Episode 2 | Founders Session: Why dedicate a company (and $50M in investor cash) to real-time data sharing solutions?
- Shruthi Rao, Co-founder and CBO, Vendia
- Tim Wagner, Co-founder and CEO, Vendia
In this episode, Shruthi Rao and Tim Wagner talk about why data sharing matters and why they founded and dedicated an entire company to helping organizations share data better.
- AWS Lambda
- Follow Shruthi Rao on LinkedIn
- Follow Tim Wagner on LinkedIn
- White paper | The Lean App Movement: Optimize for outcomes that matter, not repetitive drudgery
- Case Study |BMW
- Best Friends Animal Society
- Best Friends Animal Society Launches First-of-its-Kind Data Dashboard to Mobilize Communities Around 2025 Lifesaving Goal
- Best Friends Animal Society’s No-Kill 2025 data dashboard
- Vendia’s investor details on Crunchbase
Tim Zonca 0:07
Greetings from the team at Vendia. And welcome to the Circles of Trust podcast: It’s a podcast for leaders across all industries committed to speeding up innovation at scale, making a profound positive impact on business and in the world. I’m your host, Tim Zonca. And we’re about to dive into a conversation with Vendia co-founders, Shruthi Rao, and Tim Wagner. In this episode, we’ll talk about the driving force behind founding a company entirely focused on data sharing. Welcome, Tim and Shruthi. It’s great to have you to the show.
Tim Wagner 0:38
Thank you, Tim.
Shruthi Rao 0:39
Tim Zonca 0:40
So, you two have known each other for years across multiple companies. Tell us about how your journeys came together and why you decided to found a data sharing company together.
Tim Wagner 0:56
Shruthi, you want to start?
Shruthi Rao 0:58
Alright, this is going to be a fun one. Tim and I met many, many years ago at my interview loop at AWS. It was a business development role that I was interviewing for at Amazon Web Services for the Serverless business that Tim actually started/founded the thesis off, and I was super excited to be interviewing there. And I was even more excited to meet Tim and then learn from him and get to know him, really. I had gone into the interview thinking, “Hey, if not for anything, I just get to meet this guy who founded something so monumental. That would be good!” During the interview process, one of the questions that I had for Tim was, “Hey, why isn’t anyone using serverless computing for blockchains?” I mean, it makes sense. It’s very event driven. It’s very bursty. It’s pay as you go. Most of the blockchain projects in circa 2017/2016 were, you know, in infancy. Not many people had unlimited cash, as they do now. And then you didn’t have to code away til eternity to get to a project. So, it made a lot of sense, but not a whole lot of people using that. And we really bonded over that question during the interview process and even after that. And I say, I lovingly say, that that was the beginning of Vendia to use these two very powerful technologies to bring some kind of a solution that was broadly applicable and extremely useful for folks in the industry.
Tim Wagner 2:42
And, you know, when we, when Shruthi and I worked together at AWS building up the Serverless business, we talked to lots and lots of customers. And one of the things that we heard repeatedly was this unmet need that customers had to build systems that could effectively share data with one another. Now, I’ll be honest, in those days, I don’t know if either of us really interpreted that in the modern context that we do at Vendia here, you know, as a data sharing and a data consistency problem. But we heard the seeds of what was eventually going to inform a lot of our customer fit and product analysis at Vendia — customers who were excited to buy modern, innovative technology from AWS but wished they could also get their data onto other clouds and use other services; customers who needed to share their data with other parties, even if they didn’t use words like blockchain or decentralized in those descriptions; and customers who really wanted to create business-specific data models and schemas that they could use to share with their partners over the long haul. And those questions would come up in lots of different ways as we talked to them. And we both realized in the day that there was just this, this large bulk of unmet need, that wasn’t really being well addressed by some of the in-market products or necessarily some of the current players in those markets.
Tim Zonca 4:11
And then, you know, I’m curious, so the needs aren’t being met, but what about now? What do you see happening that made now the time for you to say we should do this — this is the moment?
