Listen Here

| |

Conversation
Highlights

 

Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries — the show that explores GTM stories from tech’s most innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with DeVaris Brown, CEO and co-founder of Meroxa, a stream processing data application platform that has raised over $19 million in funding.

  • DeVaris’ background as a software engineer and product executive at companies like Microsoft, Zendesk, Heroku, and Twitter, and the entrepreneurial drive instilled by his grandparents and exposure to the first dot-com boom.
  • How Meroxa is empowering everyday software engineers with “data engineering superpowers” to ingest, transform, and orchestrate data to meet the growing demand for personalized, real-time applications.
  • The experience of launching Meroxa just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and how the constraints and focus of that period proved advantageous for the company’s early development.
  • Meroxa’s traction with government agencies like NASA, and how demonstrating the ability to handle massive scale and complexity has opened doors to commercial opportunities.
  • The challenges and opportunities of being a Black founder in tech, and the importance of addressing systemic barriers to access, funding, and risk-taking for underrepresented entrepreneurs.
  • DeVaris’ lessons learned in finding product-market fit, building a well-rounded team, and cultivating the mental resilience required to weather the ups and downs of the founder journey.

Actionable
Takeaways

Embrace Constraints as a Catalyst for Focus:

DeVaris credits the pandemic lockdowns in Meroxa's early days with providing a distraction-free environment to concentrate on building the core product. While operating under constraints is never easy, founders can reframe these limitations as an opportunity to ruthlessly prioritize and make faster decisions. Embracing constraints with creativity and grit can lead to breakthrough progress.

Establish Credibility Through Lighthouse Customers:

Meroxa's work with NASA and other government agencies played a crucial role in validating the platform's ability to process data at immense scale and complexity. For deep-tech startups, landing lighthouse customers who can pressure-test the product in demanding real-world scenarios is invaluable for earning the trust of prospects. Founders should identify and pursue these marquee accounts as an accelerant for broader adoption.

Assemble a Team That Augments Your Weaknesses:

DeVaris openly acknowledges that while he and his co-founder excel at building product, they have gaps in their sales expertise. His advice to founders is to hire for complementary skill sets rather than trying to be the "last stop" for every function. Self-awareness about your strengths and weaknesses as a leader is critical to constructing a well-rounded team equipped to execute across the full range of startup challenges.

Recognize the Tradeoffs in Early Customer Selection:

Meroxa's decision to work with government and military clients, while lucrative, came with some moral complexity as a Black founder. DeVaris stresses the importance of having open conversations with employees about where to draw ethical lines while also acknowledging the realities of needing to generate revenue to sustain the business. Founders must grapple with these tradeoffs transparently and establish clear principles for customer selection.

Find a Support System to Combat Founder Loneliness:

DeVaris emphasizes the emotional toll of being a founder and the pervasive sense of isolation that comes with the top job. His recommendation is to actively seek out peer groups, executive coaches, and mental health resources to process the inevitable ups and downs of the journey. Founders shouldn't try to shoulder the burden alone or feel embarrassed about needing support - connecting with others in the same boat is a game-changer.

Recommended Founder
Interviews

Yadhu Gopalan

CEO and Founder of Esper

Yadhu Gopalan, CEO and Founder of Esper: $100 Million Raised to Build the Future of Android Device Management

Egil Østhus

CEO and Co-founder of Unleash

Egil Østhus, CEO of Unleash: $16.5 Million Raised to Build the Future of Feature Management

Ori Keren

CEO and Co-Founder of LinearB

Ori Keren, CEO and Co-Founder of LinearB: Over $70 Million Raised to Build the Future of Software Delivery Management

Yingjun Wu

CEO and Co-Founder of RisingWave

Yingjun Wu, CEO and Co-Founder of RisingWave Labs: $40 Million Raised to Make Stream Processing Simple, Affordable, and Accessible

Ravi Parikh

CEO and Co-Founder of Airplane

Ravi Parikh, CEO and Co-Founder of Airplane: Over $40 Million Raised to Build Better Developer Infrastructure For Internal Tooling

Derric Gilling

Co-founder & CEO of Moesif

Derric Gilling, CEO of Moesif: $15 Million Raised to Build the Future of API Analytics

