Qumulo is joining an elite club of Seattle startups.
The company just announced a $125 million funding round that propels its valuation to more than $1.2 billion, making it one of a handful of “unicorn” billion-dollar startups in the Seattle region.
Qumulo launched back in 2012, betting that companies would need help storing and managing large amounts of file data. There are now more than 150 billion files handled by Qumulo for customers such as Hyundai, Cinesite Studios, Telus, and others.
“We’re all about data awareness,” said Qumulo CEO Bill Richter. “Data awareness cures data blindness, which is a real problem at organizations today, especially at the scale we’re talking about.”
The digitization of more and more content has only increased demand for Qumulo’s cloud-based platform, Richter said, and particularly amid a pandemic that is accelerating the adoption of digital technologies.
For example, one of Qumulo’s customers is the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). The group has put out consistent COVID-19 projections and data visualizations over the past several months — a task that requires a huge amount of data storing and analysis.
“They called us at the onset of the crisis and said ‘you have to help us, we have to scale faster,’” Richter said.
Other Seattle-area unicorn enterprise tech companies including Auth0 and Outreach are also seeing increased demand as of late and have raised more venture capital to fuel growth, even amid the economic crisis.
Qumulo focuses primarily on healthcare, media/entertainment, research computing, and the public sector industries. Its software works with various cloud services, as well as on-premise.
The company has also partnered with HPE to sell Qumulo software on HPE hardware, and offers a version of its file system on Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.
Platforms such as AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure offer their own file storage services, but Richter said Qumulo’s customers require something more flexible.
Qumulo is perfectly positioned to help companies embrace the digital-first era of applications and workflows that are now essential to how work gets done.
“They want to have a single file data platform that can span clouds and private environments, so they can build these applications and large datasets and then be able to move them around,” he said.
Other Qumulo competitors include Dell EMC, NetApp, Pure Storage, IBM, and others.
Qumulo last raised capital in 2018, reeling in a $93 million Series D round. Its valuation has doubled since then.
The 315-person company still had plenty of cash, but investors saw an opportunity to double down. Qumulo’s revenue nearly tripled year-over-year in the most recent quarter.
BlackRock led the Series E round. Highland Capital Partners, Madrona Venture Group, Kleiner Perkins, and Amity Ventures also participated. Total funding to date is $351 million.
“Qumulo is perfectly positioned to help companies embrace the digital-first era of applications and workflows that are now essential to how work gets done,” Madrona Managing Director Matt McIlwain said in a statement.
The money will be used to help customers gain “more intelligence about their data,” Richter said, and also sell Qumulo’s products to customers in South America and Asia. Qumulo is also hiring and has avoided layoffs this year, unlike many other tech startups.
Asked about an IPO, Richter said it’s a “possibility” but didn’t comment further.
Richter, also a venture partner at Madrona, joined Qumulo in 2016. He previously was an executive at Isilon Systems, a data storage company that sold to EMC for $2.25 billion in 2010.
During a video interview with GeekWire this week, Richter had an Isilon plaque visible in his office, a reminder of one of the biggest acquisitions in Seattle tech history.
But Richter thinks Qumulo can go even bigger as it takes on an addressable market he estimates will reach $25 billion in a few years.
“Effectively, Isilon created a better box than its competitors,” he said. “The world has moved far beyond the box. While the fundamental challenges of data scale still exists, no one wants to solve that by buying more boxes. You want to solve it through software in the public cloud.”
Peter Godman, Neal Fachan, and Aaron Passey — also former Isilon employees — founded Qumulo eight years ago. Godman stepped down as CEO when Richter came on board, and left the company in 2018. Fachan remains as chief scientist. Passey left in 2016 and is now a principal engineer at Dropbox.
Despite the pandemic, venture capitalists are pouring money into Pacific Northwest tech companies at unprecedented levels, significantly outpacing the number of deals and dollars invested in the first half of 2018 and 2019, according to a recent GeekWire analysis.
A survey of 37 chief financial officers from Seattle-based companies indicates that the city’s tech industry remains strong amid the COVID-19 crisis.