DataGravity

An EqualLogic for big data?

January 29, 2013: 12:26 PM ET

CaptureDataGravity wants to automate big data for small companies.

FORTUNE -- The hottest big data startup may not be in Silicon Valley. Or New York or Boston.

Try Nashua, New Hampshire.

That's the home base of DataGravity, which today announced $30 million in new VC funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. The company is basically designing an automated platform that would help small and mid-sized businesses get value from the reams of incoming data. Kind of like what larger companies hire data scientists to do.

DataGravity is the brainchild of Paula Long and John Joseph, who previously helped build storage company EqualLogic and sell it to Dell Inc. (DELL) for $1.4 billion. It remains the highest cash price ever paid for a VC-backed company.

"When we started EqualLogic, our goal was to create an integrated solution that would simplify and automate storage management, so users didn't need to know things like how discs were spared," says Long, an EqualLogic co-founder and DataGravity's CEO. "Fast-forward 12 years, and we began looking at the landscape and realized EqualLogic 2.0 didn't make sense. So we instead searched for areas with ripe opportunities for automation and simplification, which led us to the data intelligence world... We're creating a data scientist-in-a-box for the enterprise eight million, not for the Fortune 1000."

The company originally sought out Boston-area venture capital firms -- Charles River Ventures and General Catalyst Partners -- for its initial funding round, so that the earliest investors would be within driving distance. But Long kept in regular touch with Andreessen Horowitz partner Peter Levine, including when he would come east to visit an existing investment called Actifio.

"We really weren't planning on raising money until the end of this year, figuring that another $25 million or $30 million would bring us through product launch in 2014," Long explains. "And pro forma, that's still where this investment should take us. But the advantage of doing it now was that we could bring Peter on our board earlier, and get earlier access all of the resources Andreessen Horowitz has to offer."

The company currently has 30 employees,and hopes to add another 45 or 50 by year-end.

As for Nashua, the location choice is fairly simple: EqualLogic was built there, so why not another $1 billion-plus tech company? Plus, there is a steady stream of talent from Boston's northern suburbs (whose commute would go against rush hour).

I also asked Long if she had any thoughts on Dell's ability to integrate acquisitions. Her reply: "All I can say is that I thought Dell did an amazing job with EqualLogic. We had 3,800 customers when we got acquired, and in less than five years the [unit] figure is now at least 100,000. That seems pretty good to me."

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