Before even thinking about starting a company, Vectorized CEO Alexander Gallego had plenty of opportunities to test his resilience and grit. At just 14, he immigrated to the U.S from Manizales, Colombia. Here he reveled in opportunities to learn and grow. He hustled as young man who didn't speak English, ultimately graduating high school at just 16, ahead of his American peers. Alex's stellar math SAT scores and academic success in the face of significant challenges opened the best kind of doors — ultimately, a full scholarship to study computer science and cryptography at NYU. That's where he found his passion: excelling in deeply technical environments.

After college and an early software engineering role, Alex was recruited as the first engineer at GV portfolio company Yieldmo. He went on to co-found his first company, Concord Systems, which was bought by Akamai. Having spent his career solving the technical challenges of streaming data, Alex thoroughly understands the market opportunity for data streaming platforms.

Today, Alex's company Vectorized announces $15M in funding and the introduction of its intelligent data streaming platform, Redpanda. The Vectorized team aims to disrupt the dominance of Apache Kafka, an open source platform for storing and analyzing streaming data.

Streaming data is everywhere. It's the magic beneath summoning an Uber ride or streaming "Hamilton" on our TVs. And it's big business: the market opportunity for data-streaming is worth close to $5 billion. But today's streaming data is still often dependent on Kafka, which was designed for hardware built a decade ago — before cloud environments and modern applications were widely adopted. In addition, there's now a massive operational complexity to streaming data, which is why it's increasingly challenging for developers to manage the back-end. Alex and the Vectorized team are taking on a technology incumbent to make it simpler for developers to run their applications.

"I wanted to build a storage engine that squeezed the performance of modern hardware," recalls Alex. "We learned that developers really love simplicity, and so we created an experience they love to use. And the market is huge."

Vectorized works by providing a Kafka API-compatible streaming platform optimized for today's cloud environments and modern applications. Developers at enterprise companies tell me they are seeing better performance and zero data loss with Redpanda, and the technology is deployed with zero code changes to existing applications. In just 18 months, Vectorized has seen revenue swell significantly as it takes on an influx of customer demand.

When Alex told me about Vectorized, I immediately connected him with Kelsey Hightower, a principal engineer at Google Cloud and fierce developer advocate with a similarly compelling life story of hustle, grit, and resilience. "What makes Vectorized super unique," Kelsey says, "is that as a polyglot developer, whether I'm writing code in Golang, Java, or Node.js, this concept that I can deploy my business logic close to the data and eliminate all the challenges around distributed systems. I think that's single-handedly going to be the biggest game-changer that Vectorized is going to provide."

When Vectorized discussed taking on an established incumbent, Kelsey observed that "A lot of people go with this ambition that they want to change the world or introduce something so novel that the world has never seen. For most startups, if you want to compete well — especially if you want to enter a market with incumbents and bigger brands behind those solutions — your biggest strategic advantage is going to be to make those good ideas easier to adopt."