With the explosion of different kinds of data, companies are struggling to realize meaningful value from their stored data. Data teams are overworked, meanwhile — forced to cater to the needs of disparate departments within an organization while trying to maintain data policies consistently.
That’s the shared thesis of Shirshanka Das and Swaroop Jagadish, at least, the co-founders of Acryl Data, a startup providing tools to help companies organize and ostensibly better manage their data. Acryl today announced that it raised $21 million in a Series A round led by 8VC with participation from Sherpalo Ventures and Guillermo Rauch, founder and CEO of Vercel, bringing its total raised to $30 million.
Prior to launching Acryl Data, Das was a principal staff software engineer at LinkedIn and, before that, a member of the technicals teams first at PayPal and then at Yahoo! (full disclosure: TechCrunch’s owner). Jagadish came to Acryl by way of Airbnb as well as LinkedIn and Yahoo!
“Acryl Data is a community-driven metadata platform that delivers central controls across the decentralized data stack,” Jagadish, the CTO, told TechCrunch in an email interview. “With a mission to bring clarity to data, Acryl offers a data catalog with solutions for data discovery, governance, lineage and observability.”
What exactly is a data catalog? Well, it’s an inventory of data assets in an organization. Data catalogs consist of metadata in which definitions of database objects are stored, such as base tables, indexes, users and user groups.
Data catalogs are a dime a dozen — see startups such as Castor, Stemma, Select Star and Alation offer them, to name a few. But Jagadish argues that Acryl’s approach offers several key advantages over rivals.
Chief among them, Acryl’s platform — which is built on the open source framework DataHub — operates on “event-driven” metadata. By only performing operations when triggered, Acryl can reduce the cost of data catalog maintenance while enabling a range of trigger-based workflows, Jagadish claims.
“The explosion of data over the past decade has led companies to embrace a range of new technologies, but has created a fragmented data landscape as well,” he added. “Some problems got easier, like data orchestration, transformation, storage, movement and visualization — but other problems re-emerged as challenges, like data discovery, data quality and data management. Attempts to solve the problem — like traditional governance and observability tools — have been unnecessarily siloed, leading to further inefficiencies and inconsistent solutions … Acryl is designed to help teams move from simple data visibility to data insight, from insight to action and from action to automation.”
Beyond this, Acryl offers an “observability” module designed for monitoring data quality in real time. The module, aptly dubbed Observe, monitors and attempts to spot data quality issues — in theory helping to prevent data breakages and drive faster resolutions where they do occur.
Using Acryl, customers can also perform metadata tests, which surface areas for cost optimization, like expensive or underused data assets. The configurable monitors driving these tests let users define and continuously evaluate a set of conditions on the data assets in an organization.
“Our most common ‘competitor’ is the status quo of custom development, as data engineers establish manual processes and protocols on their own rather than implement a more automated solution,” Jagadish said.
Acryl has ambitious plans for the future, including AI features that’ll “intelligently curate” metadata and suggest business glossary tags and terms to more thoroughly document data catalogs. In addition, the company aims to launch an AI-powered tool to generate summaries that describe the key characteristics of a given data catalog, like its reliability and usage.
Acryl, which has a 25-person workforce, isn’t disclosing too much about its customer base. But the startup did reveal that it counts Notion, Zendesk, Robinhood, OVO Energy, BetterUp and Riskified among its clients.
Jagadish added that DataHub, which he founded while at LinkedIn and which Acryl’s staff maintains, is used by companies like Pinterest, Stripe, Optum, Expedia, Saxo Bank and Peloton. He’s optimistic that the features Acryl’s building on top of DataHub will convince at least a few of those to convert.
“The fast rate of change in the data ecosystem presents a challenge for businesses and vendors alike,” Jagadish said. “As issues inevitably arise, Acryl increases productivity for data teams. Business users have a central resource to ask and address questions, rather than ad hoc processes for each issue, while data professionals can use Acryl’s lineage and impact analysis features to reduce time to resolution of data issues significantly.”