Gil Feig

CTO of Merge

Gil Feig, CTO of Merge: $75 Million Raised to Help B2B Companies Build Customer-Facing Integrations via It’s Unified API Platform

James Evans

Co-Founder and CEO of Co-Founder and CEO

James Evans, Co-Founder and CEO of CommandBar: $24 Million Raised to Build the Leading AI-Powered User Assistance Platform

Alan Shreve

CEO and Founder of Ngrok

Alan Shreve, CEO and Founder of Ngrok: $50 Million Raised to Help Devs Deploy SItes, Services, and Apps

Liam Randall

CEO and Founder of Cosmonic

Liam Randall, CEO and Founder of Cosmonic: $8.5 Million Raised to Power the Future of WebAssembly

Prakash Chandran

Co-Founder and CEO of Xano

Prakash Chandran, Co-Founder and CEO of Xano.com: $5.4 Million Raised to Build the Next Generation of No-Code Backend Development

Joshua Aaron

CEO of Aiden

Joshua Aaron, CEO Aiden, $3 Million Raised to Build the Future of Software Packaging and Deployment

Paul Stovell

CEO and Founder of Octopus Deploy

Paul Stovell, CEO and Founder of Octopus Deploy: Over $170 Million Raised to Build the Future of Deployment Automation

Tom Tovar

CEO and Co-Founder of AppDome

Tom Tovar, CEO and Co-Founder of AppDome: Over $26 Million Raised to Build the Future of Mobile App Security

Tom Hacohen

CEO and Founder of Svix

Tom Hacohen, CEO and Founder of Svix: $10.5 Million Raised to Power the Future of Webhooks

Omri Gazitt

CEO & Co-Founder of Aserto

Omri Gazitt, CEO & Co-Founder at Aserto: $5 Million Raised to Build the Future of Authorization

Harpreet Singh

Co-Founder and CEO of Launchable

Harpreet Singh, Co-Founder and CEO of Launchable: Over $12 Million Raised to Build the Future of Software Testing

Dylan Etkin

CEO and Co-Founder of Sleuth

Dylan Etkin, CEO and Co-Founder of Sleuth: $25 Million Raised to Make Engineering Teams More Efficient

Anish Dhar

Co-Founders of Cortex

Anish Dhar and Ganesh Datta, Co-Founders of Cortex: Over $52 Million Raised to Improve Developer Productivity

Tomas Reimers

Co-Founder of Graphite

Tomas Reimers, Co-Founder of Graphite: $22.5 Million Raised to Build the Future of Code Reviews

Sophie Novati

CEO and Founder of Formation

Sophie Novati, CEO and Founder of Formation: $9 Million Raised to Build a Virtual Fellowship Program for Software Engineers

Paul Kim

CEO of Notifi

Paul Kim, CEO of Notifi: $12 Million raised to Build the Future of Web3 Communication Infrastructure

Mike Malone

CEO and Founder of Smallstep

Mike Malone, CEO and Founder of Smallstep: $26 Million Raised to Build the Future of Certificate Lifecycle Management For DevOps

Ramiro Berrelleza

Founder and CEO of Okteto

Ramiro Berrelleza, CEO of Okteto: $18 Million Raised to Build the Future of Cloud Development

Chetan Venkatesh

CEO of Macrometa

Chetan Venkatesh, CEO of Macrometa: $38 Million raised to Build the Hyper Distributed Cloud for the Next Generation of Applications

Michael Corr

Founder and CEO of Duro Labs

Michael Corr, CEO of Duro Labs: $4 Million Raised to Power the Future of Hardware Engineering

Stoyan Zulyamsky

Co-Founder of Costimize

Stoyan Zulyamsky, Co-Founder of Costimize: $5 Million Raised to Revolutionize Cloud Finance Management

Paolo Fragomeni

CEO of Socket Supply

Paolo Fragomeni, CEO of Socket Supply: $3.5 Million Raised to Build the Future of P2P Computing

Matt Butcher

CEO of Fermyon

Matt Butcher, CEO of Fermyon: $26 Million Raised to Power the Future of WebAssembly

Eden Full Goh

Founder & CEO of Mobot

Eden Full Goh, Founder & CEO of Mobot: Over $17 Million Raised to Power the Future of Mobile App Testing

