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Photos courtesy Crate.io

Crate.io

by Eric Peterson on November 13, 2019, 03:37 pm MST

www.crate.io

San Francisco

Founded: 2013

Privately owned

Employees: 60

Industry: Tech & Automation

Products: Database solutions

Chief Commercial Officer and President North America Syed Hoda says the company's solutions are getting traction in the factories where traditional databases haven't. 

Tech and manufacturing haven't always played well together, and that gives Crate.io an opening in a big market: industrial-centric databases.

"The reality is that most of the big IoT initiatives [in manufacturing] have failed," says Hoda. "Failing is a strong word, because in some cases, the expectations were just too high." 

The most prevalent tech-related reason for this failure (or not): "data and data infrastructure." 

Crate.io takes on the problem as a specialist, not a generalist. "We are absolutely focused on the industrial sector, and in particular, manufacturing is our number one vertical," says Hoda. "We're specifically built for machine data."

The last generation of databases were built with the Internet and the cloud in mind, says Hoda, but that data stream is notably different from those generated by industrial users. "Relational databases were built in the age of ERP and mainframe, client-server," he explains. "When the Internet happened, web-scale technologies came to life."

An explosion of machine data and the convergence of technologies requires new IoT-scale technologies, he argues. "IoT is a lot more about interoperability. IoT is a lot more about data variety," says Hoda. "You have to have tools built for that environment, and it hasn't been. And that's why we exist."

The company's CrateDB is designed to handle the disparate and often unstructured data streams generated in manufacturing -- including data from ERP to MES systems, temperature and motion sensors, QA systems, and video -- and other industrial settings and turn it into actionable information. "What's going on in the line in real time?" says Hoda. "Why is there a bottleneck?"

A global packaging manufacturer, Austria-based ALPLA supplies clients like Coca-Cola and Unilever. The company turned to Crate.io's Crate IoT Data Platform to monitor 900 sensors on their lines. The payoff: an easier-to-scale system that's 250 times faster than its predecessor with "world-class levels" of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). "They're using us in all their U.S. plants right now," says Hoda. "Now they're growing to use us across Europe as well."

The demand is there, he adds, as the company is in the process of scaling to a new level. "In 2019, we're expecting 200 to 300 percent growth, revenue-wise," says Hoda, who joined the company in 2019 after working for Cisco Systems and other tech companies.

It's all about winning hearts and minds. "No head of manufacturing gets up in the morning and says, 'Gee, I want to buy a database.' No one says that. No one should ever say that. But many of them say, 'Gee, I wish I knew this information sooner. . . . I wish we had more visibility into this. . . . I wish we could find the root cause of that problem faster.' And very often, the technology part that's holding them back is their ability to capture and analyze data fast enough to get them the answer they want. And that's why they talk to us."

Challenges: Awareness. "We've got to reach more people, reach more customers," says Hoda. "We haven't invested in go-to-market as much as we probably need to."

Specializing presents another issue, he adds. "Manufacturing and industrial is a tough space. You can't do it part-time." He says the company needs to amplify its message as a specialist for manufacturing and industrial clients, and not a generalist for the broader database market.

Opportunities: "What's happening in manufacturing is this huge focus on IIoT and digital transformation," says Hoda, noting that analysts are bullish that manufacturers have more to leverage from tech than the economy as a whole. "Morgan Stanley studied this. What they concluded was: There was more data, growing faster and with more variety, in a factory than anywhere else."

While the long-term play encompasses the middle market, Crate.io's initial targets are large manufacturers. "Where we work best is where you make a lot of something," notes Hoda.

He adds, "The top 10 to 20 percent, the leaders across each vertical, are doing really cool things. They're widening the gap between the middle and the bottom. For us, the opportunity is really is working with those manufacturers that are thinking big, being really innovative, and being really smart about the possibilities that are enabled by using your data. It's a mindset. . . . If I've got to convince you that there's value in data, you're the wrong customer. I can't waste my time. There are companies that really get it. The only thing holding them back is having the infrastructure to realize it, and that's where we come in."

Beyond the industrial and manufacturing, CrateDB is also a good fit for cybersecurity, he adds. The commonalities with manufacturing? "They happen to analyze lots of data," says Hoda. "Speed matters, too."

Needs: Following an $11 million Series A in 2018, Crate.io will be fundraising for a Series B in 2020, largely in order to build its sales and marketing team, says Hoda. He estimates Crate.io will break the 100-employee mark by the end of 2020: "We have to make sure we continuously attract good talent."

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