CRO & Co-Founder
The company: Databento
Fintech startup Databento is on the cusp of disrupting traditional financial data providers by providing instant access to market data with a pay-as-you-go, utility-like model. Its platform serves any app, product, or team that uses market data, including trading firms, brokers, AI/ML analytics companies, and universities. Using a proprietary method to slice and price data, Databento allows customers to buy only the data they need in “bite-sized” pieces (like the food you’d pack in a bento box). This radical approach overhauls legacy industry practices like opaque pricing, burdensome annual licenses, and manual onboarding.
Why you should pay attention
CEO Christina Qi and her team (who have years of experience running high-frequency trading desks) astutely recognize that, although data is one of the fastest growing segments within fintech, incumbent providers are stuck in the past. They know firsthand the pains of spending months dealing with slow, costly data vendors in order to find, clean, and onboard new datasets. In just three years, they’ve built a next generation data platform and raised over $27.8M in funding. Soon, the platform will be ready for the 2,000+ companies that have signed up on Databento’s waitlist.
In preparing to launch a self-service, on-demand market data platform, Databento has curated the financial industry’s best-quality data and built the technical architecture needed to deliver it at the fastest speeds with seamless scalability. By providing the same raw data sold by exchanges, but at a fraction of the costs — with flexible terms, transparent pricing, and no lockup period — Databento will help companies eliminate tens of thousands of dollars in upfront data expenses per dataset.
Ideal for mission-critical applications such as order routing and risk management, Databento promises cutting edge performance and data integrity, with 99.99% uptime on real-time streaming data, nanosecond latencies, and automated onboarding. Its 1.4 petabytes of data spans 400,000+ tickers (eg. futures, FX, equities), is available in multiple formats, and is delivered direct from the source (the colocation facilities of each market) without any third-party data providers in between.
Why we’re obsessed
We love Databento’s mission to democratize the financial industry by making data less intimidating and easier to understand. The team’s focus on helping even smaller customers and non-technical users to assess data’s accuracy and usefulness will undoubtedly make a positive impact. In building Databento with her co-founders, Christina always remembers a valuable insight that she learned when launching her own fund ten years ago: “A great way to vet a company is to see how they treat their lowest-paying client.”
A Chinese immigrant to the U.S., Christina infuses diverse life experiences into her leadership approach. She grew up on food stamps and won international piano competitions before making her way to MIT. There, she started a hedge fund (Domeyard LP) from her dorm with $1000 in savings, and was eventually trading $7 billion a day. During that experience, one of the mistakes she learned from was wasting millions of dollars on data and infrastructure because there was no pay-as-you-go option at the time.
After finding financial success and making a name for herself in the industry, Christina took a step back from Wall Street a few years ago. She wanted to put her energy into a purpose-driven business rather than continue to invest her time into making billionaires richer. With the help of co-founder Luca Lin, she’s doing just that at Databento, while also giving back as co-chair of the board of Invest in Girls and more.
Chief Customer Officer
“How did they do that? How did they get there?” Companies succeed because of the people who run them – operating leaders who grow businesses to new heights and make decisions every day that can impact entire industries. Each month, our Operator Spotlight gives you the inside track from one of our incredible Operator LPs (Limited Partners) who are changing the game building and scaling some of the world’s most successful companies. Read on for lessons learned and mistakes made, perspectives from the top, practical advice, and ideas on what’s next.
This month we spoke with Dini Mehta, Chief Revenue Officer of people management software company Lattice, and now an Operating Partner here at Operator Collective as well. She’s passionate about building diverse teams and has tons of experience scaling go-to-market engines from Series A, all the way through the growth stage to unicorn+ status.
You just made an uncommon move, joining a VC (lucky us) as operating partner, while continuing on in a c-level operating role. What prompted you to make that change and how do you do it all?
DINI: Mallun! 🙂 In all seriousness — I have felt like an outsider most of my life, which has fueled a lot of my career decisions. For example, I’ve spent most of my career in tech sales and moved into people management to help others see sales as a viable career option. That drove me towards senior leadership, so I could reimagine how revenue orgs are built. Venture Capital has felt like a black box over the years. While I LOVE being an operator, I also get a lot of energy from working with founders and helping them scale companies! As I learned more about OpCo’s mission and the operating partner role, I knew I wanted in.