Shruthi Rao 4:27
Right! So if you dial the clock back, you know, to circa 2018/2019, I started running the blockchain business at AWS, and Tim was at Coinbase running engineering, product R&D, sometimes design and UX for them. And we both saw this need in the market that manifested in different ways, but got us to the same endpoint there. One of the things that I saw was I personally met 1,092 unique customers. You heard that right. That was 1,092 unique customers over a two-year period from everywhere from energy to financial services to retail to CPG to nonprofit — didn’t matter where they came from, they were all talking about this one problem they were trying to solve using blockchains. And unsuccessfully so. [The problem] which was, they all said, “We have a lot of partners. And we are making lots and lots of data with all of these new technologies that we’ve implemented. You know, IoT, mobile, edges, digital transformation…” Folks said data is thea new oil? Guess what? We’re making lots and lots of oil, except the oil, this data is getting stuck where they are made. So all of our partners have all of this data that we need to make this joint data decision making. We only have partial data, so we’re making decisions with partial data, which is not very useful. So it was a classic, “My data is everywhere: I need access to this data in real time to do something with it.” This real time, when we think of real time, we think of sub-milliseconds, some of these companies don’t have access to this data for months. For them, real time could be the same day. That’s already a huge improvement. So when we started seeing this, when Tim started seeing this from a technology perspective — why this was such a hard problem to solve. — the problem wasn’t being solved because there was no need. There was overwhelming need! it was not being solved because people were not seeing this problem. I think there was a little bit of an acceptance that, whether it’s an EDI or any kind of batch process, was, “Hey, it’s just working. It’s fine. No innovation is needed there.” So when we saw that no one else was solving this problem — not the big cloud providers, they didn’t want to make it easy for other clouds to take their data — or any other companies that were out in the market, we said, “The time is now. There is an overwhelming need, and we’ve got to solve this problem.”
Tim Zonca 7:24
Tim, anything else to add to that around timing? Like why now is the moment?
Tim Wagner 7:29
Yeah, I would certainly emphasize this fact that the market demand, if you will, the fact that every company out there, pretty much every day, is producing and consuming more data than they did the day before … their applications, their cloud enablement, all of that is contributing to just the volume of data getting constructed and used and managed. Another thing, though, that I think happened here is there’s, you know, we mentioned innovation waves, right? And there’s this second wave of innovation that is now occurring. So even once companies get into the cloud and they experience a certain level of economic benefits from that first stage of cloud adoption, you know, some of them have still brought along with them the processes, the applications, the techniques, and so forth, that they have been using on prem or, in some cases, manually for years before that. So it doesn’t necessarily give them all the benefit of being in the cloud until they take subsequent steps, like revisiting how it is that they share their data with partners, how they create mutual automated workflows. And when you think about something like a supply chain, for example, you’re really talking about an application that extends beyond the four walls of an individual company. [You’re talking about] an application that pushes upstream into the suppliers who are providing the inventory in the rural parts, pushes sideways into financial and manufacturing partners, and pushes downstream into logistics and delivery partnerships. So that application and that application’s data is in many different companies — potentially in many different clouds. And that’s not an application paradigm that the first generation of cloud adoption was necessarily intended to tackle. But without it, companies are left with all this data in a lot of different silos and haven’t necessarily solved some of those fundamental problems. And that’s a situation we’ve continually heard, over and over again, as one of the most pressing IT needs that business leaders and technology leaders both are facing today.
Tim Zonca 9:38
You both started talking about how your paths crossed, and one of the common things across what you were hearing was that there were unmet needs out there. You then we touched a little bit around why now is the time to address those needs. But I’d love to spend a moment talking about why you … I mean, you have a bunch of investors that have flocked to you, you know, in many cases unsolicited. Pre-emptive. You know, your last few rounds were like that. A bunch of employees that want to follow you where you’re where you’re executing on this vision … So what do you think you bring to the space that nobody else does?
