the company does plan to begin behaving in the cadence of a public company with a set of quarterly earnings, just not for public consumption yet.

The company was founded in 2014. It has 1,000 employees and has plans to continue to hire and to expand the product. Kreps sees plenty of opportunity here in spite of the current economics.

“I don’t think you want to just turtle up and hang on to your existing customers and not expand if you’re in a market that’s really growing. What really got this round of investors excited is the fact that we’re onto something that has a huge market, and we want to continue to advance, even in these really weird uncertain times,” he said.

Sep
30
2019
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Confluent adds free tier to Kafka real-time streaming data cloud service

When Confluent launched a cloud service in 2017, it was trying to reduce some of the complexity related to running a Kafka streaming data application. Today, it introduced a free tier to that cloud service. The company hopes to expand its market beyond large technology company customers, and the free tier should make it easier for smaller companies to get started.

The new tier provides up to $50 of service a month for up to three months. Company CEO Jay Kreps says that while $50 might not sound like much, it’s actually hundreds of gigabytes of throughput and makes it easy to get started with the tool.

“We felt like we can make this technology really accessible. We can make it as easy as we can. We want to make it something where you can just get going in seconds, and not have to pay anything to start building an application that uses real-time streams of data,” Kreps said.

Kafka has been available as an open-source product since 2011, so it’s been free to download, install and build applications, but still required a ton of compute and engineering resources to pull off. The cloud service was designed to simplify that, and the free tier lets developers get comfortable building a small application without making a large financial investment.

Once they get used to working with Kafka on the free version, users can then buy in whatever increments make sense for them, and only pay for what they use. It can be pennies’ worth of Kafka or hundreds of dollars, depending on a customer’s individual requirements. “After free, you can buy 11 cents’ worth of Kafka or you can buy it $10 worth, all the way up to these massive users like Lyft that use Confluent Cloud at huge scale as part of their ridesharing service,” he said.

While a free SaaS trial might feel like a common kind of marketing approach, Kreps says for a service like Kafka, it’s actually much more difficult to pull off. “With something like a distributed system where you get a whole chunk of infrastructure, it’s actually technically an extraordinarily difficult thing to provide zero to elastic scale up capabilities. And a huge amount of engineering goes into making that possible,” Kreps explained.

Kafka processes massive streams of data in real time. It was originally developed inside LinkedIn and open-sourced in 2011. Confluent launched as a commercial entity on top of the open-source project in 2014. In January the company raised $125 million on a $2.5 billion valuation. It has raised than $205 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Jan
23
2019
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Open-source leader Confluent raises $125M on $2.5B valuation

Confluent, the commercial company built on top of the open-source Apache Kafka project, announced a $125 million Series D round this morning on an enormous $2.5 billion valuation.

The round was led by existing investor Sequoia Capital, with participation from Index Ventures and Benchmark, which also participated in previous rounds. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $206 million, according to the company.

The valuation soared from the previous round when the company was valued at $500 million. What’s more, the company’s bookings have scaled along with the valuation.

Graph: Confluent

 

While CEO Jay Kreps wouldn’t comment directly on a future IPO, he hinted that it is something the company is looking to do at some point. “With our growth and momentum so far, and with the latest funding, we are in a very good position to and have a desire to build a strong, independent company,” Kreps told TechCrunch.

Confluent and Kafka have developed a streaming data technology that processes massive amounts of information in real time, something that comes in handy in today’s data-intensive environment. The base streaming database technology was developed at LinkedIn as a means of moving massive amounts of messages. The company decided to open-source that technology in 2011, and Confluent launched as the commercial arm in 2014.

Kreps, writing in a company blog post announcing the funding, said that the events concept encompasses the basic building blocks of businesses. “These events are the orders, sales and customer experiences, that constitute the operation of the business. Databases have long helped to store the current state of the world, but we think this is only half of the story. What is missing are the continually flowing stream of events that represents everything happening in a company, and that can act as the lifeblood of its operation,” he wrote.

Kreps pointed out that as an open-source project, Confluent depends on the community. “This is not something we’re doing alone. Apache Kafka has a massive community of contributors of which we’re just one part,” he wrote.

While the base open-source component remains available for free download, it doesn’t include the additional tooling the company has built to make it easier for enterprises to use Kafka. Recent additions include a managed cloud version of the product and a marketplace, Confluent Hub, for sharing extensions to the platform.

As we watch the company’s valuation soar, it does so against a backdrop of other companies based on open source selling for big bucks in 2018, including IBM buying Red Hat for $34 billion in October and Salesforce acquiring MuleSoft in June for $6.5 billion.

The company’s most recent round was $50 million in March, 2017.

Mar
07
2017
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Confluent raises $50M to continue growing commercial arm of Apache Kafka

data streams Confluent, the commercial company built on top of the open source Apache Kafka streaming database project, announced today that it has closed a $50 million investment.
The round was led by Sequoia with Benchmark and Index Ventures also participating. Sequoia’s Matt Miller will be joining the Confluent board as part of the deal. Today’s round brings the total investment into the… Read More

Jul
08
2015
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Confluent Closes $24M Series B Round For Its Apache Kafka-Based Stream Data Platform

Screenshot 2015-07-07 at 17.13.49 The open source Kafka real-time stream data service was incubated at LinkedIn over five years ago. Since then, Kafka has become an official Apache open-source project and the original developers left LinkedIn last year to launch Confluent, an enterprise startup that — unsurprisingly — focuses on Kafka. Read More

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