Today, nine-year-old Pittsburgh-based data center storage company Avere Systems announces a new $US14 million round of funding, with participation from its existing Silicon Valley venture investors…and from Google.
That’s a little unusual, truth be told. Historically, when Google and its affiliated companies want to invest in startups, it’s via CapitalG (formerly Google Capital) or GV (formerly Google Ventures), the dedicated venture capital arms of the Alphabet parent company.
It’s less common for Google corporate to invest in companies, though it’s not unprecedented.
And the move puts Avere Systems in good company: Previous investments that similarly came straight from the Googleplex itself included the mysterious Magic Leap, Pokémon Go developer Niantic, and even Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
In the specific case of Avere, a Google spokesperson points out that the startup and its business play very nicely into one of the search giant’s biggest initiatives.
Google Cloud, the company’s pay-as-you-go supercomputing service, is trying to make a big push into large businesses, under the stewardship of VMware founder Diane Greene. Avere’s storage products hinge on helping those same big companies make those kinds of cloud moves. In fact, Avere has been a Google Cloud partner since 2015.
“We both have this strong vision of supporting the enterprise,” says Avere CEO Ron Bianchini, formerly an executive with storage company NetApp and a professor at Carnegie Mellon before that.
What Avere does, explains Bianchini, is build the hardware and software that lets companies pool all of their data from across the business into one storage system. From there, it’s easy to analyse and otherwise process that data either with your own servers in your own data center, or else use services like Google Cloud.
You can use either your own servers or the cloud at your whim, Bianchini says. With more and more businesses looking to take advantage of the cost savings and higher scalability of the cloud, Avere’s solution lets customers do it “piecemeal,” a little bit at a time, gradually ramping up their cloud usage as they go.
In the industry, that combined data center/cloud approach is called “hybrid cloud,” and it’s long been a strength of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform in particular — meaning that Google is positioning itself to eke away a little bit of one of Microsoft’s biggest advantages.
This isn’t the first time Google itself has made an investment to reinforce Google Cloud, either, with the search giant leading a $US57 million round of funding in Cisco competitor Barefoot Networks in mid-2016.
As for Avere itself, Bianchini says that this investment should be enough to bring the company to profitability by 2018. This round included included participation from existing investors Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Tenaya Capital and Western Digital Technologies, and brings Avere’s total funding to $US97 million.
“We’re confident this is the last money we need,” says Bianchini.
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