Tim Wagner 10:19
Well, I’ll start off on this one and give you my perspective on it. I’m looking at the not quite unique, but relatively unusual privilege of getting to work both in a hyper scalar cloud environment at AWS, where I got to start the Serverless division and really learned the ropes of building these massive multi-tenant cloud services and their architectures. But then also, in the world of blockchains at Coinbase, you know, I got to oversee in my VP of engineering role one of the largest regulated fleets of distributed ledgers on the planet. And that ringside seat helped me see both the potential of that technology, but frankly, also the limitations of that technology. That the way it’s built was keeping it from a broader adoption and really was limiting the ability for enterprises to turn it into something more than just a, you know, a cryptocurrency speculation market, right? Really use it as a piece of cloud infrastructure. So we have these two worlds, each with them a bunch of strengths and some weaknesses. You know, the cloud providers are really, really good at operating their own clouds, but not very interested in multi-cloud environments. We always jokingly say here at Vendia, “You can pick your partners. You can pick your cloud. But you cannot pick your partner’s cloud.” So, you know, supporting and embracing that is a strong business need. And then on the other hand, is blockchain and distributed ledger technology, which was really not mature enough and enterprise-grade enough to be useful as a piece of technology infrastructure in an IT environment. And so, you know, I think one of the things I brought to the table was having been in both those environments with the opportunity to see the strength of both and how we could combine them in this unique way to produce a serverless blockchain that nobody else was attempting. The blockchain folks really didn’t know that much about cloud infrastructure and architecture and how to build these hyper-tenanted solutions. And the folks in the clouds were very focused on keeping your data isolated in their own cloud, you know, for obvious business reasons. But it was keeping them from exploring that technological and product niche that we’ve pushed into here. So I think that was a combination that, maybe just through the stroke of luck, you know, I had the opportunity to see those two different worlds and help imagine how they might come together.
Tim Zonca 12:43
Shruthi, what’s your take?
Shruthi Rao 12:44
Oh, I don’t think any luck was involved with what Tim did. He was just brilliant is all, so I have to disagree with him there. But look, I’ll just say this, that, for me, the most important thing has always been it’s gotta solve a problem. It doesn’t matter how awesome, cool, fun, exciting a technology is. As long as it solves a problem, that’s all that matters, the technology is always means to an end. And I have seen Tim make this make Serverless Lambda this means to an end. So for all the developers who loved writing code, but did not want to do all of the work of getting ready to write code, all of the busy work, all of the boring, drudgery work, he made it disappear. So according to me, the best technology is the one that just disappears. And then lets the end customer/ end user have this amazing experience where they get to where they need to go to very simplistically. So that’s always been my most interesting part of any kind of a building journey. You know, this is a funny story that happened in circa 2019: Tim and I were talking about different kinds of problems that we’re seeing. And he came back with, “Hey, I have figured out a way to make blockchains very performant.” And I said, “That’s awesome. Here are my other five or 10 requirements that the end customers have. If you go and solve for all of these problems, I’ll come help build a business with you.” And you know, this is typical Tim Wagner fashion. He comes back a couple of weeks later with our logtech-styled white paper that I had to read five times to understand. The fifth time, I had this epiphany. I mean, I still remember where I was sitting, what I was wearing. I was like, “Holy Jesus, he solved all my problems. This is amazing.” So what he had done, he had built this framework for Vendia that would essentially make the technology disappear. Going into the background, where the customer walked in with a very simple ask and then got themselves this multi-party, multi-cloud data sharing base layer apparatus that they could build amazing applications on. And that will be very powerful. Only few companies have been able to do that, you know, that meant to make technology ubiquitous and disappear. When you go search on Google for Thai food, you don’t know how the pagination algorithm works in the back end; they’ve made it disappear. So I think Tim’s been masterful at making technology disappear. And that’s my favorite part of our tech. As much as I love our tech, it’s just got to disappear and make it so simple for the end users to use it. And that’s why the investors and employees came to us … because they know that this man right here can make it so.
Tim Zonca 16:11
Even as the two you talk about kind of early days, or even pre-Vendia days, you both are using language around solving customer problems. And I think both of you are known for being people who are customer obsessed and making sure that you do right by them, but also learn from them. And so tell us a little bit about who are your early customers? And what kinds of things did you learn from them?
