Cockroach Raises $160 Million, Eyes Future IPO


By: Mary Jander

Cockroach Labs, a five-year-old startup from New York that offers a cloud-native SQL database, has scored $160 million in Series E funding. The vendor, which claims to have doubled its revenues last year, has raised a total of $355 million to date at a reported valuation of $2 billion.

Cockroach co-founder and CEO Spencer Kimball has told several media outlets that he’d like to aim for IPO, though more rounds could come beforehand.

Altimeter Capital led this round with participation from Benchmark, BOND, FirstMark, GV, Index Ventures, Tiger Global, and new investors Greenoaks and Lone Pine. The funding will be used to pursue what Cockroach notes is a cloud DBMS market opportunity that could reach over $25 billion by 2023, according to Gartner estimates.

One of Cockroach’s investors sees Cockroach as a potential new Oracle (ORCL): "The story of transactional SQL workloads moving to the cloud is still largely unwritten and represents a tremendous opportunity for the next Oracle-like business to emerge,” noted Neil Mehta, managing partner at Greenoaks Capital, in a prepared statement. “CockroachDB's high availability, strong consistency, and low latency allows them to address the lion's share of these relational workloads.”

Cockroach also has encouraged comparisons with Snowflake (SNOW), which rose from startup to IPO stardom in 2020, thanks to its data warehousing technology for unstructured data. Now Cockroach wants to do something similar by for structured SQL data, which is used in transactional applications such as corporate ledgers.

Cockroach claims hundreds of customers worldwide, including Bose, Comcast, Doordash, eBay, Equifax, JPMorgan Chase, and SpaceX. It also says many developers benefit from its features, and the vendor encourages them to work with its product by offering free versions for trial use. A “forever free” version of its cloud DBMS for developers will be available soon, Cockroach says.

CockroachDB Aims Beyond Competition

There is no shortage of competing cloud-based SQL solutions, including Amazon Relational Database Service on AWS, Microsoft Azure SQL Database, Google Cloud SQL and Spanner, IBM Db2 on Cloud, and Oracle. CockroachDB has been most closely compared with Spanner, but some say it is easier to use in terms of exporting data and also doesn’t rely on proprietary clocks, as Google’s solution does.

Cockroach boasts it is more flexible and reliable than these alternatives, full stop. It doesn’t rely on a specific cloud (though versions of its CockroachDB on Kubernetes are available through the Red Hat Marketplace or Google Cloud Marketplace). It runs both on premises or as a cloud service, and it is based on a distributed architecture geared to resiliency for transactional data in multi-cloud environments.

Also, Cockroach says its database is designed to survive almost any outage that occurs along the RDBMS route of march, because it is based on what the vendor calls “clusters of symmetrical nodes” that can replicate and repair data through a system of intercommunication. This means that any element of the network — rack, data center, or region — can go down without losing data.

Other companies claim most of these features too, most notably Yugabyte, which also has a cloud-friendly, cloud-neutral product and says it has breached the scaling and resiliency limitations of traditional distributed SQL DBMSs. Yugabyte also is on its own funding track, having scored $30 million in a Series B round last June, bringing its total to $55 million.

In keeping with its New York moxie, however, Cockroach seems unperturbed by any competition and seems ready to square off with any rivals, small or large. This includes taking potshots at Oracle and IBM as “legacy systems,” posting comparisons with smaller competitors (though they often fight back), and ensuring that it blows its own horn as loudly as possible.

This company aims for the top and intends to beat all odds. As it says of its database -- and as its insect namesake would say if it could -- it intends to “scale fast, survive anything, and thrive anywhere.”