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AI-powered database management startup OtterTune closed a $12M Series A

The new funding will go toward expanding the Pittsburgh startup's engineering team and tech compatibility with new databases and cloud infrastructures.

OtterTune founders (L to R) Dana Van Aken, Andy Pavlo and Bohan Zhang. (Courtesy photo)
Beyond robotics, what sector will yield the best return on investment? Experts have pointed to new AI applications and use cases, and a young startup is here to prove them right.

Database automation and optimization startup OtterTune announced today that it had raised a $12 million Series A round. The funding was led by Intel Capital and Race Capital, with support from Accel. Intel Capital Senior Managing Director Nick Washburn will also join OtterTune’s board of directors.

The startup’s Series A round is one of the bigger deals of the second quarter of this year so far, which is not (yet) on pace with the national boom in venture capital volume.

OtterTune was founded last year based on research out of Carnegie Mellon University on database management systems and machine learning, and currently lists its office location in Squirrel Hill. With that research-backed tech, OtterTune uses machine learning tools to analyze and optimize the hundreds of configuration settings in database systems, so that their management can be more efficient and cost effective. OtterTune’s products are compatible with MySQL and PostgreSQL running on Amazon Aurora and Amazon RDS, according to the company website.

Outside of its basic optimization services, OtterTune also added new database health check tools this year to get ahead of any performance drops or outages. The startup will use this new $12 million in funding to expand its engineering team and product features further, specifically to build support and compatibility with more databases and cloud platforms.

Right now, the company employs 15 people, cofounder and CEO Andy Pavlo told via email.

Pittsburgh is a great home for OtterTune – its local universities are a great source of recruits and research in our field of data management. Plus, Otters love rivers, and Pittsburgh has three of them.

“OtterTune plans to expand to 30 people by the end of the year, most of those hires will be in engineering, and some in operations, sales, and marketing,” he said. “Our team is distributed across the country; to date, we’ve done most of our hiring out of CMU here in Pittsburgh.”

There’s a big need for the database automation and optimization tools OtterTune offers. The database management system market is expected to reach $68.5 billion by 2026, largely due to the increased use of cloud databases for applications and companies across a wide range of industries. And investors think OtterTune’s team is the one that can capitalize on this opportunity.

“OtterTune’s founders are multidisciplinary experts at the intersection of the database field and machine learning as evidenced by their cutting-edge research while at Carnegie Mellon University,” said Intel Capital’s Washburn in a statement. “Databases are the bedrock of all applications, and OtterTune is accelerating the journey for companies of all sizes to autonomously optimize this critical component of their tech stack, driving performance, managing cost, and ultimately ensuring reliability.”

Alfred Chuang, a general partner for fellow lead investor Race Capital, added that “is the biggest breakthrough in database technology I have seen for a very long time.”

In addition to building out its internal engineering capabilities with the new funding, OtterTune announced that this September, it will also launch the Relational Riverside Rumble 2022, a database tuning contest pitting human database administrators against OtterTune’s tech. The prize is $10,000 in recognition of the best database performance improvement. (Check out the competition’s website for a cute take on a vintage fighting match poster.)

As for why OtterTune plans to keep growing in Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurship scene instead of relocating?

“Pittsburgh is a great home for OtterTune – its local universities are a great source of recruits and research in our field of data management,” Pavlo said. “Plus, Otters love rivers, and Pittsburgh has three of them.”

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: OtterTune

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