Data makes the world go round, as evidenced by the fact that many of the world’s most valuable companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and even AirBnB thrive because of their ability to manage, manipulate, store and access data. But until recently, only a handful of companies had the talent and expertise to do this on a large scale.
Three data scientists – Tobi Knaup, Florian Leibert and Benjamin Hindman – wanted to change this dynamic when they founded Mesosphere in 2013. The Mesosphere Datacenter Operating System (DC / OS) is a novel operating system that puts all servers in a physical or cloud-based data center and runs on any Linux distribution. According to the company, Mesosphere’s DC / OS makes running and managing applications in a data center the same as launching applications on a laptop by running them on Apache Mesos.
Mesosphere later changed its company name to D2IQ to emphasize its focus on its ability to help DevOps teams better manage operations on “Day 2” – the day after new applications are deployed – something the founders in theirs knew all too well about previous roles.
“We were the people with the pagers, if something went wrong in production at 3 o’clock in the morning, our pagers would go out and often they were things that could have been fixed automatically by software,” says Tobi Knaup, D2IQ CEO, who was one at the time was the first employee at AirBnB. Co-founder Leibert was on Twitter while Hindman was working on his PhD in Berkley.
Leibert and Hindman worked on building the data infrastructure at Twitter using containers and container orchestration, one of the first container implementations in the world at a time when only a handful of companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter had the know-how. “At Airbnb, where I was, we had similar challenges and actually wanted to build a data science cloud,” says Knaup.
Airbnb was a very data-driven company and had to provide open source software such as Apache Kafka, Apache Cassandra and Hadoop as-a-Service, which at the time was not yet available from a cloud provider. “What we built there with the same open source software was essentially a data science cloud in which each of your data scientists could simply carry out their jobs in this internal cloud that we built,” says Knaup.
To prevent their pagers from going out at 3 a.m., Knaup and his co-founders have developed software that automatically fixes the problem. It was like magic for the DevOps team. “That was when we thought, wow, we really have something very powerful here and it’s this mythical 10X technology that really revolutionized everything. And it had a direct impact on the bottom line of the companies we worked for and their users as well. This was around the time Marc Andreessen wrote his comment, entitled “Software is Eating the World,” in which he predicted that pretty much every large company would turn into a software company at some point. Then we realized that the problems we solved for Twitter and Airbnb weren’t just for a Silicon Valley software company, ”says Knaup.
If this vision comes true, every company around the world will have these problems. You need to build scalable online services that are always available, resilient and cost-effective to operate. “We started the company then because we had what investors always like to call the ‘unfair advantage’, because we knew this technology, we understood containers and we were one of the only people in the world at the time to do this . ”Says Knaup
In 2013, the trio set out to build a company that would turn this vision into reality. However, the real founding story began much earlier outside of Munich, Germany, in the late 1990s. “Actually, we’ve all been friends since we were young. Florian and I met in middle school and in Germany we grew up in the same city. We started working with computers at an early age, and when we were 15 we actually founded our first company together, ”says Knaup.
They technically couldn’t find it by themselves because they were underage. “So I had to convince my mother to set up a company for us,” says Knaup. They gained experience early on in running a company, programming and operating the infrastructure, because back then they set up their own servers, rented space in a data center and managed the servers there.
Knaup studied computer science and electrical engineering in Munich. “In this area, of course, you hear about Silicon Valley when you grew up in Germany. I had these ideas or visions of what Silicon Valley would look like, and it seemed like this very futuristic place that is a couple of years into the future, which I think, ”says Knaup. In 2008, he interned at Redwood City-based startup Pingsta while he was in college, then returned to the company and the Bay Area after graduation. His two lifelong friends and co-founders also made their way to Silicon Valley.
About his path to building a company and becoming CEO, Knaup says: “One of the things I learned early on, what my consultants and mentors told me, is that as a first-time founder you somehow break out and think that my job as a founder is in it is to have the vision for the product and then to build the product. But it is actually not the case. And I remember that one line from one of my mentors that was, “Your job is not to build the product; your job is to build the machine that builds the product.” That said, you have to build the company, right. You have to build the team and hire the right people, ”says Knaup.
Today, D2IQ is growing rapidly, employing 160 people, and working to help companies like GE, BMW and Royal Caribbean develop unique applications to help their companies innovate. “We are doubling sales this year and hope to do the same again next year,” says Knaup.
Given the pedigree of the founders and the near limitless possibilities in cloud-based data applications, D2IQ has received $ 247.3 million in funding to date, including the most recent D-Round of $ 125 million sponsored by Koch Disruptive Technologies and T. Rowe Price was drawn. Other investors include Hewlett Packard, Khosler Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz.
In addition to helping customers manage their Day 2 operations, the company is now focused on helping customers run Kubernetes platforms and containers at scale in any environment they want. Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration system that automates the deployment, scaling, and management of computing applications. It was originally developed by Google and is now maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Kubernetes provides a way to run code more efficiently through cloud services, as well as the physical machines that companies operate in their own data centers.
“We’re focused on the Fortune 500s and Global 2000s, and when Kubernetes first released it was new. It wasn’t stable, it wasn’t scalable, it wasn’t enterprise grade. It took a couple of years. I would say it took four years to reach the level of maturity at which we can recommend it to our customers, ”says Knaup.
Kubernetes was founded in 2014. D2IQ released its first Kubernetes-based product in 2017. In 2019, the company switched to Kubernetes and launched an entirely new line of products based on it. “And to really dispel any doubts that we will concentrate entirely on Kubernetes, we have also renamed the company. We were included as Mesosphere, which was a derivative of Mesos, the technology our first generation product was based on, and we renamed D2IQ because we didn’t want to include a different technology name in the company name because technologies come and go with the passing of time Years, but also because we wanted to emphasize this focus on day 2, ”says Knaup.
What does the future look like and the potential for an IPO? Knaup says it was important to the founders to select the right investors who understood that building a successful enterprise software company takes time. “And I think we made the right decision,” says Knaup. When asked about an exit strategy, Knaup says: “I don’t have one. I just have a growth strategy because I believe that when building a fast-growing company, all options are on the table. “