Read the pitch deck this MIT dropout used to raise $130 million for Apollo, his $1.5 billion startup helping developers capitalize on a hot trend in the database market
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- Query tech startup Apollo just raised a $130 million Series D at a $1.5 billion valuation.
- The startup is banking on the Facebook-developed GraphQL language becoming as popular as the cloud.
- Its CEO told Insider it has never sold into an enterprise that wasn’t already using its tools.
Geoff Schmidt tells Insider that he’s “a long way from home.”
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) dropout who grew up in rural Missouri and Arkansans, Schmidt taught himself how to use computers by reading books. He was the first in his family not to be raised on a Mennonite farm, where his father grew up.
Now, Schmidt is the cofounder and CEO of San Francisco-based Apollo, a five-year-old startup that builds developer tools based on the GraphQL query language — a database for developers originally used internally at Facebook before getting released to the open source community in 2015, and now resides within the Linux Foundation.
He jumped into the tech startup scene in 1999, not long after dropping out of MIT after only one term, and raised his first VC round at the age of 20. These days, he’s back at it with a new $130 million Series D round for Apollo, in a deal that the company says brings its valuation up to $1.5 billion.
The Series D round is led by New York-based Insight Partners, with participation from Apollo’s existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Matrix Partners, and Trinity Ventures. This latest funding brings Apollo’s total funding to over $183 million after its previous round, a $22 million Series C, in 2019.
To Schmidt, the funding and valuation are proof that his startup’s big bet on GraphQL has paid off. By helping to add the graph layer to developers’ toolkits, Schmidt says they can build apps up to three times faster.
“What we’re seeing with GraphQL isn’t just another library or programming tool,” he said. “It’s actually the birth of a new layer of the stack and a new category that we call the Graph. We think it’s going to be as big as the cloud in terms of the impact that it has.”
The developer movement around GraphQL is also driving business interest as they bring the language into their companies, Schmidt said. 30% of the Fortune 500 are using GraphQL in some form, he says, and that number is growing with the targeted efforts of Apollo’s enterprise sales team.
“Their usage is getting larger and larger, and more and more strategic, which is what’s driven this big round,” he said.
Still, Schmidt says the startup can’t stray too far from its developer roots as it pushes into those enterprise deals. “We understand that for developers, it’s pretty annoying when you have to go to your manager and get that credit card,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve ever sold a deal where we came in and they weren’t already using Apollo already.”
With this latest cash infusion, Apollo plans to continue investing in the GraphQL open source community and deepening its platform’s technical capabilities.
And now with over 100 employees, Schmidt said Apollo is also hoping to capitalize on the pandemic-driven pace of technological change.
“The Graph is a technology that’s tailor-made to respond to a pandemic, when a lot of things are changing about your business and you have to do things a different way and step up your digital game,” he said.
“I think everybody’s going to need a graph strategy and to figure out what their graph strategy is. All they need to do is listen to their developers.”