Tommy Dang

Co-Founder & CEO of Mage

Tommy Dang, CEO of Mage: $6.3 Million Raised to Build a Modern Replacement For Airflow

Suresh Mathew

Founder and CEO of Sedai

Suresh Mathew, Founder and CEO of Sedai: $18 Million Raised to Automate Cloud Management for Critical Decisions

Hersh Tapadia

Co-Founder & CEO of Allstacks

Hersh Tapadia, CEO of Allstacks: $16 Million Raised to Build the Value Stream Intelligence Category

Martin Mao

CEO of Chronosphere

Martin Mao, CEO of Chronosphere: $250 Million Raised to Build the Future of Observability

Tom Trowbridge

Co-Founder of Fluence Labs

Tom Trowbridge, co-founder of Fluence Labs: $9 Million Raised to Build the Future of Decentralized P2P Computing

Gary Hoberman

CEO & Founder of Unqork

Gary Hoberman, CEO & Founder of Unqork: Over $400 Million Raised to Pioneer the Codeless as a Service (CaaS) Category

Casey Rosenthal

CEO of Verica

Casey Rosenthal, CEO of Verica: $17 Million Raised to Build the Future of Chaos Engineering

Zach Lloyd

CEO and Founder of Warp

Zach Lloyd, CEO and Founder of Warp: $70 Million Raised to Build a Better Terminal

Mike Long

CEO and Founder of Kosli

Mike Long, CEO and Founder of Kosli: $3.5 Million Raised to Deliver Secure Software Changes at Scale and Deploy to Production with Speed

Tim Kraska

Co-Founder of Einblick

Tim Kraska, Co-Founder of Einblick: $6M Raised to Build the Visual Data Computing Category

Matthew O’Riordan

CEO of Ably Realtime

Matthew O’Riordan, CEO of Ably Realtime: Over $82 Million Raised to Build the Future of Realtime Experience Infrastructure

Marcin Wyszynski

Co-Founder and CPO of Spacelift

Marcin Wyszynski, Co-Founder and CPO of Spacelift: Over $22 Million Raised to Build the Future of IaC Management

Costa Tsaousis

CEO and Founder of Netdata

Costa Tsaousis, CEO and Founder of Netdata: Over $30 Million Raised to Power the Future of Infrastructure Monitoring

Johnny Dallas

CEO and Co-Founder of Zeet.co

Johnny Dallas, CEO & Co-Founder of Zeet.co: $6M Raised to Power the Future of CI/CD & Deployment

Lasse Andresen

CEO and Founder of IndyKite

Lasse Andresen, CEO and Founder of IndyKite: $10 Million Raised to Empower Teams to Move Beyond Legacy Identity and Access Management

David Siegel

David Siegel of Glide

David Siegel, CEO of Glide: Over $20 Million Raised to Power the Future of No-Code Application Development

Lukas Gentele

Co-Founder & CEO of Loft Labs

Lukas Gentele, CEO of Loft Labs: $5 Million Raised to Build the Virtual Kubernetes Category

Ben Kliger

CEO and Co-Founder of Zenity

Ben Kliger, CEO and Co-Founder of Zenity: $21.5 Million Raised to Build the Future of Security and Governance for AI, Low-Code, and No-Code Development

Benjamin Wilms

CEO and Co-Founder of Steadybit

Benjamin Wilms, CEO and Co-Founder of Steadybit: $7.8 Million Raised to Build the Future of Chaos Engineering

Honey Mittal

Co-Founder, CPO & CEO of Locofy.ai

Honey Mittal, CEO of Locofy.ai: $3 Million Raised to Build the Future of Frontend Development

Evan Kaplan

CEO of InfluxData

Evan Kaplan, CEO of InfluxData: Over $170 Million Raised to Build the Leading Time Series Provider

Romaric Philogene

CEO of Qovery

Romaric Philogene, CEO of Qovery: $4 Million Raised to Help You Deploy Your Apps on AWS in Seconds

James Hawkins

CEO of PostHog

James Hawkins, CEO of PostHog: $21 Million Raised to Build the Future of Product Analytics

Ayal Yogev

CEO and Co-Founder of Anjuna

Ayal Yogev, CEO and Co-Founder of Anjuna: $42 Million to Build The Future of Confidential Computing