Jordan Tigani – founding engineer on Google BigQuery, Google’s fully managed data analytics platform – was working as chief product officer at SingleStore, where most of the database workloads were small (less than 10 GB in size) and low-bandwidth. As vendors are building for massive data sets, Tigani sees the term “big data” becoming a misnomer thanks to recent advances in hardware.
At the same time, Tigani met with Hans Muehleison, co-creator of the lightweight database platform DuckDB, to toss ideas back and forth for a paid service. Looking to launch a product for developers with light database requirements, Tigani – with Mühleizen’s blessing – began building a cloud service based on DuckDB. The service is named MotherDuck, an independent startup from the original DuckDB that focuses on promoting open source DuckDB packages.
“Users want easy and quick answers to their questions — they don’t want to wait in the cloud,” Tigani told TechCrunch in an email. “The reality is that a modern laptop is faster than a modern database. Cloud data providers are focused on the performance of 100TB queries, which is not only irrelevant for the majority of users, but also detracts from the provider’s ability to deliver a great user experience.
It’s a classic playbook – take an open source tool and build a service on top of it. But while it may not be original, Tigani’s plan has already paid dividends. MotherDuck announced today that it has raised $47.5 million in a seed and Series A round.
Red Point led the seed while Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) led the Series A – other investors include Madrona, Amplify Partners and Altimeter. Tigani didn’t plan to develop the Series A until shortly after MotherDuck was seeded, but at the urging of LPS – and the opportunity to work with the a16z.
“Through this funding, MotherDuck has been able to build their world-class engineering team and add go-to-market functionality to deliver a cloud analytics platform for organizations looking to use DuckDB as it evolves,” said Tigani. “At the same time, it allows DuckDB to remain a vehicle for academic research.
Tigani says it’s Mother Duck’s service-powered. DuckDB, which HackerNoon once described as the “mutant offspring of SQLite and Redshift”—allows professionals to start answering queries from data faster than most tools. It uses local computing resources in collaboration with the cloud, driving Data analysis and other data-heavy workloads.
That’s in contrast to traditional data warehousing systems that only provide reporting and tools for enterprise-scale analytics.
As Madrona’s John Turo explains in an upcoming blog post ( TechCrunch has a sneak peak ), MotherDuck uses a “hybrid performance” method to query a data set distributed across multiple locations. Some data may be on a developers laptop, some in a cloud instance and the rest in a separate cloud, but MotherDuck makes a dev query a combination of these sources. “The platform intelligently decides where to work on each bit of data to reduce computing and data transfer costs,” Turo wrote.
The concept of data warehousing has been around since the 80s, but has become popular in recent years as companies shift their workloads to the cloud. There are startups like Firebolt and Hydra, which aim to be cloud data storage of choice for large companies. Another player in the data warehousing space, Panapli, has taken a different approach by developing tools that make it easy for businesses to analyze their data with standard database queries.
While Tigani sees MotherDuck as a competitor in the data analytics market with data warehousing providers, positioning the platform as a technologically advanced option.
“DuckDB’s high efficiency allows MotherDuck to be cost-competitive, as well as more performant for most data workloads,” asserts Tigani. “Advances in CPU, memory, disk performance, and networking are making existing architectures obsolete. Because of these developments, large distributed analysis sets are no longer necessary. A single-node DuckDB can often be much faster, cheaper, and simpler than these distributed systems.
The DuckDB team is involved in degrees with MotherDuck, which in turn is a member of the DuckDB Foundation, a non-profit organization that owns most of the DuckDB IP. DuckDB’s own commercial arm, DuckDB Labs, is a shareholder of the company and has contributed code to the cloud platform. Tigani assured me that DuckDB is freely available under a licensed MIT license, and that the original DuckDB team will build, maintain, and promote the DuckDB code base going forward.
Pushed by the new capital, Mother Duck plans to expand its small workforce from 13 people to 18 by the end of the year. When asked, he declined to answer questions about the startup’s customer base or revenue, saying it was too early.