It is now a cliché to say that businesses run on data and invariably data is hosted, managed and accessed in the cloud. In addition, most companies now use a multi-cloud approach so that they are not stuck with a single provider in the event of a service outage from that provider.
This solves data storage issues, but creates new challenges for data availability. Enter entrepreneurs Anand Babu “AB” Periasamy, Garima Kapoor and Harshavardhana. Their approach to starting a business was to choose a big, “easy” problem to solve. And the problem Periasamy chose to solve was data object storage with the creation of MinIO, which was founded in 2014 by CEO Periasamy, his wife and COO Garima Kapoor and CTO Harshavardhana.
“I saw that everything I think about around the data layer, it’s going to be so important. I can’t go wrong if I’m building a powerful brand at massive scale. And I found that the layer persistence of data across the stack, i.e. this data store, how to access it, if I fix this layer and build a powerful brand, it would give us tremendous control,” says Periasamy.
The strategy was to compete with Amazon AWS S3 (Simple Storage Service), a service that provides object storage through a web service interface. Object storage is a computer data storage architecture that manages data as objects, as opposed to other storage architectures such as file systems that manage data as a hierarchy of files or the block storage that manages data as blocks in sectors and tracks. Global cloud object storage market size was $4.83 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $13.65 billion in 2028, according to Emergen Research
“In 2014, when we incorporated the company, the message we sent to our seed investors was that it would be us against Amazon S3 and we would show that we are bigger and better. It sounded like a joke at the time. We kept saying the same thing. But this year, it’s more believable. Our greatest strength, if you ask me, is focus. Do one thing, and one thing really, really well,” says Periasamy.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company positions itself as a high-performance Kubernetes native object store. Optimized for cloud-native workloads, MinIO is compatible with S3, in AWS or on other public and private clouds and Kubernetes distributions. Enterprises use MinIO to manage machine learning, artificial intelligence, analytics, backup and archive workloads, all from a single platform.
Why choose a global tech behemoth like AWS to compete? “We knew that AWS s3, as a product designed for service, is locked with AWS and will not work outside of AWS. If we build a product and go land grabbing, inside AWS, outside AWS, every cloud, every private cloud, every edge, if we grow and we grab the land, and that the data is on us, and that we own the ecosystem, we’re here to stay,” says Periasamy.
Today, MinIO is available across all clouds and has over 1.2 million active deployments across public cloud, private cloud, and edge solutions. This covers Google Kubernetes Engine public cloud installations, Amazon’s Elastic Kubernetes Service, Azure Kubernetes Service, Red Hat OpenShift private cloud deployments, VMware Tanzu, HPE Ezmeral, SUSE Rancher, and millions of colocation and edge deployments.
The company’s growth trajectory and the scale of the problem it solves have attracted significant venture capital investment. It raised $103 million in its January 26, 2022 B-round led by Intel Ventures, valuing the company at $1 billion. Other investors include Softbank Vision Fund, Nexus Venture Partners, General Catalyst, Dell Technologies Capital and others.
“We launched our subscription network in August 2020, worldwide. And since then, our growth has only been on a hockey stick. And this is where investors are very excited. And now that we know, in terms of the basics of the business model, it’s now a matter of stepping on the gas, onboarding more customers and building the team accordingly so that we can help our customers,” says COO Kapoor.
Kapoor and Periasamy grew up and went to school in India. Periasamy graduated from Annamalai University with a degree in Computer Science. Kapoor received his BA in Economics from University of Delhi, MA in Economics from Banasthali Vidyapith and later got his Ph.D. from Nirma University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.
Periasamy went on to build supercomputers at California Digital before founding his own open-source software company Gluster, which was acquired for $136 million in cash by Red Hat. Kapoor worked in technology on the business side. Both became angel investors in several open source companies before founding MinIO.
Open source software appears to be central to Kapoor and Periasamy’s business and personal dealings. “I didn’t know how to talk to girls, so I have to use technology,” says Periasamy. She met her future wife by hacking into an open-source Messenger app that would send an automated message to her.
“AB wrote this message for me when we were just starting to talk. And everything AB does is done through open source. And it’s about building everything together, so he put the code there And that basically brought us together. We never looked back, because we got married, and then we started building MinIO,” says Kapoor. The code for the open-source messaging app even helped make come one of their first engineers from Tunisia.
After a successful existence and stint at Red Hat, Periasamy was ready to retire as an operations executive and take care of his angel investments. “AB comes from the world of start-ups. And I was just getting started in other start-ups from an investment perspective. So for me, I really wanted to do something on my own and start my own business. It was very important to have a technologist with me while I was getting this thing off the ground. And there was no one better than AB who I could blindly trust and have complete faith in. I know if AB builds something it will be world class and I can sell it to the world. So I think that’s where the real partnership started,” Kapoor says.
As for the future? There really is a goal that we are measuring. It is the quantity of various data that we hold. I think we are still in our infancy. And the market is growing faster than even any data storage player would tell you. So we have a long way to go. And in terms of land grabbing, we can show that we are now the biggest player. But then to prove that we are also a real company, I want to show that by turnover, we are also the biggest player. This journey has only just begun. I don’t think in terms of an IPO or an acquisition. For us, it’s just about keeping our heads down and focusing on getting more and more data,” concludes Periasamy.