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The view from MemSQL's new Seattle office in the Smith Tower.
The view from MemSQL’s new Seattle office in the Smith Tower. (MemSQL Photo)

What do you do when you’re a high-flying database startup that wants to grow as efficiently as possible? MemSQL, like a lot of other companies, is looking to Seattle.

MemSQL, a database startup that began life in San Francisco, recently opened an engineering office in Seattle’s iconic Smith Tower. The company has moved into a space that could hold 20 employees, currently housing a dozen or so engineers working on the company’s data warehouse product.

Right in the heart of Pioneer Square, which resembles San Francisco’s South of Market district, MemSQL represents an increasing number of companies who are looking to Seattle to grow engineering teams. After raising $36 million last year (the company has raised a total of $86 million to date), MemSQL knew it wanted to grow its engineering team but wasn’t all that crazy about the idea of expanding in SoMa, where MemSQL’s current headquarters is located just a few yards from the chaos of the seemingly never-ending San Francisco Central Subway project.

(L to R): Derek Tan, director of engineer, and Rick Negrin, director of product management, at work in MemSQL's new Seattle office.
(L to R): Derek Tan, director of engineering, and Rick Negrin, director of product management, at work in MemSQL’s new Seattle office. (MemSQL Photo)

So it turned to its roots: Company co-founder Nikita Shamgunov cut his teeth at Microsoft on its SQL Server team, and met co-founder Eric Freinkel while both worked at Facebook a few years ago. There is quite a bit of database talent to be found in the Seattle area, said Rick Negrin, director of product management at the company and fellow ex-Microsoft engineer.

Silicon Valley companies noticed this long ago, with Google, Facebook, and several other California-grown companies opening offices and engineering centers in Seattle.

Mount Rainier in the distance, viewed from MemSQL's new Seattle office.
Mount Rainier in the distance, viewed from MemSQL’s new Seattle office. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit.)

“If you’re a systems person, and you’re up here, and you don’t want to work at a mega company, there’s really not much outside of Microsoft and Google,” Negrin said. “That’s one of the key reasons why we established a presence here.”

MemSQL sells an in-memory database product, which means it can store data on cheap servers with lots of RAM, making it ideal for companies that need real-time performance from their databases. Customers include Uber, Kellogg’s, and Pinterest, and a total of about 120 people work for the company across its other offices.

“Starting a systems company or a database company is a risky proposition,” said Gary Orenstein, director of marketing for the company. But the concentration of database talent in Seattle combined with the excellent computer science program at the University of Washington (exemplified by GeekWire’s Geek of the Year, Ed Lazowaska) gives the young company a chance to grow without participating in the insane market for engineering talent in the Bay Area.

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