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Startup Spotlight: Tigris Data

Apr 20, 2023

This month we're chatting to Tigris co-founder & CEO Ovais Tariq. Prior to starting Tigris, Ovais spent several years at Uber where he was Head of Storage Infra.

Every month we shine the spotlight on a different startup to show off the cool things they're building, as part of the PostHog for Startups program. Want a chance to be featured? Sign up here for $50k in PostHog credit and a bunch of other sweet perks!

What is Tigris and why is it cool?

"Tigris is a developer data platform that provides an integrated suite of data services for application developers. These services include a NoSQL database for storing structured and unstructured data, and an integrated search engine that allows users to do both full-text and vector searches. We've got more services coming soon, including event streaming and caching.

We chose these services because most real-time applications require a combination of them. If you think of an e-commerce application, you need a way to store the product data, store the user data, store the orders-management data, a way to search everything etc. Usually you need a combination of different types of products to do this.

What we are trying to do is, instead of having the developer deal with all these solutions and having them deal with connecting them together and having a complex infrastructure, we're providing them with everything integrated. That means they can focus on just writing the application code and business logic, and we take care of all the infrastructure related to data storage and access."

How did you decide this was a problem worth solving?

"I've been in the data infra space for 17 years. Before starting Tigris, I spent around 6 years at Uber, where I was leading the teams that built Uber's internal database platform. At Uber, it was very clear that a lot of developer time was spent dealing with different types of database solutions and connecting them together. So developers would end up dealing with operational infrastructure instead of focusing on writing features fast enough. We built a solution called Docstore which was a general-purpose database platform supporting wide variety of workloads and data access patterns through a single unified API. And that allowed developers to move really fast and build new types of use cases.

This experience helped us to envision a product that would benefit other developers outside as well, so I started Tigris with two other former Uber colleagues."

Who is Tigris for?

"We are looking at early- to mid-stage companies. For early-stage startups, adopting Tigris means they don't have to deal with infrastructure complexity right from the beginning. They can start building their product quickly on Tigris without having to deal with the infrastructure.

At mid-stage companies, what typically happens is that when those companies started small, they chose various different solutions to build their product on. So when they reach a certain scale, they hit the same integration issues. Often they end up re-writing or re-architecting their application to deal with these scaling challenges. Tigris can help you take away all of that burden and allow you to build a modern application stack."

What are you most excited about?

"The first thing I'm most excited about is actually building – I put myself in that category of builder. In the past, I've built internal platforms, so this is my first opportunity to build something that end users are going to use directly. At Uber, our platform was business-critical, but we were still behind the scenes and not dealing with customers directly.

So, this is the first opportunity that excites me in that way – getting to build and sell a product, and talking directly to users."

What are you worried about?

"Running a company is not easy - my background is more in engineering management, so not that diverse. As a CEO, you need to know about sales, you need marketing, you need operations, you need to talk to users and customers, and that requires a certain type of skill set. It is stressful, but I think it's good stress as I'm getting to do things that I have not done before. So that's a good experience.

Things that you would never imagine happening like SVB going bust don't help either!"

What's one thing you wish you had known at the beginning when you started out?

"When I was first raising money, my background meant that I was pitching Tigris from much more of an engineering perspective - how good the architecture is, how cost-effective it is, etc.

I found that I actually had to switch over to talking more about the business aspects - how is Tigris solving a problem, who is it solving the problem for, how is it different from what other products exist. That introduced a different kind of thought process. It's not that we didn't know who our ICP was, but we were thinking and pitching from a purely engineering perspective, not a user perspective. This has also helped us decide what to focus on."

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