Ondat cuts headcount amid market pressures

Kubernetes storage startup Ondat has gone through a layoff exercise as market conditions make business life much harder.

Update: Chief Commercial Officer comment about layoffs and general belt-tightening added. 19 July 2022.

Alex Chircop, Ondat
Alex Chircop

CEO and co-founder Alex Chircop said on LinkedIn message: “Last week we had to take the incredibly hard decision to let go of some of our teammates.  We built a brilliant team at Ondat with some of the most skilled and nicest people I have ever worked with. We have an awesome product, great customers and one of the best teams I have ever worked with; but that does not insulate us from the market conditions that we now find ourselves in.”

Ondat was started as StorageOS in 2015 by three Brits; first CEO Chris Brandon in New York, and two London-based execs, Chircop and VP of Engineering Simon Croome. The intent was to provide cloud-native persistent storage for stateful container applications using server-attached drives or cloud storage instances, but not external storage arrays. It supported Kubernetes, OpenShift, EKS, GCP, and AKS.

Brandon left in 2019 to to become an Enterprise Transformation Advisor at Amazon Web Services. Croome left in May and joined Microsoft as a principal software engineer working in Azure storage. In October last year StorageOS renamed itself to Ondat as part of a “shift left” exercise to make it easier for developers to use its software. Subsequently it “announced that the company has seen 100 percent team growth in 2021, which is set to continue based on strong demand from customers.”

In November it announced a SaaS platform beta test for customers in which developers could deploy and manage stateful Kubernetes applications with persistent data volumes.

Ondat started life with $2 million seed funding, developed its main product technology and then raised $8 million in an A-round in 2018. The technology impressed early customers enough to have a $10 million B-round last year. Yet the market has become tighter and, like Qumulo perhaps, it has to reduce cash burn.

Chircop’s LinkedIn message added “Like many startups at the moment, we grew fast in an economic environment that prioritised growth over efficiency.” Now the reverse has come to pass and, in consequence: “We are retrenching to focus more on the engineering that is needed to deliver a world-class product, deliver value to our customers and build back as a leaner organisation.”

Consolidation began in the cloud-native container storage area a couple of years ago when Pure Storage bought Portworx in September 2020 for $370 million. Competitor Robin.IO, with a 5G focus, was bought by Rakuten Symphony in March this year for an undisclosed sum, and In May some VCs issued warnings to startups that they needed to conserve cash.

LinkedIn currently lists 46 Ondat employees. We don’t know how many were let go and have asked. COO Richard Over said: “This process is ongoing, hence we can’t really be more specific. However, we’re fortunate to have the support of our investors and are working toward a long-term plan. We feel that the market economics of cloud are changing how storage will be consumed, with a sharper focus on cost and value, aligning to our new pricing strategy. Our new pricing is designed to simplify the adoption of container native storage, providing an enterprise level free tier ‘Community Edition’ and affordable and consumption-based paid approach for our customers.”