Data.world, a vendor offering a knowledge graph powered, cloud-native enterprise data catalog solution, has announced it has closed a $26 million round of venture capital funding led by Tech Pioneers Fund. This is Data.world's fourth and largest round of funding to date. The latest infusion of capital puts the total raised by Data.world at $71.3 million.
Two years after the unveiling of its enterprise offering, Data.world is showing strong growth and keeps evolving its offering. The company wants to use the investment to accelerate its agile data governance initiatives, scale to meet increased market demand for its enterprise platform, and continue to deliver its brand of product and customer service.
We take the opportunity to review its progress, and through it, the prospects for the sector at large.
The importance of metadata, coupled with a knowledge-based focus
Most of the time when we talk about data the narrative is along the lines of "data is the new oil." While data can power insights and applications, that's not really possible without governance and metadata. We are past the Big Data infatuation stage: Databases and data management technologies today are capable of handling the requirements of most organizations.
The question is no longer about how to store lots of data, but rather, how to organize, keep track, and make sense of those ever-growing heaps of data. This is where metadata and data catalogs come in. And this is why the metadata management market is expected to reach a massive $9.34 billion by 2023. According to Gartner:
"Metadata supports understanding of an organization's data assets, how those data assets are used, and their business value. Metadata management initiatives deliver business benefits such as improved compliance and corporate governance, better risk management, better shareability and reuse, and better assessments of the impact of change within an enterprise, while creating opportunities and guarding against threats."
Data.world's debut in Gartner's Metadata Management Magic Quadrant Report in 2019 was an accolade for the company. We have long argued for the importance of metadata, coupled with a knowledge-based focus, which Data.world exemplifies. Its product is based on knowledge graph technology and a collaborative approach.
Interestingly, Data.world was not the only vendor leveraging knowledge graph technology to be included in Gartner's Metadata Management Magic Quadrant Report in 2019. Semantic Web Company, with whom Data.world has partnered, was also included. We see that as an affirmation of the fact that semantics-based knowledge graphs and metadata are a great match, and we expect to see more adoption of the approach in this space.
"Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, Data.world saw new enterprise bookings in the first half of its current fiscal year grow by more than 100% YoY. Additionally, the number of users within our enterprise customers has grown by over 1,900% in 2020 (YTD) over all of 2019 as Data.world's accessible user interface has accelerated secular trends in remote work and more inclusive data cultures within their organizations," CEO Brett Hurt told ZDNet.
As part of the investment, Scott Booth, chairman of Tech Pioneers Fund, will join Data.world's board of directors. Booth noted that as one of the original investors in both Alibaba and Compass, he has seen how critical data is to driving company performance, and he thinks Data.world is changing the way enterprises think about and use data:
"It's not simply for the data scientists and engineers, but for everyone in an organization. That bears out in how quickly the platform is deployed, adopted, and attached to business-critical use cases. We see this pattern again and again within Data.world's expanding customer base, and it's one of many reasons we're so excited to work with the team and accelerate the market opportunity."
Intangibles and product progress
This is an important point and one on which Hurt and investors seem to converge. Data.world has a strong technical foundation, but this is not enough in and by itself. In the admittedly somewhat dry domain of metadata management, intangibles play an important role.
Hurt emphasized "a best-in-class UX designed for both business and IT users" as a key part of their strategy. Likewise, he went on to add, Data.world's B-Corporation story means a great deal to customers and investors:
"They recognize that doing business with Data.world means having a true partner with a core mission to democratize access to data within both their organizations and broader society to drive better decisions. A B-Corp designation also helps us attract and retain the top talent from around the country, which translates to better products and services and operational excellence."
The decision to raise capital at this time was in order to accelerate growth in sales and marketing teams, as well as increase investment in product innovation to take advantage of this massive market opportunity, said Hurt. He also added that raising most of their round after COVID-19 hit is a testament to the team's performance and ambitious mission.
The company mentions strong customer reviews via Gartner Peer Insights, strategic partnerships, and extended product integrations with AWS, Snowflake, Semantic Web Company, MANTA, and more than 1,000 platform updates in the past 12 months as some key achievements leading to today's funding round. Hurt emphasized the continuous release cycle aspect of Data.world's SaaS platform, and we were curious to know where exactly progress was made.
We were particularly interested in Gra.fo, the visual modeling tool that Data.world onboarded with the acquisition of Capsenta in 2019, as visual modeling can greatly simplify knowledge graph development. Hurt said that users can model their knowledge graph schemas and ontologies in Gra.fo and map them to Data.world datasets, thus semantically integrating data and creating an enterprise knowledge graph.
Other improvements include crowdsourcing and suggested edits/workflows, bulk edits, machine learning tagging, fully automated lineage, centralized access requests, enhanced usage metrics and reporting, curated data access and virtualization, and unified browse experience. That's a handful indeed. Standing out among those:
The ability to do cross-database queries within the data catalog, including analysis and BI tool access such as Tableau, Excel, Jupyter, R, Python, and more. Auto-tagging to help organize and classify information assets, including automatically identifying which ones may be sensitive. And automated lineage to audit and understand how data connects.
Mapping technology to mission
Data.world states its mission is to make it easy for everyone, not just the "data people," to get clear, accurate, fast answers to any business question. The goal is to map siloed, distributed data to familiar and consistent business concepts, creating a unified body of knowledge anyone can find, understand, and use.
We think the technology Data.world has chosen is a good match for this goal, and attention on the intangibles seems to be paying off too. Data.world is growing, and the funding round comes both as an affirmation and an opportunity to fuel this growth. It will be interesting to see if others in this space decide to take a page from this book.