a whisper. a stop sign. a prompt. an answer. an idea. an altogether new discovery.
Every age of technical innovation is defined by an exponential curve of progress.
In 2010, Apple introduced the world to the idea that a computer could listen and respond to natural language. “Hey, Siri.” In 2012, Google found cats. In 2015, DARPA closed the books on their robotics challenge, sufficiently convinced that we could build autonomous systems. In 2020, the first autonomous taxis were approved for driverless ride hailing. Today, GPTs are powering the fastest growing internet applications of all time.
And this is only the beginning.
The age of deep learning is here. This age will be defined not by digital transformation, where humans make sense of data we’ve stored in machines. Deep learning is an age of analog transformation where machines will make sense of analog inputs that come from the natural world: LiDAR, sound, video, instrument data… even a text. Complex neural networks and powerful GPUs* are now capable of processing data which was once unable to be understood without a human-in-the-loop. AI is combining with unstructured and data-rich streams of data to learn and they are starting to reason about the natural world.
As with every age of technology, deep learning is creating new value.
For society, deep learning will help us further automate mundane tasks and continue to improve quality of life.
As machines become more capable, they will also be able to reason about the natural world and create new discoveries in the areas of math, science and even the arts. AI-discovered advancements for clean energy, food abundance and human health are on the immediate horizon.
From a business perspective, generative AI and deep learning have the potential to raise global GDP by as much as 7% (or $7T) according to Goldman Sachs**
Deep learning is also a technological shift that will create new winners and losers across the business landscape. Ford, IBM, Dell, Google, Amazon – these companies all became market leaders on the back of a major technological shift that contributed to the obsolescence of legacy market players. By delivering on the promise of automation and superintelligence, deep learning is a catalyst that can redefine the business landscape arguably more than any preceding technology wave.
Today, VAST Data announced that it has nearly tripled its valuation over the last two years and is now worth $9.1 billion. We are proud to add new growth-stage and cross-over investors such as Fidelity Management & Research Company, BOND Capital, NEA and Drive Capital to this amazing story VAST is writing.
For those of you who are already familiar with our story, know that we have been continuing our track record of operating on a cash-flow positive basis, so this funding is simply being used to raise awareness of VAST and our mission.
For those of you who are new to our story, allow me to break it down for you…
Who is VAST Data?
VAST is a team of doers. A team determined to challenge the status quo and bring first-principles thinking to problem solving. At over 700 people strong, VAST is a global force that is taking its mission to all reaches of the world.
Our product mission is to build a data platform for the age of deep learning. The VAST Data Platform integrates unstructured data management services with a structured data environment and a compute runtime that is intended on refining unstructured data into query-able, actionable information. If the superpower of Deep Learning is the transformation of unstructured data into structured data, the VAST Data Platform is the software-based real-time engine that sits between AI applications and the HW layer that drives modern computing and storage.
In 2019, we announced the first distributed systems architecture concept in the market since the advent of the Google File System (which Google introduced to the world in 2003). This new concept, which we call DASE, introduces radical levels of scale, simplicity, affordability and enterprise data management for distributed computing. While the first application of this system was to serve files and objects to unstructured data applications, we’re on a journey to build a system that continuously computes on data at hyperscale across a collection of customer compute environments that extends from edge to cloud.
Why are we at the center of today’s AI action?
Data is the fuel of AI. High quality data is the foundation for the most successful AI models.
Our strategy has been to build enterprise data infrastructure that is not only used in the context of model training and inference, but we’re also building data infrastructure which can simplify and scale data access for every application. Customers today use us as the basis of their enterprise application containerization efforts, for enterprise file management, for archives, for high performance computing and more. To date, VAST has been entrusted by customers all over the world with over 10 exabytes of their critical enterprise data. As an enterprise systems’ provider, the VAST thesis has been to modernize every aspect of data and database storage so customers can easily “bring AI to their data” vs “bring their data to some complicated AI data platform”. We’ve now seen this story play out time and time again – with customers such as Disney, Verizon, Zoom, NASA, the US Department of Energy and more. Our valuation announcement today also serves as testament to the fact that this strategy is working.
Put into context, we see a massive opportunity to unlock access to the world’s vast reserves of unstructured data, which (until now) has been static and trapped dormant in old school archives. If structured data represents roughly 5% of the world’s stored data, our belief is that the emergence of deep learning into the enterprise represents an opportunity to grow the enterprise big data opportunity by 20x.
In business terms, we’ve built one of the fastest-growing technology companies in history. Our focus on storing and protecting the world’s data does not just extend to conventional enterprise customers, but we also build service provider readiness directly into the VAST Data Platform. The combination of hyperscale performance and zero-trust multi-tenancy is why VAST is also being trusted to power today’s new emerging AI clouds.
In context, we see a few select companies emerging that are redefining hyperscale in real-time. When surveying the list of funding announcements this year, only 5 companies (of those valued over $5B) have emerged from 2023 with greater than a 100% valuation increase. Interestingly, these are all aligned to the new era of deep learning and represent a new stack we see emerging as a representation of the new value AI is creating in the market.
How is this unique?
As mentioned in the title of this blog, we see a new era of value creation that is unfolding in real-time in the market. Yesterday’s big data and machine learning companies are not capable of capturing the new unstructured, big data opportunity. Moreover, as VAST is working with data that does not naturally conform to tables or BI systems, we work in the world’s largest GPU environments.
Interest rates are still very high, and investors are making bets extremely selectively. At a time when some of the world’s most successful data companies trade at a discount vs their previous highs, the market is recognizing that deep learning, GPUs and the data platforms that feed these GPUs are fundamentally changing the relationship between customers, clouds and their data. There’s no surprise that our valuation increase is highly correlated to the world’s leading AI companies, as we’re both seeing massive adoption for data-intensive AI applications across many common customers and AI clouds. On the application side, we also see private company LLM and GenAI application builders also enjoy the same valuation increase.
As mentioned above – VAST operates its business on a cash-flow positive basis. We’ve managed to build a company which can triple its business annually while not burning through mountains of venture capital. This, in and of itself, is extremely rare. VAST is an independent organization that has built a self-sustaining business powered by innovation, fanatical customer support and a unprecedented AI-driven market opportunity. Without any need for the new capital, this new Series E funding will sit in the bank and collect interest alongside the funding we received from Series B, Series C and Series D.
Having said that, there’s still so much to do and we continue to invest as we grow. Zettabytes of data are ripe for refinement, and our unyielding focus is to build out the features and the team behind the VAST Data Platform so that every customer around the world can enjoy its benefits. Over the next twelve months you’ll see a lot more focus on cloud, zero-trust, the AI computational layer and you will see us build out a community of customers and developers who organize around the idea that a new platform concept can breathe life into (new and) old data.
As I think about where we are today, I must recognize the effort of the global VAST team and their tireless pursuit of our shared mission. Customer value can’t be created only by the formation of an idea. Successful ideas become successful products in the market when smart and determined teams work hard to transform these dreams into reality. The VAST team is both inspiring to observe and humbling to work with. The future of AI-powered discovery is what drives us, and I’m so looking forward to reading the next chapter of this great story we’re writing.
* also growing on an exponential curve! ** Goldman Sachs GenAI Report