Real’s founders first got into databases a decade ago when they started a company called Metamarkets, which was eventually snapped up by Snap in 2017. While at Metamarkets, the company built a database based on the open-source Apache Druid project. The Metamarkets team has improved their approach to Snap, helping Snap employees easily build dashboards.
It was launched in 2020 to build what the founders envisioned as a faster and better BI dashboarding tool based on what they learned from Snap. They wanted an underlying database like Snowflake, DataBricks, BigQuery, or something that was faster than simply pulling database data from a data source.
And they sought to simplify the dashboard, making many design decisions that often challenge data analysts. The company today announced a $12 million seed round and a public discussion about the product it has built.
The company’s founder and CEO, Michael Driscoll, said he started the company in 2020 with the premise that business intelligence was broken. He and his team of engineers, most of whom came from his team at Snap, went to work on building a better solution for a wider audience.
“I took the engineers I worked with at Snap with me in the midst of Covid and we created Rails. So in the last couple of years, we started selling this BI stack, which is an alternative to the Loker-Snowflake stack,” Driscoll told TechCrunch.
The product contains a database designed to process key data faster than the underlying data source. When the data analyst or business user queries this data, Rill displays it in a dashboard in a very consistent manner. Notably, they returned to Apache Druid for the database, a project they knew well from their Metamarket days.
“Most BI tools are thin applications that don’t have their own data engine and are stored as quickly as databases. Rails, on the other hand, is a thick application that comes with its own embedded in-memory OLAP engine (DakDB by Rails Developer and Apache Druid by Rails Cloud). Our dashboards are incredibly high-end. It’s the not-so-secret reason they’re delivering performance,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the funding.
Unlike many dashboard products, Rill configures the user interface for you. There are few choices outside of branding, and Driscoll believes this actually simplifies things for the analyst because all they have to do is worry about the data and what they want to see in the dashboard.
“Data analysts are not dashboard designers, but they are forced to be dashboard designers… There are many visual design choices that many BI and data applications focus on for analysts. Real has a great attitude. We say, ‘Hey, tell us which metrics you want to show your business stakeholders,’ and then we automatically generate the dashboard.
The enterprise SaaS product has been available for more than a year and has dozens of enterprise customers. The company recently released a second product called Real Builder, which is open source. It’s designed to help developers pull data from the underlying database and remove all the complexity associated with it.
“We’ve launched RealBuilder to help analysts who really want to do work. They can transform that information from the data in their data lake, warehouse, and soon stream. [repository]and then shape it into metrics that enable the power of BI dashboards,” he said.
So far, dozens of enterprise customers and thousands of users are generating real income. While he did not provide specifics on revenue, he said it was more than $10 million and less than $100 million, which is a good performance for such an early-stage company.
Two years later, it has 24 employees spread across the globe. The company is completely different, and has been since day one, and that approach has helped build diversity. “There are many ways that we want to think about diversity. First of all, I think that we are global, so we have people from different cultures and countries of the world.
Today’s $12 million in seed investment comes from True Ventures, Bloomberg BETA, Sierra Ventures, Park West Asset Management and DCVC, as well as more than two dozen data entrepreneurship angels.