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Cockroach Labs: Putting Worldwide Databases in Order


Are people predestined to meet? Yes, if you ask Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball. College buddies, business partners, and bros in every sense of the word, Peter and Spencer know how to make good things happen. While neither of them had imagined working in the exponential world of databases, it was in fact fractions, analysis, curiosity and problem-solving skills that brought these two to create Cockroach Labs.

The name stands out at first glance, but there’s nothing buggy about this little miracle worker. Cockroach Labs is all about precision, intelligence and a business partnership that lasts.

Once a heartfelt mission to achieve more than the ordinary, Cockroach Labs is not the first of Peter and Spencer’s ventures. With a generous range of successful and not-as successful platforms, this is the story of two inventors relying on each other in order to bring databases worldwide - in order.

Going the extra mile was well worth it, however, as nothing compared to the view that awaited them there.

A Blooming Business Bromance

Peter Mattis and Spencer Kimball were born in nothing-out-of-the-ordinary American families. Both of these brainiacs enrolled at the Berkeley, University of California, in

  1. Upon interacting with each other in class, the two immediately hit it off and a bromance that grew to something substantial was born.

Wanting to do something fun together, the two like-minded students decided to join the university’s compilers course. They found the classes super-dull, so they decided to do something else to pass the time - brainstorm business ideas.

Soon after, they developed an idea to create a GNU image manipulation program. What they wanted to design was a freely distributed program, where photos could be retouched and images both composed and authorized.

Although still in progress, the project gained larger attention than Peter and Spencer had anticipated. At the time, fanatics stated that the duo's platform, named GIMP, definitely gave Photoshop a competitive run for its money.

The young entrepreneurs were taken by surprise when they noticed the power their tool had over managing image quality. A few years later, the duo’s side project was booming but their studies suffered as a result.

During their time at university, Peter and Spencer spent their spare time programming up until their last semester, when they both decided to dedicate themselves to studying only. In 1997, Peter acquired his degree in electrical engineering and computer science, whilst Spencer became Bachelor of Arts in computer science.

Looking Behind The Curtain

The next step in the two students’ careers was to work for none other but Google. At the company, Spencer took the role of a staff software engineer whilst Peter worked as a software engineer. Spencer spent a huge amount of time mentoring other software engineers and boosting their skills. Concurrently, Peter applied his skills in designing, testing, as well as developing software systems.

As fate would have it, the inseparable duo came together on another occasion. This time, it was 2006, and Peter and Spencer were still aiding Google in building a massive file storage system, later known as Colossus.

During this time, Peter and Spencer found working for Google restrictive. It felt as if they were stuck behind a glass wall with nowhere to go next. In the meantime, they worked on the foreteller platform the duo used whilst working on Colossus, called BigTable. In its beginner stage, BigTable became the first sophisticated platform for storing sizable amounts of data, all in a key-value database.

Over the years, Peter and Spencer were looking into the advancement processes of BigTable - first came Megastore, and it then metamorphosed into something else. The purpose behind the initial metamorphosis was because building apps required transaction processes, and BigTable lacked this feature.

However, Megastore would be nothing without the general-purpose database that made BigTable what it is. Once both of these features were combined, the whole process gave birth to something that was able to close the loops in both of these platforms - Spanner.

Despite the fact that the duo was looking into the process from the outside, the creation of Spanner was a definite eye-opening moment for the two. Noticing useful features such as automatism, multi-site replication, failover and global transactions, Spanner’s inventors had sparked yet another desire, this time, to create a venture strictly revolving around databases.

Young as they were, Peter and Spencer felt that they were not ready to take on such an immense venture. Pressing pause to the idea, at least for the time being, the twosome decided to pursue another and a more familiar career path, never anticipating its future evolution.

Small Diversion

Colliding their former experience and skills, Peter and Spencer set out to build an app offering an alluring design and the finest technical engineering advancements.

The platform would enable users to organize, share, and even recreate their memories. Viewfinder was born in 2011 and represented a platform that created the most personal human-driven experiences.

Two years later, Square, a company that had been creating solutions for the most challenging payment issues, acquired Viewfinder. The purpose behind this wasn't to adopt the company's advanced technology but rather, to make the most of Spencer and Peter’s bursting talent.

The brothers-by-vocation soon moved into Square's NYC offices, where they worked as senior members for the next few years. Specifically, their work revolved around carrying out seller initiatives on behalf of the company's digital marketplace, Square Market.

Somewhere along the lines, however, Spencer and Peter had always held to the idea of one day returning to Google - which is exactly what they did next.

When Passion Becomes Purpose

Peter and Spencer noticed the genesis of Google’s so-called NoSQL databases. What they especially paid attention to, however, were the structural issues of these databases.

For instance, regardless of how expensive a single server was, the huge amount of existing data was a challenging handful. Namely, when a single database reached a certain number of users, it was subsequently closed, so companies had to create another one, which led to a never-ending loop of action.

But, Peter and Spencer's real-time experience really helped Google solve this complex database process. As both discovered numerous new challenges in the outdated technology, they set their minds of facilitating the process altogether, and efficiently.

Sometime thereafter, the two businessmen were deliberating the idea of employing staffers to help them work on the next great open-source database. Playing around with the idea was easy, but the sole thought of recruiting enough employees made it even more doable as a business concept.

It wasn’t about the project anymore, but Spencer and Peter’s possibility of rising above the occasion and delivering greatness. And so their sleepless nights began - month after month and one coffee after the next, the puzzle was pieced together and in 2015, the duo launched Cockroach Labs.

Scaling Fast

In 2015, Cockroach Labs received its first funding of $6.3 million, and with open arms. The intention behind this funding was to build its main product, called CockroachDB.

CocroachDB was intended to store data copies in several locations, make them scalable, and fit the principle to run in the cloud. A year later, Cockroach Labs crawled away with an additional $20 million in funding, led by Index Ventures. Redpoint also invested $27 million to additionally secure the longevity of CockroachDB.

Altimeter Capital led the company’s latest funding, worth an incredible $301 million, all distributed over a three-year period.

Cockroach Labs - Going Places!

Today, Cockroach Labs is making over $30 million in annual revenue. The company employs over 200 people in their New York and Cambridge offices. Ranked 12th among its top competitors, Cockroach Labs plans on crawling its way to the top.

The company's motto reflects its flawless architecture, database's fluidity, resilience and adaptability as well as Peter and Spencer’s vision of multi-cloud elasticity. It scales faster than lightning, it beats the odds, and just keeps thriving on!