Ben Sharma and Bijoy Bora Zaloni

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An RTP startup that has quickly become a global innovator in data management using Hadoop has raised its first institutional capital, a $7.5 million round led by Silicon Valley-based Sierra Ventures
 
When ExitEvent profiled Zaloni last fall, it was prepping to raise funds by hiring its first top executives in finance, marketing and global sales. It had finished testing a new version of its Bedrock product, significantly grown its client list and had taken the stage at the CED Tech Venture Conference to share with investors the founders' story of turning a Hadoop data lake consulting practice into a scalable software product with customers like UnitedHealth Group, Verizon, GE, Honda, American Express and MetLife. 
 
At the time, vice president of marketing Kelly Hopkins Schupp told me funding would be necessary so Zaloni doesn’t have to leave opportunities on the table. 
 
“Our question now is how can we capitalize on this marketplace and do it quickly,” she says. (Zaloni is one of 97 "Triangle Tweeners". Check out the full list here.)
 
The timing to beef up that sales and marketing effort is now. With the new funding, Zaloni will add inside sales staff to its offices in RTP and Silicon Valley, and will hire account executives all over the world, Schupp told me by phone this afternoon. A big goal is to expand outside North America, specifically in the Asia Pacific region. 
 
More developers will also be needed to continue adding features to Zaloni’s two software platforms, Bedrock and Mica, and staying ahead in this increasingly competitive field. The company also needs consultants in a variety of professional services. While she declined to share the number of jobs that will be added, Schupp says they are in the tens. 
 
The Sierra Ventures connection came soon after the debut at CED. But a second investor, the venture and private equity arm of Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird & Co. called Baird Capital, came through an introduction made at the CED conference. The nonprofit organization’s goal is to make these types of introductions for growth stage companies—the year prior, Spoonflower met North Bridge Equity Partners, which eventually put $25 million into the Durham digital textile printing company. 
 
What Sierra recognized in the company built by founders Ben Sharma (top left) and Bijoy Bora (top right) was its ability to solve major challenges for corporations generating, cataloguing and making sense of terabytes of data in today’s business world. Analytics is considered one of the top two IT priorities for organizations this year, according to ESG Research, and two critical considerations in any data lake project, according to 451 Research, are governance and management. Those are two key offerings by Zaloni.
 
Sierra has been active in the space with investments in Big Data companies like Teradata and Greenplum and an advisory board that helps the partners assess the needs and challenges of Fortune 500 companies and vet potential portfolio companies. Called the Sierra CXO Advisory Board, its members include chief technology, information and data officers from major multinational corporations. 
 
In a news release, Sierra managing director Mark Fernandes says that the board validated Zaloni’s products and had both positive feedback and tremendous interest. His company looks for transformational technologies in Big Data and data lake solutions “are what businesses are demanding.” 

“One of the most significant challenges companies face is not a lack of data but rather the ability to transform that data into meaningful business intelligence that is actionable. Zaloni clearly resolves this challenge,” he says. 
 
Sierra also has experience in our region. The firm recently invested in K4Connect, a Raleigh startup bringing connected home solutions to senior living communities. Sierra previously funded K4 co-founder Scott Moody’s previous startup too. AuthenTec, based in Melbourne, Florida, sold to Apple for $356 million in 2012. 
 
Deep knowledge and experience with data companies as well as connections to so many interested and prospective corporate buyers will be critical to Zaloni’s future growth. 
 
Sierra offers not just that, but connections in Silicon Valley built over the firm's 32-year history. 
 
“They have some incredible contacts,” Schupp says. “It’s nice to be bringing some Silicon Valley money into the Triangle.”