Prefect's Series A

Announcement
Feb 25

Click here to read the original announcement: https://medium.com/the-prefect-blog/liftoff-prefects-series-a-c3f98c6fa642

The below post was written by Prefect CEO, Jeremiah Lowin and published to the Prefect Medium page.

Prefect is dedicated to our mission of eliminating negative engineering, and over the last few years we have been delighted to collaborate with an extraordinary community to do so. It has also been our privilege to work with an incredible group of investors that have provided the fuel for our product’s explosive growth.

Our company optimizes for rapid discovery and learning. We prize transparent iteration and welcome necessary failure. We are skeptical of anyone who claims to know what we “should” do, but we embrace those who offer broad decision-making frameworks and experience. We don’t expect any person to ever have all the answers, and we built our Advisory Board to collect the largest possible constellation of opinions.

One consequence of this approach is that our attitude toward funding may differ from other startups. Rather than raise funds in hope that something will “click,” we seek capital only when we have confidence about our growth trajectory and our ability to deploy that capital efficiently. Remaining frugal is not only a competitive advantage; it keeps us from making commitments that we don’t know if we’ll be able to keep.

We have always sought investors that are extremely aligned with those values. Therefore, our earliest investors consisted of family offices with long-term objectives, strategic individuals with specific knowledge, and advisors who were as excited about the journey as the destination. With their guidance, Prefect the product and Prefect the company simultaneously coalesced in service of our vision of creating a new standard for dataflow automation.

As Prefect’s trajectory has become more clear, we have discovered an excellent opportunity to welcome a new cohort of strategic investors through our Series A financing.

Positive Sum

Few people are more emblematic of our approach than one of our earliest investors: Patrick O’Shaughnessy, CEO of O’Shaughnessy Asset Management. My own relationship with Patrick extends more than thirty years, and as I was starting Prefect, he was launching Invest Like the Best, which has become one of the most popular podcasts in the world. Dedicated to “learning in the open” from extraordinary people, Patrick became an indelible partner as we continued building together.

It was always clear that Patrick was the ideal person to lead Prefect’s Series A, as he possessed unique knowledge about our approach, exceptional business insight, and great intuition for the future. We were therefore delighted when he told us he wanted to make the investment through a new early-stage investment firm called Positive Sum. Positive Sum is dedicated to building innovative companies that benefit from open-source philosophies, whether software or knowledge. As an institution, it is well-positioned to ensure that its entire portfolio mutually benefits from the network effects of shared experience. We are grateful for the opportunity to showcase that effort as Positive Sum’s first investment.

Strategic Investors

Along with Patrick, we approached another of our early investors with whom we have a multi-decade relationship: Sam Teller. Over an extraordinary career that included five years as the director of Elon Musk’s office at Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company, Sam has gained a remarkable degree of experience across businesses of all sizes. Today, he is a partner at Valor Equity Partners, a firm we’ve admired for years (and, independently, an early Prefect Cloud customer!). We were especially appreciative that when COVID began in 2020, Valor immediately offered us insightful advice, guidance, and introductions; we are delighted that they joined our Series A.

In addition to Patrick and Sam, we are ecstatic to welcome an amazing group of strategic investors composed exclusively of operators of some of the most successful data-driven businesses in the world, with particular experience in three of Prefect’s core competencies: open-source, financial services, and healthcare.

The list includes:

  • Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub
  • Gavin Baker, CIO of Atreides
  • Anthony Goldbloom, CEO of Kaggle
  • Michael and Daniel Broukhim, Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of FabFitFun
  • Daniel Gross, Founder of Pioneer
  • Zach Weinberg, Nat Turner, and Gil Shklarski; CEO, President, and CTO of Flatiron Health
  • Matt Tucker, President & COO of Olo
  • Justin Gage, Growth at Retool
  • and others of similar stature, including our existing investors

Deploying Capital

When they hear about our fundraise, most people immediately ask, “What are you going to do with the capital?” This question ignores the pragmatic reality of any startup: we’ve already spent every penny! We’ve used it to purchase time, the most precious commodity of all. Runway extension is the single most important objective of any startup, particularly one like ours with significant long-term objectives.

Therefore, our philosophy only allows us to divert this capital where we see definitive advantages over status-quo survival. Thanks to Prefect’s strong roots in the data community and the growth inflection point we recently experienced, we can now identify three areas where that threshold is met: hiring, innovating, and scaling.

Hiring

We must hire amazing colleagues. Prefect is a lean team of twenty people, supporting not only our commercial product but an open-source community growing by thousands of people every month. We make unusual commitments to our community, such as trying to answer every question within an hour. This forms the basis for the resoundingly strong relationships that are the foundation of Prefect’s success. In addition, access to this wealth of opinions has given us incredible insight into the negative engineering problem — and the product requirements to solve it.

Therefore, we will be expanding our team. We are seeking world-class engineers and technical resources. We prize engineers who can write prose as well as code; communication is a critical part of our company, especially with our focus on community interactions. If you or anyone you know is interested in joining our company, please visit our careers page!

Innovating

We must continue to innovate our technology. Our product vision calls for a dramatic transformation of how our software works, with commensurate benefits for all Prefect users. Our most intrepid ideas have contributed to our growing patent portfolio, but many of our users’ favorite features are minor UX insights that come from our ability to develop deep user empathy. As such, there are many avenues to explore and questions left to answer. Innovation can find inspiration in many places. Our partnership with Microsoft gives us access to entirely new vectors for software development and delivery, and our new investors give us insight into a variety of industry requirements. Our commitment to rapid iteration lets us forge these insights into user-facing developments

Scaling

Finally, we must continue to scale our operations and go-to-market efforts. We seek efficient, repeatable processes across our entire company. When we identify ones that work, we invest in them to compound their efficacy. Our goal is to achieve the operational excellence of a large company while maintaining startup nimbleness. This approach served us well in 2020, where our young company was able to navigate the pandemic with the confidence of a much more experienced organization. It is imperative for us to continue building on that foundation as Prefect is adopted across the globe. Every day we commit to the cliche of doing things that don’t scale; but as an automation company we welcome the opportunity to automate ourselves.

We are delighted not only to welcome such incredible investors to Prefect, but also to have such a clear direction for growth. We look forward to delivering value to our users for many more years.

Happy engineering!