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With $12 million in funding, EqualLogic veterans are launching new 'big data' venture, DataGravity

Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 20, 2012 08:25 AM

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EqualLogic was one of those local tech companies that came this close to going public before it was scooped up by Dell for $1.4 billion in cash. The Nashua, NH-based storage area networking company had already registered for an IPO and kicked off its road show.

Now, a group of EqualLogic alumni are doing another startup, DataGravity. It's also located in Nashua, NH, and it sounds equally ambitious. Co-founders Paula Long, right, and John Joseph have just raised $12 million from two Boston venture capital firms, Charles River Ventures and General Catalyst, and they expect their eight-person company to grow to about 25 employees over the coming year. Long says the company is mainly adding engineers, along with some product management executives "to help make sure we build the right thing for customers."

Long left her last job, at a Boston robotics startup, last May, and Joseph peeled off from Dell around the same time. They're both being cagey about what DataGravity is up to.

In the world of data storage, Long says, "people talk about dollars per gigabyte and dollars per IOPS [input/output operations per second]. We think there's going to be a new model that looks at dollars as they relate to information. What is the value of the information you can extract?"

"People have been storing bits on disk drives for a long time," Joseph says, "with very little contextual information about them. We are thinking about the contextual relationship between information, and the solution a person might be looking for."

Bruce Sachs of Charles River Ventures writes by e-mail, "Growth of data is exponential. Conventional solutions are to just add more capacity. DataGravity is looking at the problem differently." Hmmm...still so elusive...

Will the company build both hardware and software? That's not yet determined, Long says. "We'd love not to have to build hardware, but we haven't ruled out creating an accelerator to do analytics on massive amounts of data. We're doing performance studies now to look at that."

In developing the idea for DataGravity, Long says she "didn't want to start a company that would get stuck in the $30 million to $50 million revenue range. I wanted to start something where I could see it getting into the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars."

Does that mean that she and Joseph are gunning for an IPO eventually? (EqualLogic was six years old when it filed to go public.) "If you have thousands of really happy customers, then you have lots of choices," Long says. "I want lots of choices."

Charles River was one of the investors that had backed EqualLogic; at the time, the deal was reportedly the biggest all-cash acquisition of a venture-backed private tech company. But General Catalyst wasn't involved with EqualLogic. Long tells me she met GC partner David Orfao when he was running Allaire Corp., and he acquired a company where Long worked.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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