- Rahil Sondhi presented his startup, PopSQL, at Y Combinator’s annual Demo Day in San Francisco on Monday.
- Sondhi pitched his company, pronounced “popsicle,” as a modern database communications tool for distributed teams, replacing static SQL queries sent via CSV files.
- The former Instacart engineer told Business Insider that he had raised $1 million in seed funding ahead of Y Combinator’s annual pitch competition in San Francisco.
- Sondhi said that his biggest focus now is hiring a team, which currently only counts him on the payroll.
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Y Combinator’s Demo Day, which actually spans two full days in a massive warehouse in San Francisco, is a see-and-be-seen type of event straight out of an HBO parody show. The men’s restroom line surpasses the women’s. A flock of electric scooters flanks the entrance. Puffy vests outnumber traditional business attire. And everyone has a backpack with an impressive name stitched on the back.
But for all the amusing clichés of the ambiance, the bi-annual event still delivers an impressive display of fresh ideas and hungry startups. On Monday and Tuesday, an ambitious group of entrepreneurs took to the stage to pitch hundreds of investors on their early-stage companies.
Rahil Sondhi was among the almost 200 companies that presented over the two-day event. His company PopSQL, pronounced “popsicle,” is a database collaboration and communication tool built on the database language SQL. Sondhi has been running the startup completely on his own since founding it two years ago.
Before stepping on to the stage, he told Business Insider he had already raised $1 million in venture funding. PopSQL already has more than 100 customers, Sondhi said. He’s eager to bring in employees so he can pursue fundraising for the remainder of his seed round while simultaneously building new products and features.
“I need people to take anything off my plate,” Sondhi said. “If a strong engineer comes on board, awesome. A strong designer comes on board, perfect. A marketer, content marketing is really important for us. What else? Sales. Really anything, I need help in all departments.”
Born on the fourth of July
Sondhi began building PopSQL while he was working as a software engineer at the grocery delivery startup Instacart in October 2016. He said he would work on his side project for almost 35 hours a week in addition to his full-time role. PopSQL launched on Product Hunt, a popular forum for startups, in May 2017, and Sondhi was off to the races.
“I stayed in the July 4th weekend writing the code for the billing system and shipping it. We got our first customer on July 4th,” Sondhi said. “I still have that email and they’re still a paying customer and I think it was $32 or something, but it was so meaningful. Imagine waking up on July 4th to that after 10 months of work.”
Now, Sondhi says PopSQL has over 100 customers, including his previous employer, Instacart, as well as food delivery startup DoorDash, and security startup Auth0.
Read More: Startup founders need to distance themselves from big tech, according to the CEO of famed startup accelerator Y Combinator
“If you take the SQL editors that have existed, they’re just very legacy, they’re heavy weighed, they’re clunky, they have outdated UIs,” Sondhi told Business Insider. “And then imagine somebody gives you Chrome for the first time or somebody gives you Google Docs for the first time. It’s fast. It’s lightweight, it looks good, it just has the right amount of buttons, it’s intuitive.”
Building a team that can work from anywhere
For the last three months in the Y Combinator program, Sondhi said he’s been chipping away at growing the company instead of building new features.
Unlike past Y Combinator alumni companies, Sondhi isn’t counting on building the company and hiring a team in San Francisco, although that’s home for him. Between skyrocketing costs and an incredibly tight labor market, the Toronto native is “completely open” to building a distributed team from the beginning.
“The tools exist, it’s just the culture and the willingness to do it,” Sondhi said of building his team.
It’s a philosophy being embraced by a growing number of tech entrepreneurs, including Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, who recently said that “no one in their right mind” would build a company entirely in San Francisco these days. Ohanian, who now leads VC firm Initialized Capital, has employees based all over the US.
But even if he assembles a dispersed team, PopSQL’s Sondhi isn’t planning to move back to his native Toronto anytime soon. “I loved Toronto but San Francisco’s become home. Once you get rid of winter, you can’t take it back.”
SEE ALSO: This CEO didn’t want to go with traditional venture capital, so he challenged his employees to use this pitch deck to find individual investors. They raised $13 million from 70 people.
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