The Rill founders first got into databases ten years ago when they started a company called Metamarkets, which was eventually picked up by Snap in 2017. At Metamarkets, the company built a database based on the open source Apache Druid project. The Metamarkets team later refined their approach at Snap and helped Snap employees build dashboards more easily.
Rill launched in 2020 to build what the founders envisioned as a faster and better BI dashboard tool, based on what they learned at Snap. They wanted an underlying database that could process database data much faster than just pulling it raw from the data source, be that Snowflake, Databricks, BigQuery, or something else.
And they wanted to simplify the dashboard itself, eliminating much of the design decisions that data analysts often challenge. Today, the company announced a $12 million seed and the first public discussion of the product it built.
Company co-founder and CEO Michael Driscoll says he started the company in 2020 with the premise that business intelligence was broken. He and his team of engineers, most of whom were from his team at Snap, set to work building a better solution for a wider audience.
“I took some of those engineers I had worked with at Snap in the middle of Covid, and we created Rill. So in the last two years, we’ve started selling this BI stack, which is an alternative to the Looker-Snowflake stack,” Driscoll told BestFitnessBands.
The product consists of a database designed to process core data from the underlying data source faster. When the data analyst or business user requests this data, Rill displays it in a dashboard in a very consistent way. It’s worth noting that they went back to Apache Druid for the database, a project they knew well from their Metamarket days.
“Most BI tools are thin applications without their own data engine, and only as fast as the database on which they reside. Rill, on the other hand, is a thick application that comes with its own built-in in-memory OLAP engine (DuckDB in Rill Developer and Apache Druid in Rill Cloud). This is the not-so-secret reason why our dashboards deliver incredibly high performance,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the funding.
Unlike many dashboard products, Rill configures the user interface for you. There are few choices outside of branding, and Driscoll believes this really simplifies things for the analyst as they only have to worry about the data and what they want to see in the dashboard.
“Data analysts are not dashboard designers, but they are forced to be dashboard designers… There are too many visual design choices that many BI and data applications impose on analysts. Rill has a very quirky outlook. We just say ‘hey, tell us what metrics you want to show to your business stakeholders’ and we’ll automatically generate the dashboards,” he said.
The enterprise SaaS product has been available for over a year and has a dozen enterprise customers using it. The company also recently released a second product called Rill Developer which is open source. It is designed to help developers pull the data from the underlying source data repository and remove all the complexity associated with it.
“We are open sourcing Rill Developer to help analysts who honestly want to get their work done. They can attach to that in their data lakehouse, warehouse and soon a stream to transform that data out of the world [repository]and then mold it into metrics that eventually power BI dashboards,” he said.
So far, he is generating real revenue with about a dozen business clients and thousands of users. While he didn’t want to be specific about revenue, he described it as over $10 million and under $100 million, which is quite an achievement for an early stage company like this.
Two years later, he has 24 employees spread all over the world. The company is completely remote and has been around since day one, which has helped build diversity from that approach. “There are many ways we want to think about diversity. First of all, I think we are global, and as a result we have people from many different cultures and countries around the world,” he said.
Today’s $12 million seed investment came from True Ventures, Bloomberg BETA, Sierra Ventures, Park West Asset Management and DCVC, as well as more than two dozen data entrepreneurs.