Shruthi Rao 16:42
I could start with this. My early customers were, I would say pivotal in how Vendia has shaped up, how our experience as first-time founders shaped up, and then has helped. Most of our customers have benefited from the learnings that we’ve got from our initial customers. Two of them … BMW, a wonderful, wonderful experience with them. And then also the next one is Best Friends Animal Society. We’ll talk about both of them. We started working with BMW [in] early 2020. The feedback that we’ve gotten from the BMW team has been exceptional. And the learnings that we’ve gotten, the product influence that they have had, the influence they have had on our roadmap — on what we’ve built, how to make it useful — has been phenomenal. BMW started using us to track defects and inspections across their value chain. They started off as design partners, and then they ended up being our customer. And then they ended up investing in both our Series A and Series B raises. So our relationship with them has been very deep trench, and we have been very blessed to have the feedback that they’ve given us. That’s the first one there. And then the second one was with Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS). They are a Utah-based, not-for-profit that helps animal shelters and the animal welfare industry. The Best Friends Animal Society’s charter is No Kill 2025. So by the year of 2025, they want to make sure that there are no shelter pets, whether dogs, cats, chinchillas, bunnies, pythons, horses, whatever they are, are not euthanized. So they want to find a home for all of them. Which means that if an animal is lost or a pet is lost, they want to get that particular pet back to its original owners as soon as they possibly can because the longer it stays out, the longer it remains in the shelter, the higher the propensity of going down the road of euthanasia for that particular animal. So what they are doing on top of Vendia today is making it very easy to scan these pets, put them in their shelter software, foster care software, or any kind of veterinarian software, and aggregate this data across a geographical distance and make it very easily searchable. So Best Friends and all 13,000 of their partners through shelter management softwares are on our platform with hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats — mostly dogs and cats. And all of this is searchable. They did a very nice press session with us, and there’s a really nice, heartwarming article about how many dogs they’ve been able to save, dogs and cats they’ve been able to save. As a pet owner, myself, this is very, very close to my heart. So definitely go read that document, and we can link that out as well.
Tim Zonca 20:11
Well, Shruthi, thanks for walking through the different variants of tracking, where one outcome is delivering better cars faster, the other is getting lost pets to their humans. From a product perspective and a product market fit perspective, Tim, I’d love your take. I think you were really close to them, and you know, what’s working/what’s not insofar as producing those outcomes? You know, what’s your take? What did you learn from customers like that?
Tim Wagner 20:40
Yeah, a few things that obviously stand out here, you know, one, as I’m sure readers and listeners have already thought about is just the fact that these are two very, very different kinds of companies, right? You know, one of them [is] a classic large-scale enterprise; the other one [is] a not-for-profit that collaborates with, literally, tens of thousands of small shops all over the place. So one of things that it just teaches you, immediately, is that this problem is ubiquitous, right? It really does extend across every sector segment industry, you know, every type of company out there. And yet, the underlying problem, the need to be able to share data effectively across company and organizational boundaries is everywhere, right? Sharing information about dogs and cats might feel very different than sharing information about automobile chassis. And yet, at the level of an IT solution, both those organizations have very, very similar type of problem, and we were able to offer them a similar type of solution through Vendia technology. It also taught us that we really have to be customer obsessed, and you can’t get into what we sometimes amusingly refer to as “blockchain religion” because these companies aren’t interested in religion. They’re buying an infrastructure software solution. And that’s got to the form factor, the performance, you know, the ease of use, the capabilities they’re really looking for to drive their businesses. You know, that idea of, like, simplicity for the win. One of the very first lessons we learned was that we have to deliver our infrastructure in a SaaS fashion, right? Not just because I kind of came from a Serverless background, although that certainly help getting started here. But because these customers told us the last thing in the world they want to do is deploy one more server, one more package, one more third party thing, and then babysit it til the end of time. Right? They don’t have the people the time, the money, the energy for any of that. So if we can’t give it to them as SaaSm they don’t want to see it in the first place. And that’s important, you know, in early stage startup, right? I mean, good to know what the packaging needs of your customers are right up front. Another one that I can share here is there’s always this funny duality to the conversations when we would talk to these customers in the early days. Because, almost universally, the first phrase out of their mouths would be, “I need to share something with my partners, my work, my whatever.” They would always immediately talk about about what they need to share and how hard that was. And then the second sentence out of their mouths was almost always, “What I don’t want to share…” And then they tell you all the things that were really important not to be shared — their business secrets, the data that goes to one partner, but not another. And you’d realize that sharing is