What kind of impact are you most excited to have at OpCo?
DINI: OpCo uniquely has the power to connect the best operators in Silicon Valley to passionate founders working towards a brighter future. I am excited to play a part in unlocking the collective magic of this community while also making the world of venture a bit more accessible to other operators like me!
You’ve rapidly moved up the revenue ranks within several hyper growth startups. As someone who’s teamed up with multiple tech founders along the way, what’s one piece of advice you’d share about the partnership between product development and go-to-market in a company’s early stages?
DINI: Prioritizing the right initiatives across the company and sequencing your GTM and technical team’s resources for sustainable growth. Typically when a company is in growth stage you are constantly building the plane as you fly it — scaling what’s working while laying the foundation for future bets (product, geo, vertical, segment) to stay in hyper growth year after year. A lot of companies tend to become siloed in their strategy and decisioning as they scale, leading to misaligned initiatives across departments. How, and when, you prioritize growth bets across GTM & Product can become your execution superpower.
What are a few critical elements to get rapid growth in a tough market to sell into like HR tech?
- The team you build is the company you build – hiring the right folks that are stage appropriate and making them successful is critical to build & stay in hyper growth, which should be the ultimate goal in the first 5-10 years of the business.
- Play the long game, stay focused on your mission & your customers – It’s easy to get distracted by what a competitor is doing, or by a huge contract that isn’t a great product fit today. Staying disciplined on your priorities, especially in the early days, will drive focus and improve your ability to execute effectively.
- Stay nimble – While you need to have a plan and stay focused, staying agile and making changes as things evolve is just as important, especially in a fast-moving market like HR tech.
You emphasize the importance of people over pipeline. Tell us about a time when you had to make that tradeoff. How did you influence other stakeholders to see the long game?
DINI: Two truths that help guide my decisions: 1) Everyone (even quota-carrying sales people) wants the same things out of work: community, growth and purpose. 2) If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your company. These are simple concepts to understand, but difficult to live up to.
One example where I faced the tradeoff was when we launched the quota relief program at Lattice in 2020. We had always offered unlimited PTO, but realized that quota-carrying AEs found it difficult to unplug and take advantage of our vacation policy. As a way to help folks take a real break from work and avoid burnout, we chose to give ramped AEs one month of quota relief every year. As a revenue leader with aggressive goals, taking ramped quota capacity off the field was an unorthodox move that technically sacrifices pipeline generation (for the relief months) to optimize for people’s well being. 12 months into this program, there has been no impact on performance and we’ve improved our team’s engagement levels. In fact, we’ve maintained less than 2% attrition rate as a department.
What was one of your first jobs and what’s one big lesson you learned?
DINI: I grew up in India and moved to the US at the age of 18 to go to the University of Kansas – Rock Chalk! My first job was working in a campus cafeteria kitchen. Spending 5 hours a day operating the fryer in the kitchen taught me the importance of hard work, and that showing up with a great attitude makes the biggest difference.
What’s your secret super power?
DINI: My ability to stay paranoid short-term while being fiercely optimistic long-term. As an immigrant that has moved countries, careers and industries, you learn to embrace uncertainty with optimism. A paranoid short-term lens has served me well in scaling companies.
What’s the best advice you’ve received – or given – about how to manage people?
DINI: Managing people is an art and a privilege that takes time to master. My 3 pieces of advice for new people managers:
- Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.
- Coach people to their potential – especially for high performers.
- There are multiple paths to the same destination, and the best managers help their teams find the one that works best for them.
We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are keys to building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Yesterday (International Women’s Day!), Xata announced its Series A raise and an all-woman board of directors. We’ve been wildly impressed by Xata founder Monica Sarbu since early last year, when we were eagerly awaiting her to incorporate the company so we could invest. We couldn’t be more proud to continue to back her vision — to make databases a joy to use and increase diversity in tech.
