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Our Investment in Observable: Unlocking the Data Opportunity

January 13, 2022

The next-gen data stack is one of the most active and compelling areas of venture investing right now. All the plumbing is being rebuilt by innovators such as Databricks, Snowflake, dbt, fivetran, Confluent, Datastax Heap, et al. In parallel, we’ve seen a meteoric rise in the quantity of data and increasing recognition that data is the new competitive advantage. The rise of ML goes hand in hand with this. Across industries, the ultimate goal is to capture more data to enable smarter decisions and informed recommendations. But, the most interesting layer of this entire stack might be the layer at the top. Data collaboration enabled through visualization allows people to convey important data, analysis, and stories in a consumable and compelling way, increasing the impact of data across the organization. That is why we are thrilled to announce our investment in Observable and its world-class founders, CTO Mike Bostock and CEO Melody Meckfessel.

Mike is a legend in the visualization world and the creator of the open-source foundation of D3, the premier JavaScript visualization framework downloaded over 131 million times. Mike’s work has already transformed the creative landscape. But, while D3 was more developer-centric, Mike now takes his vision to the masses. Observable offers a turnkey platform that allows data practitioners of any skill level to build interactive visualizations in the browser. Now anyone can share and publish data through interactive, editable “notebooks” and countless pre-built and community-augmented code. Across organizations, Observable unlocks creativity and visualizations of all kinds, from charts with live data to fast prototyping, algorithmic expressions, collaborative reports, and more.

Mike Bostock, CTO, Observable
Melody Meckfessel, CEO, Observable

Melody is a highly respected, hands-on technology leader with more than 20 years’ experience building and maintaining large-scale distributed systems and solving problems at scale. She is passionate about helping humans thrive through collaboration, inclusion, and joy. Before Observable, she was a VP of Engineering at Google, leading systems with a team of 1,000+ where she created the DevOps practice for Google’s Cloud platform. Melody was responsible for large-scale systems, delivering successful outcomes for millions of users. Melody instills passion around data innovation—improving exploration and insights from data. She is an expert in tools and systems for productive teams to thrive, and that’s exactly what she is bringing to the future of data collaboration on Observable.

Together Mike and Melody (who worked together at Google) are on a mission to reimagine the power of data through storytelling and collaborative visualization. We share their belief that the only way to unlock the incredible power of data is through visualizations that are easy to create, real-time, collaborative, and native to the browser. (Otherwise, all this new plumbing and staggering amounts of data add up to naught.) Only Mike and Melody could bring Observable to life: Their vision requires functionality that the market hasn’t seen before; it will enhance our ability to uncover more accurate, profound insights than previously possible. It will ensure that data is a competitive advantage for any company that prioritizes this type of work.

The decision to lead the $35.6M Series B in Observable was easy for our partnership. It has all the markers of an exceptional company given the team, market size, product differentiation, and timeliness. Not to mention it’s great to be partnering up with our friends and world-class investors, Jim Goetz of Sequoia and Theresia Gouw of Acrew.

Finally, Observable is particularly exciting because it fits squarely at the intersection of two big thesis areas for Menlo Ventures: the next-gen data stack and departmental SaaS. Our work in these focus areas inspired us to back category innovators in the data space including Heap Analytics, Edge Delta, Datastax (an investment made at my previous firm), and two more to be announced shortly. We will continue to invest actively in these areas, so if you’re a founder building something relevant, we’d love to hear from you. And, in the meantime, please download and try Observable. The power of the platform and its intuitive nature will blow you and your team away!