SQL or NoSQL? That is the question. If you spend your workdays trying to answer questions like this one, then you are probably already familiar with FoundationDB, a Tysons-based tech company that offers a novel answer.
FoundationDB’s solution is to combine the scalability and fault tolerance of NoSQL (a database mechanism for storage and retrieval of large quantities of data) with the strong data consistency guarantees provided by ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability, properties that together guarantee reliability).
The company’s ambitious premise is that their database platform will serve as the foundation for the next generation of distributed applications and systems.
Lately, they seem to have a lot of believers. In November, 2013, the company received $17 million in Silicon Valley venture capital, and a month later Tech Cocktail DC named FoundationDB one of “10 DC Startups Destined to Breakout in 2014,” noting its “well funded, amazingly talented team . . . I don’t think there is much stopping them from being an absolute monster of an enterprise tech company.”
Following the December, 2014 release of its third-generation product, which it claimed “averages 14,400,000 random writes per second on a fully-ordered, fully-transactional database with 100% multi-key cross-node transactions,” TechCrunch called it “impressive stuff . . . And obviously a great fit with the forthcoming Internet of Things, and the enormous amount of data that billions of connected devices will soon be constantly capturing.”
Even if you’re a developer who understands the issues — many TJ parents and DC-area alumni are — and are familiar with the company and its product, you still may not know that its Co-Founder and CEO David Rosenthal (at right) is a TJ alum.
At TJ, Rosenthal and some friends created a computer game that won the grand prize at the 1999 Independent Game Festival. He credits that game with securing his admission to MIT, where he obtained a Computer Science degree in 2001.
One of Rosenthal’s TJ ’98 friends, David Scherer (at left), was still an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University when he dropped out to found a start-up built around one of the first products that could create real-time web analytics. He brought Rosenthal in as his first employee. The start-up, Visual Sciences, acquired by WebSideStory and then by Omniture, was ultimately acquired by Adobe in 2008 for about $1.8 billion.
When Rosenthal and Scherer started looking for a database on which they could build a new company they found a lot of the NoSQL databases inadequate. That’s when they decided that their next venture would solve that problem. Together with a neighborhood friend of Scherer’s, the two founded FoundationDB in 2009.
Two early hires were TJ grads, Ben Collins, TJ ’01, and Ian Peters, TJ ’98, both of whom happen to be married to TJ classmates. Coincidentally, Rosenthal is also married to a TJ grad. In fact, his 2008 wedding to Sloane Kuney, TJ ‘02, was featured in The Washingtonian, which noted that the couple’s first date was an outing to view the “Transit of Venus” at a celestial observatory.
TJ connections were also helpful when it came to locating the capital to power their ideas. Classmate Howard Lehrman, Co-founder and CEO of Yext (profiled in the Nov 2013 issue), introduced the team to his contacts in Silicon Valley.
Rosenthal recognizes that TJ has played a major role in both his personal success and his company’s success: “When I met a guy also named Dave in the back of my pre-calc class and realized that we both liked to write computer games, I didn’t think that it would turn into the two of us starting three software companies together over almost 20 years. But it did. The TJ connection has been a great part of staying in this area. Not only are TJ alums on our leadership team, but we’ve also had four TJ interns over the years. So, make friends. Some of the most capable people I know I met at TJ.”