DuckDB shuns VC breadcrumbs so support isn't all it's quacked up to be

Company behind popular in-process OLAP system feels weight of success

DuckDB Labs is updating the support policy and flexible commercial support options for its in-process analytical database.

Although only a fledgling in its 0.8.0 release, DuckDB already has a home at Google, Facebook, and Airbnb. Winning praise from developers in machine learning and analytics, it runs in-process analytics on a laptop, in the browser, on a cloud VM, or a cloud function, for example. It can be used in Python notebooks, R scripts, JavaScript data apps, or Java backends.

Announcing a new policy for paid-for support, DuckDB Labs said it was "not funded by venture capital by our own choice."

"We feel investment would force the project direction towards monetization, and we would much prefer keeping DuckDB open and available for as many people as possible," the company said.

The brainchild of academics at Amsterdam's Center for Mathematics and Computer Science, DuckDB is embedded within a host process. There is no DBMS server software to install, update, or maintain. For example, the DuckDB Python package can run queries directly on data in Python software library Pandas without importing or copying data. Written in C++, DuckDB is free and open source under the MIT License.

While welcoming the popularity of the system, its developers asked users to recognize that it came at a price.

"There are now millions of downloads each month and large growth in the Discord server, Twitter followers, GitHub stars and so forth," the company said in a blog. "When we started DuckDB back in 2018, we could have not imagined this level of adoption and we are absolutely humbled to see it."

But the success and lack of funding mean the company "cannot grow at the same pace as DuckDB's usage. This means we have to make some hard choices on how to prioritize our time," the company said.

Nonetheless, by sticking to its principles, the company could not guarantee response times on free support and would be unable to manage a large volume of support requests from individuals or teams working in the same company.

It said it would be unable to answer questions about DuckDB internals such as physical operators or storage internals and could not answer questions regarding all repositories under the DuckDB organization.

Other limitations on free support have been put in place. For organizations seeking a higher level of support, DuckDB recommends they look at its commercial options.

DuckDB may have eschewed VC investments, but the market suggests investors do not lack the appetite. Last month, MotherDuck, which builds database services around DuckDB, secured $52.5 million in VC funding and removed the waiting list from its platform. The Series B funding round led by Felicis Ventures gives MotherDuck a nominal valuation of $400 million. ®

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