Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Databricks Raises $500 Million in Pre-IPO Round 

(T. Schneider/Shutterstock)

Databricks hasn’t gone public yet–the market just hasn’t been right this year for that–but it did the next best thing today when it raised $500 million in a growth round of funding. The Series I round included investments by GPU giant Nvidia and valued the Spark backer at $43 billion.

Databricks has been building market momentum for years, first as an efficient way to run Apache Spark big data workloads in the cloud, and now as a way to build and scale artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

The San Francisco company hasn’t hid its desire to eventually go public, but the combination of factors like rampant inflation in 2022 and bank runs in early 2023, among others, have put a damper on the market for initial public offerings (IPOs).

“The markets are closed,” Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi told Bloomberg, which broke the news on the new funding round last month. “If they had not been closed, we would have already been public.”

There have been rumors of cash flow issues at the San Francisco company since it spent $1.3 billion to purchase MosaicML, a GenAI company, earlier this year. Databricks envisions MosaicML, which develops own language models that customers can train themselves for a fraction of the cost it takes to train a model like GPT-3.5, serving as an AI “factory” that can churn out models en masse for customers.

Ali Ghodsi is the CEO and co-founder of Databricks

The Series I was led by T. Rowe Price Associates, and included a number of existing investors, including Andreeson Horowitz and others. New investors participating in the round included include Nvidia, which develops the GPUs that are so essential to training AI models, as well as Capital One Ventures.

Enterprise data is “a goldmine for generative AI,” said Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia, in a press release. “Databricks is doing incredible work with Nvidia technology to accelerate data processing and generative AI models.”

Databricks released some additional figures about itself. For instance, it said that it crossed the $1.5 billion revenue run rate. That’s notable because it comes just a few months after it said it crossed the $1 billion annual run rate.

Crossed $1.5 billion revenue run rate at over 50% revenue year-over-year growth [with the second quarter representing the strongest quarterly incremental revenue growth in Databricks’ history. The company has more than 10,000 customers, including more than 300 that are spending at the rate of at least $1 million per year with Databricks.

A $500 million investment sounds like a lot, but it’s nowhere close to being Databricks’ biggest round. Its previous round cleared $1.6 billion in August 2021, while the Series G round just six months before that brought in $1 billion in funding.

The new round brings Databricks’ valuation to $43 billion. That’s up from $38 billion in August 2021. The company says the Series I establishes the company’s price per share at $73.50. Echoes of a Wall Street opening bell can’t be far.


About the author: Alex Woodie

Alex Woodie has written about IT as a technology journalist for more than a decade. He brings extensive experience from the IBM midrange marketplace, including topics such as servers, ERP applications, programming, databases, security, high availability, storage, business intelligence, cloud, and mobile enablement. He resides in the San Diego area.