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June 30, 2021

dbt Rides Wave of Modern, Cloud-Based ETL to New Heights

Tristan Handy, dbt Labs founder and CEO (Photo by MHamiltonVisuals)

The explosion of data analytics on the cloud has been good for Fishtown Analytics, the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based company that was behind the popular open source data built tool, or dbt. Now the company is looking to take modern ETL workloads to the next level by rebranding as dbt Labs and accepting $150 million in venture funding.

In early 2016, Fishtown Analytics, as the company was then called, quietly launched dbt as a relatively simple command line tool for data engineers to write and execute data transformation routines in analytic databases.

While the product ostensibly is an ETL tool, it focuses exclusively on the “T” part of the process, which is the toughest part of the ETL workload. “It doesn’t extract or load data,” wrote Tristan Handy, the CEO and founder of the company, wrote in a 2017 blog post, “but it’s extremely good at transforming data that’s already loaded into your warehouse.”

Users also responded to the straightforward nature of dbt. At its core, dbt is composed of a compiler and a runner. Working from their text editor of choice, users code their SELECT statements using a combination of SQL and Jinja (a common templating language used in the Python ecosystem). The user then calls a dbt runner, which compiles the code as raw SQL, which is then executed against the data warehouse.

As adoption of Snowflake, Google BigQuery, Databricks, and Amazon Redshift skyrocketed, so too did use of dbt. According to dbt Labs, the number of users adopting dbt has grown by 200% every year since it was launched back in 2016. The company says that today, there are 15,000 data professionals in the dbt Community Slack, 5,500 companies using dbt, and 1,000 organizations using dbt Cloud, the hosted version of the dbt tool.

The upward shift in data analytic workloads has caught the eyes of investors, including Altimeter Capital, which is one of the venture capital firms that is investing in dbt Labs.

“The growth in cloud data platforms over the last few years is unprecedented,” Altimeter Capital Partner Jamin Ball said in a press release. “These platforms free data teams from the old ETL approach, and unlock a new wave of tools in the modern data stack built for ELT…dbt has established itself as the go-to platform for data transformation in this new way of working.”

The Series C round, which totaled $150 million, was co-led by Altimeter, Sequoia Capital, and Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Amplify Partners. Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, and Amplify were are all existing investors, and all participated in last November’s Series B round, which netted Fishtown Analytics (as the company was then called) $29.5 million.

“We have always believed that solving for the analyst is the secret to unlocking greater productivity on data teams,” Handy says in a press release. “We’re seeing increasing investment in companies and products built on this same thesis. Databricks’ Delta Lake and Databricks SQL are huge bets on SQL, Census and Hightouch have raised venture rounds to solve operational analytics use cases, and Mode’s dbt integration is now making data freshness available to data consumers. We absolutely believe that this is just the beginning of this trend.”

The company is planning to host its second annual analytics engineering conference, called Coalesce, from December 6 to10.

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