The company: Xata
Xata has created a serverless database service for Jamstack apps that just works. It combines the power of a traditional database with the usability of a SaaS spreadsheet app, all behind a single API. And since it was built to work with developers’ workflows, Xata makes it dramatically easier to securely store, manage, and consume data — freeing developers up from common backend development headaches so they can focus on building great apps.
Back in 2013, Monica co-founded Packetbeat, a popular open-source project that now has 300M downloads. It was acquired by Elastic, where she eventually led four teams as director of engineering. After Covid-19 hit, Monica decided she wanted to parlay her own personal success in the tech industry into something that could help others. She launched Tupu.io, a free platform to connect women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community to mentors.
As she built the nonprofit’s app, she ran into a hurdle: finding a serverless database service with a good developer experience. Recognizing there was a gap in the market, she built it — and Xata was born. She notes that being your own first customer has tremendous advantages. Monica said, “We deeply believe in dogfooding our products, and we do it with every opportunity. What better way to improve things for your customers than by improving things for yourself? Tupu.io is a great source of ideas for Xata and keeps us grounded.”
Why you should pay attention
Of course, Monica isn’t the only developer with backend frustrations. Tech teams everywhere are looking for easier, faster, and more scalable ways to build new apps. Most are turning to Jamstack architectures, serverless platforms, no-code/low-code development, and edge computing to develop all kinds of digital experiences. However, these powerful technologies can be hampered when the underlying database is overly complex and hard to manage (think scaling nodes, maintenance downtime, caching, monitoring, etc.), or overly simplistic and unable to scale (due to rate limits and lack of schema constraints).
Monica believes it’s time to think differently about databases, and she brings just the right vision, technical expertise, and developer network to flip the script. Her deep experience in the open-source community gives Monica a unique perspective. She shared, “Three of the key values I bring with me are providing as much value to our users as possible, genuinely caring about the problems our customers are solving, as well as maximizing the number of people for which our product is useful.”
The benefits of this approach are getting noticed across the industry, including by Jamstack platform providers such as Guillermo Rauch, founder and CEO at Vercel. He noted, “When I started Vercel and Next.js, I dreamt of a data layer that’d be friendly for devs and non-devs alike. It’s finally here: Xata delivers on a great developer experience and a gorgeous admin UX.”
How it works
The Xata service basically runs your database for you and turns it into a powerful API so you can query and update it from a serverless app. It also provides a simple, spreadsheet-like user interface so you can interact with your data directly, via a web browser. This no-code/low-code approach makes it easier to iteratively build a database schema as you add sample data. And after adding new tables, columns, data, queries, or views, Xata creates code samples ready for use in your application.
Xata gives developers flexibility in the early days of building an app, while ensuring a strict schema that will keep data safe and correct as the app grows. It combines a document database with relations, an analytics engine, and a free-text search engine. And the enterprise-class service is designed to effortlessly support preferred development workflows, such as creating on-the-fly database branches; pushing to deploy, preview, and test; or merging to deploy to production.
Why we’re obsessed
Because enterprise databases take a lot of work, many developers start out using a simple online database, like Airtable, as their first backend when prototyping a new project. However, that data management model quickly hits rate limits and isn’t able to scale indefinitely if your app’s user base explodes all of the sudden. Xata’s developer-centric database, on the other hand, is as easy to use as newer online spreadsheets, yet scalable, secure, and production-ready so developers can rely on it over the long term.
Just as important, we’re inspired by Monica’s thoughtful approach to building the company from her home base in Berlin. When asked how she’s cultivating Xata’s culture in a globally distributed, “work anywhere” context, Monica says it’s all about learning how to make decisions and share knowledge in an asynchronous environment, while making space for video meetings where possible. She explained, “In the end, if you use the tools right, you will get more inclusive decision making, better documentation for past decisions, more thoughtful conversations, and ultimately better outcomes in the long term.”
She’s also committed to making sure diversity and inclusion are part of Xata’s DNA from the start as she firmly believes that friendly, diverse, and inclusive environments make the best teams. Monica is the kind of leader that top talent wants to work for, because she hires people who believe in the mission, gives them autonomy, and lets them experiment.
Xata is currently available as a private beta and will be released more broadly later this year. If you’d like to try Xata, sign up for the developer waitlist in the meantime.