By Henry Huang • Mar 04, 2024

From vision to venture: codifying data governance

On February 27th, 2024, Madrona Venture Labs (MVL) spinout Codified announced $4M in seed funding led by Madrona Ventures, with participation from MVL, Vine Ventures, Bob Muglia, and several other strategic investors, as featured on TechCrunch and GeekWire

We sat down with founder and CEO Yatharth Gupta to reflect on his journey to entrepreneurship this past year and why data-centric companies should care about Codified's approach to modernizing data governance.

Codified, defined

Codified simplifies data governance, an increasingly complex and unwieldy task. Managing data security and access is paramount in today's data-driven world, with a staggering 120 zettabytes consumed last year alone. But today, this is more art than science. The greater the oversight, the more limited the utility of data. In conversations with customers, Yatharth has observed that data governance is often approached manually, with similar patterns emerging across organizations. 

Why do customers care?

Yatharth recognizes three significant challenges companies face regarding data governance: data access, policy implementation, and security management. A key issue highlighted is the "additive data access" problem, where once permissions are granted, they're rarely revoked, leading to cluttered and insecure data environments. To address these challenges, Codified introduces innovative solutions:

  • Introduction of a declarative policy language: Codified simplifies policy creation by introducing a declarative policy language. This language allows users to articulate policies in natural language, which are then translated into a structured format for efficient implementation across all environments, people, and resources.
  • Development of a policy decision engine: Codified's policy decision engine automates the implementation of complex policies across data systems. This engine ensures that policies are enforced accurately and consistently, reducing the potential for errors or misinterpretations.
  • Emphasis on security measures: Codified prioritizes security by implementing just-in-time access and lifecycle management measures. These measures enable organizations to grant access to data only when needed and revoke access promptly when no longer necessary, enhancing overall data security and compliance.

The genesis of codified and timing

With a career spanning over two decades, Yatharth realized that the ideal time to embark on a venture was now. He shared two things that happened in close proximity that led him to become a startup founder.

"I was working with Ali Ghodsi, founder and CEO of Databricks, and the Databricks team, and I saw and was amazed by how focused they were on solving customer problems. That simple formula led them to build a great product and company, making the world a better place for data."

"Around the same time, I was waiting on a delayed flight from Seattle to San Francisco - I used to travel a lot, so I'd always speak to whoever sat next to me, and on this flight, it was Soma Somasegar, a Managing Director of Madrona. I knew of him, but I didn't know him. We chatted briefly, and he asked me - 'why don't you build something?' That stayed with me. So when I started a company, Madrona was my first choice to partner with."

Shaping a founder's vision

Over the course of his career, Yatharth has had the unique opportunity to work alongside and help brilliant entrepreneurs such as Ali of Databricks, Raj Verma, CEO of SingleStore, and Nikita Shamgunov, founder and CEO of Neon. Pinpointing specific lessons that have resonated with him, Yatharth elaborates on insights gained from some of his relationships:

"Everyone says they're customer-obsessed, but I learned from Ali what customer obsession truly means. One of the things he’d  always say that stuck with me is, 'I never want to see a website that your customers need help understanding. It's always what your customers want.' Nikita knows how to create virality by being authentic. He knows where the market's going. He knows what developers want. To this day, I try to emulate his approach. With Raj, I watched him scale companies with the courage and conviction to make tough decisions. I have tremendous respect for him for doing the right thing at a time when everyone questions every decision you make."

And what about Gen AI?

Yatharth discusses the dual impact of Gen AI, highlighting both its beneficial aspects and practical applications. He emphasizes how Gen AI prompts increased data storage and regulatory scrutiny, providing an advantageous tailwind for Codified's operations. Yatharth also elaborates on how Gen AI enhances Codified's capabilities, particularly in facilitating natural language interactions, policy conversion, and pattern matching. This integration of Gen AI enables Codified to deliver enhanced value to customers more efficiently, strengthening their competitive edge in the market.

A founder's perspective on MVL

Reflecting on his partnership with MVL, Yatharth notes:

"I thought MVL would compliment me in areas where I didn't have experience, and that expectation was more than met. And if you're looking at outcomes, which is the right way to evaluate this, what MVL did is accelerate the journey. It was not just about starting the company faster; it also accelerated us in weeding out bad ideas because we could do it together. It accelerated the hiring of people because I had help from day one. It accelerated building from concept to design. It accelerated, most importantly, conversations with customers. For founders, time is an incredibly valuable commodity. And that's what I got in partnering with MVL."

Advice to founders

On timing: There is never going to be a perfect time. You cannot time your time. Start the journey. You'll learn a lot. You can only have the answers if you are already on the journey.

On raising capital: When I didn't have capital, I was only looking for capital. As I started raising some money, I became smarter about it. I wanted to partner with folks who are not just bringing money to the table but also bringing industry and customer relationships, and strategic insights into my field.

On customers: We're in the business of creating value. Value is only created when somebody is using your product. So, starting from day zero, focus on customers. Try to learn from them. Find the right customer for you. Without customers, there is no company. Period.

Founder Spotlight is a series dedicated to bringing you insights into the founder journey, lessons learned from startup leaders, and a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most compelling tech companies in our community.

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