only one side of the coin for them. The other side of that coin is all the access control, security, governance, compliance, you know, all the things that give them the safety, security, and comfort to be able to share effectively knowing that the things that they don’t want shared with someone — or with anyone, potentially, right? — is going to be just as safe as it was before. And you really have to do both of those. The public blockchains talk a lot about being able to share everything or putting everything on a blockchain. And that’s, frankly, never what a company wants to do. And even when they do want to share, they need to share with control. And that’s a phrase that just has come up over and over and over again for us: “Share with control.” Because that, really at the end of the day, is what it’s about. And I’ll give you one last one here. You know, [it’s] what we call “all the data, all the time.” When companies need to share information, they need to share many different types of information. They need to share both current and older versions of it. They need to be able to share it in an ongoing fashion, over time, in a synchronized fashion. So if we were going to succeed, we couldn’t just say we’re going to deal with scalars. We couldn’t just say we’re going to deal with files. We’vegot to do both. It’s got to be structured and unstructured data. It’s got to be today’s data and yesterday’s data. And tomorrow’s data, by the way. And that really was important from a product and packaging perspective because we had to be able to get that right. Even from Day One, if we were going to be able to satisfy those enterprise customer needs. So it’s challenging for a startup because we couldn’t really cut any one of those corners. But when you think about it, frankly, there’s more data out there in files for businesses of all sizes and shapes than there is in actual databases today. And so if you’re not going to support files as a first-class citizen, you might as well not even start or come to the game in the first place. And so that kind of lesson early on, which, you know, came back to us from BMW, BFAS, and others, was really instrumental in driving the shaping of our product as we took it to market.
Tim Zonca 25:33
Thanks for walking through both those examples in what the two of you learned. It was apparent in those examples that BMW, Best Friends Animal Society, you know, these early customers, they were in the thick of it. So here, Tim, you, you say, “Hey, they know exactly what they want to share.” And then they turn around and say, “And here’s exactly what we don’t share.” But what about investors? You know, sometimes they’re close to the problem; sometimes they’re farther away. So how did your investors understand the space? And what did they initially find compelling enough to invest in Vendia? And then I’d love, after we talked about what they initially found compelling, is what did they find compelling about investing now, especially those that have continued to invest? Because they’ve been around for a while.
Shruthi Rao 26:21
Yeah, absolutely. This was a very interesting one for us, as well. I think what resonated, or the investors that resonated with us, and then the ones that ended up investing multiple times over at this point through our seed to Series B … what they have seen is this large momentum in the market, irrespective of what industry it is, the movement is towards super specialization. Each company does one or maybe two things, and they do it really, really well. And then they focus on that. Gone are the days of, you know, Sears catalog, where you could buy a house and the lubricant and baby food from the same catalog. Those days are gone. One company doing end-to-end supply chain is gone. The superset specialization is here to stay, you know, the economies of scale work, the unit economics work. The market as a whole, if it’s not already moved toward that, it is moving toward that. Now, how does that affect data sharing? …Irrespective of whether you’re a semiconductor chip company, or a baby formula, or you’re making cars, or a pet supply chain, or you’re giving loans to homeowners within the US, you have multiple partners — each of you doing this one thing and doing that one thing extremely well. Which means that you are all islands that are supposed to have interstate highways, but you don’t. You send a tugboat back and forth once in a while. That’s the way you do data sharing. You send emails, and then you send batch files, maybe if you’re very sophisticated. What does this do? All this does is create this unending reconciliation work. Look, we were talking at a mortgage industry consortium a couple of weeks ago, and one of the one of the industry leaders there said that, on an average, when a mortgage is produced and a mortgage is sold, it costs them about $250,000 to reconcile our loan package (a loan package contains 5000 loans). $250,000 to reconcile 5000 loans! I mean, we’re just reconciling. Because I forgot to send the right attachment; I sent the old attachment; maybe I didn’t send you that attachment; maybe I sent it and then the data changed again. This back-and-forth reconciliation people-cost is 250k for 5000 loans. It’s atrocious. And it adds $0 or no benefit to your bottom line or the top line. So I think the investors, when we started doing our seed round back in early 2020, looked at this and went, “Hmm, the industry is moving towards super specialization. Everybody is doing one thing and doing one thing really well. There needs to be some kind of flow of information, and the way the mechanisms that exist today, [they] were good enough for maybe five or ten years ago, when we were not making lots and lots of data. It’s not going to be enough for the future. It’s certainly not enough today. For the future, it’s going to break down very fast.” And that’s the opportunity that they saw. And most of their companies were doing a slightly better, faster, cheaper mousetrap and that already exists. And we were looking at it from a completely different ground up way. That’s what got them excited then.
