Our Investment in Neurelo: Making Databases Easy Again

Ideas / News / Our Investment in Neurelo: Making Databases Easy Again

01.31.2024 | By: Sid Trivedi

Today, Neurelo emerged from stealth to announce the general availability of its cloud data API platform and the $5M seed round that we led. Foundation Capital was the first investor in Neurelo and incubated the company in summer 2022, and I’ve personally been on the board of directors since inception. Neurelo has the opportunity to create a unified API platform for developers programming with data – here’s why we invested and what’s next.

Signing the seed term sheet with Chirag and Guru in Palo Alto
Signing the seed term sheet with Chirag and Guru in Palo Alto

An Abstraction Layer to Program with Data

Between 2020 and 2025 more than 750M new software applications will need to be built to keep up with global software demand – that’s more than all of the applications built in the last 40 years. But we only have 4 million developers to build those applications— and that shortfall will likely only grow. To keep up with new application demand, the infrastructure software world has created abstraction layers. For example, cloud computing has created layers of abstractions for compute, storage and networking, making it easier and faster for developers to build and ship applications.

But every application needs access to an underlying dataset. While we have seen significant innovation in cheaper, higher performance and more specialized databases, programming with data remains a challenge for developers. In a recent survey of 2,000 developers, 73% said that programming with data is the hardest part of building applications.

There are several dependencies between the application and underlying databases that must be managed across the software lifecycle. Most engineering teams deal with this complexity by adding disparate tools specific to a database. Each tool usually manages specific tasks within the application lifecycle so it’s not unusual to find five or more tools for each database. And in today’s world where there is a database for each data use case, most applications require at least two databases. Imagine managing 10 tools and two databases for just one application! The status quo isn’t built for developer productivity.

Neurelo has built a true database abstraction that simplifies all database programming complexities from building to running any workload. The platform instantly generates purpose-built REST and GraphQL APIs for data access, eliminating developer reliance on ORM and server-side frameworks. Additionally, the company has trained its AI models on database-specific syntax and semantics so developers can auto generate database queries by using natural language prompts. These capabilities, combined with deep query observability and a schema-as-code feature, allow developers to manage their database architectures with complete visibility through one comprehensive tool. We believe this platform could save developers significant hours per week while also reducing cost due to tools and infrastructure sprawl.

Bringing the Band Back Together

I’ve known Neurelo co-founders Chirag Shah and Guru Kamat since 2017. We met at a cybersecurity meetup group while they were working on their first startup Zero Systems. They pitched their first startup to me and while we spent a lot of time digging into the idea, we didn’t end up investing due to questions around the market size. Despite choosing not to invest, I knew they were special – they had the right combination of product and engineering DNA and showed that relentless pursuit for excellence we look for amongst the best founders. It wasn’t the right time then, but I knew that I wanted to work with them one day.

At our second board meeting hosted at Foundation Capital’s Palo Alto office with Chirag and Guru from Neurelo and Igor from Cortical Ventures
At our second board meeting hosted at Foundation Capital’s Palo Alto office with Chirag and Guru from Neurelo and Igor from Cortical Ventures

Over the years, I continued to stay in touch and in November 2021, Chirag (who had by then moved on to MongoDB) and I met on the sidelines of AWS re:Invent. During our walk around the exhibit halls, Chirag mentioned to me that while things were going well at MongoDB, he felt the urge to jump back into startup life again.

Over the next several months we spent the weekends brainstorming different ideas. Given Chirag’s role as VP of Product leading MongoDB’s database product organization from $350M to over $1B ARR, he had a unique insight into the needs of the data infrastructure market. As the concept for what would eventually become Neurelo became clearer, the focus changed to convincing Guru to jump aboard.

Guru’s experience leading the Palo Alto Networks Prisma Cloud Engineering team allowed him to see the problems that developers faced when building valuable applications. In less than three years, his team had scaled the Prisma platform to handle billions of cloud workloads. But it wasn’t easy to manage their disparate databases, and Guru understood the opportunity to bring a compelling new programming interface, so developers didn’t need to struggle the way he had.

Over the next few months, we introduced them to prospective customers including CTOs, VPs of Engineering, and key developers at companies across stages and sectors – startups to Fortune 500 companies and healthcare to financial services. As the idea crystallized into a product vision, we incorporated the company and signed a term sheet to lead a round in summer 2022.

We were going after a big vision to change data programming and needed support from across the infrastructure market, so I called on friends Igor Taber (Cortical Ventures and early DataRobot executive/investor), Andrew Peterson and Nick Galbreath (Aviso Ventures and Signal Sciences founders), Mahendra Ramsinghani (Secure Octane) and Balaji Parimi (CloudKnox founder) to join our journey. Each of them brought a different set of expertise across AI, data, cloud, API and developer experience necessary to make this vision a reality.

Neurelo’s early investors and advisors with Chirag and Guru at dinner in March 2023
Neurelo’s early investors and advisors with Chirag and Guru at dinner in March 2023

Ready to Build With Neurelo?

After over a year of development, including a self-serve private beta tested by a couple dozen developers, the Neurelo team is finally ready to release their platform to every developer. Stripe built APIs to enable payment processing for developers and today almost $1 trillion in payments are processed by businesses using the platform. Twilio built APIs for developers to plug in communication systems and today over 150 billion messages are sent and received by the platform.

We believe that Neurelo will be the API that developers use to easily access data for their applications. All of us at Foundation Capital are proud to support Neurelo’s mission. Congratulations Chirag, Guru and the entire Neurelo team!

Neurelo has an office in Mountain View, CA but also hires remotely – you can check open listings here!

Published on 01.31.2023
Written by Foundation Capital

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