23 Mar 2021

Why we invested in Aiven, the Leading Provider of Open Source Data Infrastructure

This piece was written in collaboration with my colleague Sasha Vidiborskiy, who supported us throughout the process with his Open Source and dev tools expertise.

Data is changing the way we live our lives, how businesses do business, how consumers consume. And while software may be eating the world, open source is eating software.

If you go and look at the intersection of those two generational mega trends, you will find a gem of a company based in Helsinki called Aiven — a software firm that combines the best open source technologies with cloud infrastructure. Global from the start, with offices in Berlin, Sydney, Toronto and Boston, Aiven provides managed open source data technologies, like PostgreSQL, Kafka, and M3, on all major clouds to allow developers to do what they do best: create applications. Meanwhile, Aiven does what they do best: manage cloud data infrastructure.

Today, we are proud, humbled and excited to announce that we have led a $100 million Series C investment to partner with Oskari, Hannu, Mika, Heikki and the rest of the team at Aiven. We are joined by our friends at Salesforce Ventures and World Innovation Labs, with existing investors Earlybird and IVP significantly increasing their commitments as part of this round.

Aiven co-founders (left to right): Hannu, Oskari, Heikki and Mika

When I first met Oskari in 2018, I was instantly impressed by him. Aiven’s vision and mission to make developers live better in everything they do is self-evident in how efficiently they have built a true high growth business with incredible levels of customer love and sky high net retention rates. While we did not get to partner back then, my colleagues and I have kept in close contact with Oskari and, fast forward two years, we could not be more excited to be part of this rocketship journey going forward.

So why does this market & product matter? And why is Aiven continuing to grow so rapidly through bottoms up adoption at scale?

Increasing numbers of companies are shifting critical infrastructure to the cloud, and in doing so are making use of new and more complex technologies and distributed systems to build their applications. According to DB-Engines, open source (OS) databases are now more popular than closed source databases and it is increasingly common for businesses to adopt multi-database deployments and combine OS databases and technologies. Setting up and managing these services is time consuming and difficult, and keeping them running requires expert engineers and DevOps with a specific skill set and willingness to be contacted at all hours if any issues occur. These engineers are expensive and difficult to hire (anecdotally, Site Reliability Engineers are one of the hardest roles to fill at Google) and, as such, most companies are unable to attract the required talent and unwilling to use core developer time for this purpose.

Furthermore, security and stability can be a huge problem with self hosted OS infrastructure as keeping versions updated and cross checked for inter-stack compatibility, and managing deployments based on that, is complex (and was a key contributor to the Equifax breach in 2017, as just one example).

Working hard to deliver the best Open Source Data Infrastructure globally

Enter Aiven, the leading provider of Open Source Data Infrastructure. In a nutshell, Aiven provides beautiful open source data infrastructure that just works. Globally, in minutes and fully automated. Or as Oskari put it: “Aiven’s mission is to champion open source, making the lives of developers better in all that we do”.

To add a bit more color, Aiven solves this very complex problem by offering a fully managed open source data infrastructure immediately deployable in public clouds, including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure. Users create an Aiven account and can then quickly launch new instances of the services they require, on a SaaS model where they pay for a number of services and compute volume used. Aiven ensures end-to-end security, setup & maintenance, including latest updates, and can therefore give service level guarantees of 99.99%. The Aiven platform connects directly into existing infrastructure and work streams through connectors and a unified API to spin everything up and automate processes. At the moment, Aiven supports fully managed services for 10+ Open Source data infrastructure tools, including Apache Kafka, Cassandra, Elasticsearch, MySQL and Grafana. Aiven also easily allows customers to scale up and down instances as their demands vary, and to migrate, backup and replicate data between cloud providers which is useful for any organisations that have data on multiple clouds or in multiple regions and want to consolidate this into one control platform. In short, Aiven’s team accomplished a remarkable technological feat, providing almost instant ROI to the data infrastructure of organisations around the world.

During our due diligence process, we were excited and impressed by a plethora of things, but especially the incredible team at Aiven. Oskari, Hannu, Heikki, and Mika have spent the last two decades working together to make managing mission-critical databases easier at a variety of organisations, including F-Secure, and their product level focus is some of the best we have seen to date. With that, they have been able to not only attract a world class global set of talent but that mission driven mindset is clearly reflected in the customer love for their product, which shone through on each and every customer call we did as part of the process.

But perhaps the best summary of this is the first sentence that Arlo, our in house lead engineer at Atomico, said to me on our debrief call after a tech due diligence session with Heikki: “Wow, as an engineer I cannot stress enough how much I can connect with the problem they are solving”. This statement holds true when you realise the breadth of organisations happily served by Aiven, from Comcast to Atlassian to Toyota to Wolt to the UK government to a slew of SMBs across any (and I mean literally any) vertical you could imagine, globally.

Aiven loves open source

Another thing that stood out to us, and especially my colleague Sasha Vidiborskiy, was the deep desire of Aiven to continue to contribute to the open source community, and a positive impact that they will have on the ecosystem. When we think about OS businesses, the main challenge that comes with such a distribution model is how to maintain a fine balance between bringing value to the community and building a large and sustainable business. There are many examples of single-product companies that are doing it successfully — Confluent, MongoDB, Elastic, etc. What struck us is that Aiven’s multi-product strategy and the opportunity ahead of them, both commercially and in terms of combined open source contribution, could be orders of magnitude more than that of any single-product open source company.

We at Atomico are big believers that game changing companies come from anywhere, and it’s even more exciting to see that such an open source rocketship is born and bred in Europe. Aiven is hiring across a variety of roles and it is a unique opportunity to help shape the future of commercial open source — check out all open roles here, if you want to join this great company.

When Hiro sent our term sheet to Oskari, he talked about the coincidence that in our office one of the four main meeting rooms is named ‘Linus Torvalds’, tipping our hat to the legendary Finnish-American software engineer who is the creator and, historically, the principal developer of the Linux kernel. I am convinced that in the not-so-distant future, we may have to rename one of our meeting rooms to Aiven or King Crab 🦀

With that, welcome to the Atomico family, Oskari, Hannu, Heikki, Mika and the rest of the amazing Aiven team!