Tim Zonca 29:55
Yeah, interesting. Thanks, Tim. Anything to add to that?
Tim Wagner 29:58
You know, I’d say there’s some things that are kind of stage-specific for investors, right, who are coming in at different points in time. And then the ones that kind of have to be true, the points that have to be true throughout … I think all investors are perennially and appropriately interested in, you know, in the TAM [Total Addressable Market]. And one of the things that we always talk to our investors about, in every stage so far, is that the operational data space is 10x the size of the analytics space. So you look at the success of a Databricks or a Snowflake, and then you say, “There’s another market out there that’s 10x the size of that.” That’s an incredibly attractive market. Of course, you’ve got to also believe that market is in some way obtainable, right? So the other piece of this is, can you get there? And that’s where the disruptive tech, the innovation comes in. You have to convince them and get them to believe that what you’re doing is different than what came before in a material and salient way, of course. And in our case, you know, one of things we talk about is do you really believe that an entrenched, old school company like SAP is going to define the next generation of data sharing solutions in a cloud-native fashion? Right? That is probably not going to happen. So, you know, so who else is going to step into that space? That means there’s an opportunity there that has presented itself. So I say, though, those two kind of spread across all the stages, and then, you know, at seed stage, they’re very focused on who are the founders? Have they innovated before? Have they been successful elsewhere? You know, do they have an opportunity here? At the A stage, our investors were very interested in those early customer successes that we talked about, you know, what was the feedback from those customers? Are we doing the practice, the pricing, and packaging? Were we able to deliver something to production? That made sense. And then you get to the B stage, and a lot of what we talked about were things like network effects — the fact that after, maybe, you sell to a nexus company, [where] the companies around them in their business network and partnership can be acquired at this much lower customer acquisition cost. And then how have we used that technique to start scaling into our first couple of sectors? And that’ll continue, right? In our next stage, it will be all about how do we start scaling our sales and marketing team and start growing into additional sectors, and so forth. So, you know, we’ve been very, very fortunate we have these wonderful investors: Neotribe Ventures, Canvas [Ventures], and NewView [Capital], who led our seed, A, and B rounds successively. And they’ve all been fantastic partners, not only in helping us grow and understand the business, but really in getting the key innovation and the opportunity that sits behind the idea.
Tim Zonca 32:39
…I don’t know what the mix is, if this is the two of you are just so close to your customers, that you have done primary research including with customers like BMW, that you continue to do primary research… maybe you just have good spidey senses on top of it, but it seems like you can follow the light bending around the corner to see what’s coming down the path. So, what do you think the companies don’t understand about data sharing yet, but you think will just become common knowledge in the future?
Tim Wagner 33:14
I’ll give you a product-centric version of that. And then I think, you know, Shruthi has some other great visionary takes on that question, as well, from maybe from a more prosaic product point of view. However, I’ll say one of the things that we get to do here is build this new concept, which combines the best of APIs, databases, and distributed ledgers (and sometimes I call this the three-legged stool). And one of the interesting things about that is that [combination of technology] is not a category that customers think about today, right? They think of those as three disjointed, effectively unrelated technologies that they have to go buy and then figure out a way to compose together — rather than something that could come to them, and work together, and provide that better outcome all at once. And you know, if you think about this, in the past, what has made prior historical innovations so successful is when you can take something that was difficult and find either a new way of doing it or bring things that were formerly disparate and put them together. Databases didn’t used to have query languages. So you take a query language, a planner, or a compiler, and the actual data store, you stick them together, you get a modern day SQL database that’s far more powerful than the sum of the parts. And this is very, very similar to what we’re trying to do here — the combination of an API, a distributed ledger, and a series of databases in different clouds is more than the sum of those parts. It’s this amazing thing that can produce a single source of truth. And I don’t think that’s something that’s common knowledge yet. I think it’ll take a while for that to be common knowledge. But I think it’s one of the things that we’re also engaged in an educational effort as we try to take Vendia out to market and help customers with those data sharing opportunities.
