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Rubrik pockets $261M in funding to chase AI, ML techs

Rubrik, which helped change the role of backup in data management, is shopping for new technologies for its Cloud Data Management platform.

Rubrik today said it completed a whopping $261 million Series E funding round, bringing its total venture funding investment to $553 million. Overall funding is down for storage vendors, but Rubrik and its rival Cohesity have proven the exceptions. In mid-2018, Cohesity completed a $250 million round to bring its total to $410 million.

Rubrik and Cohesity popped up in 2014, attempting to bring the concepts of hyper-converged infrastructure to data protection. Legacy backup vendors have been scrambling since then to add scale-out products that can handle backup, archive, copy data management and data governance features to data stored on-premises and in clouds.

Bipul Sinha, Rubrik’s CEO and one of its founders, said Rubrik will use the funding to add technologies that it can deliver faster through acquisitions than internal development. Rubrik in February, 2018, acquired cloud database backup startup Datos IO in its only acquisition so far.

“We’ll be opportunistic when it comes to acquiring products and technologies to expand our platform,” Sinha said.

He identified artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics tools that help organizations get more out of their data as areas where Rubrik will expand. Sinha said these technologies can help Rubrik’s Cloud Data Management software deal with regulations such as GDPR.

“In 2019 we’ll enter new markets,” Sinha said. “Backup and recovery is just our starting point. Now that we have the data, we’re looking at applying machine learning, artificial intelligence and other analytics tools that extracts more intelligence out of the data for compliance, governance and security.”

These features would fit in best with Rubrik’s Polaris SaaS management framework, which tackled ransomware protection with its Radar application last year.

A big question about Rubrik is whether it can appeal enough to large enterprises to win customers from large legacy backup vendors such as Veritas, Dell EMC and IBM. Sinha said Rubrik has enterprise needs covered after adding enhanced data protection for Oracle, SAP HANA and file storage last year.

Rubrik's Bipul Sinha

Bipul Sinha

Startups don’t usually go out on the prowl for companies to buy, but few startups have more than half a billion dollars in funding. Sinha said Rubrik went from 700 customers at the start of 2018 to more than 1,300 by the end of the year, and revenue also roughly doubled. And Rubrik may not be finished yet with VC money. Sinha said it will continue to raise money if it must to fuel growth.

“There is a transition happening in data management that is being expanded into the multi-cloud and hybrid cloud world,” he said. “How do we deliver more core services, capture more share of wallet and make Rubrik an iconic company for the next 30 to 40 years? We’re focusing on the opportunities in front of us.”

He did say Rubrik will become a public company, but there is no timeframe for its initial public offering. Rubrik is far from profitable.

“That is our ambition,” he said. “Going pubic is a milestone on our journey. We want any large business around the world to think of Rubrik for their data and application management challenges.”

Rubrik has made moves over the past year that indicates it is aiming for an IPO soon. In 2018 it hired a new CFO and chief legal officer, and coaxed Avon Puri from VMware to serve as CIO. Microsoft chairman and former Symantec CEO John Thompson and former Cisco CEO John Chambers joined Rubrik as investors last year, with Thompson also taking a board seat and Chambers serving as an adviser.

Rubrik and Cohesity have likened their architecture to hyper-convergence for secondary data, and both companies have executives who were involved early on with hyper-converged pioneer Nutanix. Nutanix became a public company in 2016 after raising $394 million in VC funding. It has continued to grow the company and chase revenue, even while losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Rubrik appears to be following that strategy of trying to grow in a rapidly expanding market.

But Sinha said Rubrik will not follow Nutanix down the past of building its own cloud service. Nutanix this year launched its Xi cloud services that will eventually challenge Amazon and other public clouds.

“No, we will not build our own cloud,” Sinha said when asked if Rubrik would go that route. “We have strong partnerships with Microsoft, AWS and others, and we will continue to accelerate those partnerships.”

New investor Bain Capital Ventures led the funding round, with previous venture capitalist investors Lightspeed Ventures, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures and Institutional Venture Partners participating.

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