Airbyte was founded by Michel and John in January 2020. Our first idea was to help companies exchange data, starting by building a customer portal for data providers so their clients can easily evaluate and pull data however and wherever they want. We applied to YC W20 (January to March 2020) with that idea.
But, during our time at YC, we pivoted to a data unblocking product that allowed website owners to get 100% of their customer traffic data for analytics, even when visitors are using ad blockers. The product was getting good traction until COVID-19 hit, and marketing priorities shifted, making this product a nice-to-have rather than a must.
At the time, we were meeting with a lot of companies. As we were discussing their data problems, a pattern started to emerge. All were building in some way their own data integration pipelines, even though there were already strong cloud-based solutions for them. We understood that data integration was not a solved problem. So we decided to go back to our roots—making moving data easy—and address this issue.
From July to September, we did two things: built our MVP with only 6 connectors, and made as many customer discovery calls as possible with customers of the leading ETL/ELT tools.
During those calls (45 within 3 months), we learned that all of the customers, even though they were paying for these solutions, were also having to build and maintain connectors on the side, as they were either not supported or supported but not in the way they needed. This was one of the key insights that led us to believe that the future of data integration is open source.
In addition to this, most ETL/ELT platforms are cloud based and entail moving your data out of your infrastructure. Besides adding unnecessary costs, this poses a data privacy and data security risk for more and more companies. In the end, engineers still have to to develop and maintain these connections themselves.
That’s why we decided to build Airbyte as a new self-hosted, open-source data integration platform.
When we announced our MVP in late September on LinkedIn, we only had 6 connectors and only supported full refresh syncs. We didn’t provide incremental syncs. Our goal was to start to get feedback and see how to prioritize our platform development.
Since our MVP soft launch, we got more and more traction every week. November was 2x what October was in terms of usage. We achieved this monthly 100% growth until February 2021, at which stage we got 500 deployments every month. That’s when we decided to raise a seed round with Accel.
Accel shared our ambition to commoditize data integration and to solely focus on the open-source edition until we had fully resolved data integration. But to do that, we needed to grow the team and therefore needed more capital, hence the seed round.
Our sole focus is to make data integration work with Airbyte, whatever your connector needs, your infrastructure and data stack!
Benchmark contacted us at the end of February, and we had our first call with them in March. Although our seed round wasn’t public information, they already knew about it, as most VCs did.
Several long form conversations followed which allowed us to get to know Benchmark and, at the same time, allowed Benchmark to get to know us as well as our plans for Airbyte. We knew that we were going to take on a board member with the Series A and it was critical to have clarity before starting the 10+ year journey together.
In April, we presented to the Benchmark partnership, and negotiated and signed the term sheet.
Our Series A funding was led by Benchmark, with participation from additional investors including 8VC, Accel, SV Angel, and YCombinator, as well as Shay Bannon, co-founder and CEO of Elastic, Auren Hoffman, co-founder of LiveRamp, and Dev Ittycheria, CEO of MongoDB.
Our goal is to become the industry’s open-source standard.
Our initial plan was to raise the Series-B at the end of 2022. But we decided to test the waters in November of 2021. Our thinking was that if we could get the Series-B sooner under the same conditions with the partners we would ideally seek the following year, then we would do it now. Why?
Our next company milestone is a high revenue goal. To get there, in 2022, we would need to grow the team:
- from 30 team members to 200.
- from 16k deployments to 100k
- from 150 connectors to 500 high-quality ones
So raising the Series-B would:
- Boost our recruiting. Some very high-potential profiles would rather join a Series-B startup than a Series-A one. The perceived risk is not the same. Those are also the profiles we need, as they’ve experienced a hypergrowth setting. So raising in 2021 would enable us to fill our recruiting needs faster and help us reach our 200-employee goal in 2022.
- Boost our brand perception, usage and revenue. Some companies were waiting for Airbyte to become more mature and financially secure before deciding to use the technology. So raising would unblock a certain portion of them and get us faster to 100k deployments, which is one of our next milestones. This would reinforce our leader position in the open-source data integration market.
In the end, the Series-B would help us get to the next company milestone a lot faster with both of the above compounding effects.
We signed the term sheet in November 2021 and closed the raise in December 2021. Our Series B was led by new investor Altimeter Capital and Coatue Management, alongside Thrive Capital, Salesforce Ventures, Benchmark, Accel, and SV Angel.
Our first step towards our next company milestone is about releasing Airbyte Cloud, in order to make Airbyte accessible to teams not able or willing to host and operate Airbyte Open Source by themselves.
We released Airbyte Cloud in early April 2022. It featured a disruptive pricing model, volume-based that uses rows for API syncs and GBs for database and file syncs.
April 2022 was also the month where we acquired Grouparoo, the open-source reverse-ETL solution, for their amazing team. The Grouparoo team shared our values and vision for the future of data. Grouparoo brought with them deep expertise in building a great reverse-ETL solution, when it will be the right time for us to build our own.