Shruthi Rao 35:07
You know, I’ll answer this from the customer side. Data sharing has always been this very cruddy, hard, not a fun thing to do. Because think about how it doesn’t pick your favorite category, right? Let’s just take CPG (consumer packaged goods), where you’re expecting someone to send you some raw materials for, my favorite, chocolates. You’re making chocolates, and you’re getting raw materials [like] cocoa and sugar and milk from different suppliers. The way you’re doing it today is good old-fashioned emails. And if you’re very technically savvy, you’re doing maybe batch files once a week. I mean, when I say technically savvy, it’s a very remote possibility that’s what you’re doing. Now you add the complexity of an entire supply chain. So you’re getting, you know, cocoa from supplier A, but, in fact, that cocoa, they source it from three different folks/from three different countries across the world. And they, in fact, get beans from you know, two other farming or farmer companies or whatnot. So now you all of a sudden have an entire supply chain. So the data that you get from your partner is dependent on the quality, the freshness, and the timeliness of the data that they get from their partners that are underneath them. Now, your partners also don’t want to reveal who their partners are, or what their phone number is, or their addresses. So they have to go through that cleansing process. They want to share with you certain things, but don’t want to share with you everything, you know, what Tim was talking about. How can we share easily but how can we make sure we don’t share everything, at the same time? It’s a very hard manual process that is just not fun. And this has been going on for decades, I mean, ever since email was made. And before that it was you know, fax machines or snail mail, or you know, I grew up in India. So back in the day, you had these carbon copies where the pink slip was for the delivery person, the white slip was for the company. That was the process, that was a double-entry ledger process that happened. So most of these companies think that, hey, if we change our process, it’s going to be very heavy operational lift for our partners, and their second-tier partners and their third-tier partners and for us. So they think because data sharing has been so hard and so not fun, not enjoyable all these years, this new process will be just as not enjoyable, but incur all of these operational changes. When, in fact, that’s not the case. There was no technology to solve for this pain. And that was one of my few requirements that Tim solved for in that white paper we talked about. So we should make it very easy for folks who may not have the best technology teams, the best IT teams to adopt this framework and then use the SaaS solution without having to take on a lot of operational burden. But we have seen that whenever there is a macroeconomic change in a particular industry — and take a look at semiconductor industry right now — chip shortage everywhere. They start to understand, “Oh God, we need to solve for this chip shortage problem.” It’s not just making more chips. It’s also assembling more chips, getting the wafer, the dye, the chip, and the fabrication all together and putting it through on all sides and making sure that there is a zero defect that comes out on the other side. So when there’s macro changes, the urgency level increases. And then see that? “Wow, what was I waiting for this whole time!” That’s what we hear from a lot of our customers. What was I waiting for? What we’ve built is a very low touch, low operational expense of time and energy to implement a very succinct data sharing process.
Tim Zonca 39:35
Great, thanks. What about looking forward? I’d love to hear from each of you. What are you most excited about around what’s next in the data sharing space?
Tim Wagner 39:48
Shruthi, do you want to take this one first?
Shruthi Rao 39:49
Yeah, absolutely. Let’s go back to the first question you asked, you know, how did you meet, right? One of the things that I was super excited for my interview with Tim, my interview with serverless as a whole at AWS all those years ago, was [that] Lambda, at that point, had created this mechanism that was super simple to build applications that you didn’t need to think of a lot of things. Just go, you know what the application needs to do. Write a lambda function, voila! You start the beginnings of an application, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s control plane as a service for all of the nerds listening in and want to dive deep into that. But really, for me, it was you could be lazy and build an application, and then voila, you have it. But why should we stop at you can build an application on just one cloud in just one account using just one data source within that account? Why can’t this span accounts or regions or clouds or even partners? And why should it just be a control plane thing? Why can’t it build a whole application, a powerful application that uses data from wherever you have it — from your partners, from another cloud, from another region. So it’s an extension of what got me super excited about Lambda is what excites me about Vendia — make application development ubiquitous, irrespective of what your data is, where your data is. You know, we call this greenfield applications with brownfield data. Your application layers should be able to reach down to the data wherever it is, including your partners’. And they’ll tell you what you can access and what you can’t access through very simple schematic mechanisms. And then, voila, you built a really nice application on top that does whatever it is that you want to do. So you spend time on doing things you love, as opposed to building this infrastructure that needs to be built over and over and over again. And let me tell you, it’s not a fun process. It’s not fun for me. I don’t certainly think it’s fun for anyone else. So that’s what I’m excited about.
