Rill wants to rethink BI dashboards with an embedded database and instant UX

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Founders Rill first hit the databases ten years ago when they founded a company called Metamarkets which was eventually sold out by Snap in 2017. Working at Metamarkets, the company created a database based on an open Apache Druid project. Later, the Metamarkets team improved their approach at Snap, helping Snap employees create dashboards more easily.

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Rill launched in 2020 to create what the founders envisioned as a faster and better tool for creating business intelligence dashboards based on what they learned at Snap. They needed an underlying database that could process data much faster than just getting it from a data source, be it Snowflake, Databricks, BigQuery, or whatever.

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And they wanted to simplify the toolbar itself, removing a lot of the design choices that often confuse data analysts. The company today announced $12 million in seed capital and the first public discussion of its product.

Company co-founder and CEO Michael Driscoll says he founded the company in 2020 on the basis that business intelligence was broken. He and his team of engineers, most of whom came from his team at Snap, set to work on building a better solution for a wider audience.

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“I took a group of the same engineers I worked with at Snap with me in the midst of Covid and we created Rill. So over the past two years, we’ve started selling this BI stack, which is an alternative to the Looker-Snowflake stack,” Driscoll told TechCrunch.

The product consists of a database designed to process key data from the underlying data source more quickly. As the data analyst or business user requests this data, Rill displays it on the dashboard in a very consistent manner. It’s worth noting that they’ve returned to Apache Druid for the database, a project they knew well from their Metamarket days.

“Most BI tools are thin applications with no data processing engine of their own, and they run as fast as the database on which they reside. Rill, on the other hand, is a fat application that comes with a built-in in-memory OLAP engine (DuckDB at Rill Developer and Apache Druid at Rill Cloud). It’s a not-so-secret reason why our dashboards provide incredibly high performance,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the funding.

The Rill app on a MacBook Pro sits on a desk in the office.

Image Credits: Rill

Unlike many dashboard products, Rill customizes the user interface for you. There are a few options beyond branding, and Driscoll thinks it really makes the analyst’s job easier because all they have to do is worry about the data and what they want to see on the dashboard.

“Data analysts are not dashboard designers, but they are forced to be dashboard designers… There are too many visual design choices that many BI and data applications force on analysts. Rill has an extremely opinionated point of view. We just say, “Hey, tell us what metrics you want to communicate to your business stakeholders,” and then automatically generate dashboards,” he said.

The enterprise SaaS product has been available for over a year now and is used by dozens of enterprise clients. The company also recently released a second open source product called Rill Developer. It is designed to help developers extract data from the main source data repository and remove all the complexities associated with it.

“We open source Rill Developer to help analysts who just genuinely want to get their work done. They can connect to this in their data store, store and soon stream to transform that data from [repository]and then transform them into metrics that ultimately affect BI dashboards,” he said.

At the moment he has about a dozen corporate clients and thousands of users, and he brings real income. While he didn’t elaborate on revenue, he described it as over $10 million and under $100 million, which is respectable for such an early-stage company.

Two years later, he has 24 employees worldwide. The company has been completely removed from day one and it has helped create diversity through this approach. “There are many ways to think about diversity. First of all, I think we are global and as a result we have people from different cultures and countries around the world,” he said.

Today’s $12 million seed investment came from True Ventures, Bloomberg BETA, Sierra Ventures, Park West Asset Management and DCVC, as well as more than two dozen data angels.

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