I caught up with Jerry Held (Chairman) and Dave Menninger (VP Marketing) of Vertica for a chat yesterday. The immediate reason for the call was that a competitor had tipped me off to the departure of Vertica CEO Ralph Breslauer, which of course raises a host of questions. Highlights of the call included:
- Vertica had a “killer” Q4 and is doing very well in Q1 again.
- Vertica burned hardly any cash last year; i.e., it was close to cash-flow neutral in 2009.
- Vertica is hiring aggressively, e.g., in sales.
- Vertica is well down the path with several CEO candidates who Jerry regards as outstanding. He is hopeful there will be a new CEO in April. (But I bet that would be late April, given what Jerry mentioned about his own travel plans.)
- Absent a full-time CEO, Jerry and Andy Palmer are spending a lot more time with Vertica.
- One Vertica customer is approaching a petabyte of user data. The last time Vertica had checked, that customer had been more in the ¼ petabyte range.
- Other multi-hundred terabyte Vertica databases were mentioned, including one where Vertica claims to have beaten Teradata and perhaps other competitors in a head-to-head competition (it sounds like that one’s too recent to be deployed yet).
- Vertica sees Aster and Greenplum competitively more often than it sees ParAccel.
- Vertica sees Sybase IQ competitively a lot in financial services (in new-name accounts for Sybase as well as where some kind of Sybase DBMS is an incumbent), and more occasionally in other sectors.
NDA parts of the conversation also gave me the impression that Vertica is moving forward just as eagerly as its peers. I.e., I didn’t uncover any reason to think that Ralph’s departure is a sign of trouble, of the company being shopped, etc.
On the other hand, I didn’t uncover any other clear reason for Ralph’s departure either. The party line is that Ralph left for “personal reasons”. It was his decision to leave. He did a great job while at Vertica. Basically, Vertica is saying that, even though all was going swimmingly, Ralph just up and quit, leaving some very valuable unvested stock options on the table at what had been his first CEO gig ever.
Contacting Ralph didn’t add any immediate insight. He responded quickly via a Twitter DM, but was in the airport for a trip to his home country of South Africa, and deferred discussion until after his return.
Incidentally, Infobright and ParAccel have both also had recent CEO turnover. Stated reasons in each case were of the “Right person to lead the next stage of the company’s growth” variety.