Tim Zonca 42:06
Well, I love, you know, for those of folks who are just listening, and not streaming anything where the video’s included, I’m sure that it came across that I think you’re on the edge of your chair through that. So it is fun to hear that excitement! Tim, what about you? What are you most excited about for what’s next in the data sharing space?
Tim Wagner 42:26
You know, there are a bunch of things that excite me, and certainly that I feel passionate about here. I mean, one is just at the broadest level. We’re going to reach this kind of “automate everything”, self-directed machines world, get to the second generation of cloud innovation, then we’re gonna have to make it easier to share data, consume data, and use data, right? That’s just a given in my mind, right? We’ve got to solve that problem where we never get to some of those solutions. As a specific one, I think we should … I think I want to live in a world where everybody can pick the best of breed cloud services that they want. Right? That just seems like that should be true. And yet today, it’s not because which cloud services you can use are generally dictated by where your data lives, right, where the accident, if you will, where it got produced, or who last had it. And so, getting to that world where we can all have the best of breed services, where we can truly get the clouds to compete, you know, at that level on a service-by-service basis means the data has to be able to flow — securely, performatively, correctly — across all of those different parties and clouds to make that true. And so I’m really excited about getting to that world. I’m excited about a world in which things like credit card payments, and think about the incredible complexity … how many companies have to agree in a sub-second timeframe when you swipe your credit card or tap your card, you know, to go buy a coffee. That’s incredible! But the only reason we’ve accomplished that is because many of those companies have spent billions of dollars over decades to get there. Now imagine that power, that capability in the hands of you know, a three-person startup, right? Or a small size business that maybe doesn’t really have an IT staff or an IT department. That’s an incredible world, right? But it’s not one that we live in today. It’s one that, to get there, sharing data and building data-centric applications that can span your company’s four walls, are going to have to get just dramatically, dramatically easier. And then I’ll leave you with just one last thought here. You know, I have this expression. I love to use what I call inverting the iceberg. Right? So we all know icebergs, the little bit above the water and most of it is below the water. And that’s the way IT shops work today. So many companies, so many of the enterprise developers within large companies, they spend a tiny amount of their time and a small amount of their money on the true, interesting business and technology innovation. And then most of the time and money and energy goes into what we always jokingly refer to as keeping the lights on, right? The challenge of babysitting the servers, testing the code, making sure that the security policies have been followed, and so forth. And wouldn’t it be great if we could, as an industry, make the technology easier to use to the point where we really democratize and enable everyone to spend their time and their energy on the innovative business-centric outcomes rather than the boring,repetitive pieces of the job? I like to call this idea Lean apps, right, the idea that the apps only have in them, and you only work on the parts that are truly, interestingly differentiated. So those are the things I’m really excited about long term. And, you know, I think there’s a lot of work to do. Hopefully, companies like Vendia and the products that we’re building here will help contribute to that vision of the future.
Tim Zonca 46:11
Great. Well, thanks to both of you. I appreciate your time for sure. Andr your point of view, but I also love how you both bring your own point of view and then jointly work together, even in this conversation, and really share a fantastic vision. So thanks to both of you for your time.
Shruthi Rao 46:32
Thank you, Tim.
Tim Wagner 46:34
Thank you so much, Tim.
Tim Zonca 46:35
And for those of you listening, there’s a few things that we mentioned over the course of this discussion that we will have associated with this podcast. If you don’t track them down there, you can go to vendia.com. But they include things like lean apps. So there’s a white paper on lean apps. We talked about BMW, so there’s a link to that case study, a link to a story on Best Friends Animal Society, and also a link to some of the primary research that Tim did with BMW. So thanks for joining us on this episode. Thanks again to Shruthi and Tim, and we’ll talk to you all before too long. Cheers.