Starburst’s First CFO: David Freeman

By: Chitra Rakesh
July 22, 2022
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June will go down as a momentous month in the history of Starburst. We acquired Varada, a data analytics accelerator, and we announced David Freeman as the company’s first ever CFO. David brings over two decades of leadership experience in finance, strategy, and operations from companies like Intel, NetSuite, Nutanix, Palo Alto Networks, and ThoughtSpot.

“David joined a little over 12 months ago as our VP of Finance and Operations and has done a remarkable job,” says our Co-Founder & CEO, Justin Borgman. “He has taken a lot of operational responsibilities off of my plate and completely earned my trust to act in the best interests of Starburst’s long-term health. I am very pleased to delegate more authority to him over financial matters.”

I had the honor of sitting down with David to talk through his journey, the massive momentum, and what the future holds.

A transcript of our conversation is captured below. Traction, growth, and diversity emerged as the key highlights.

Chitra: We got a new CFO in the house. Welcome, David Freeman. It’s my pleasure and my honor to host you and to celebrate you in this segment of Starburst TV. Thank you for joining.  

David: Great! Thank you, Chitra. I’m excited to be here, excited to be at Starburst, and excited to be on this journey.

Chitra: We met last year when you joined as the VP of Finance and Business Operations and wow what an incredible year it has been! What a year of growth. Can you talk us through some of that growth?

David: Great, absolutely! It has been an amazing year. I’ve been here a year and when you start at a new job, you have expectations [of the company and team] and I just have to say that this first year has exceeded all those expectations. We’ve tripled our revenue. We’ve doubled our headcount to over 400 employees now. All that great growth has led to us being able to raise our Series D in the past year: We raised $250M at valuation of over $3B… just a testament to the market opportunity we are going after. That money will be critical for us in the next few years as we are looking to develop our technology and grow the company.

I think the other amazing thing that happened in the last year is that we launched Galaxy, which is our SaaS product. That is going to be an amazing thing for us to grow into new markets, allow our customers to deploy faster, and give greater access to our product to more people in an easy to use, managed environment.

Chitra: Wow, those are some pretty amazing metrics, David. How does it feel to be Starburst’s first ever CFO?

David: It’s really exciting! A CFO means a lot of different things at different companies. A lot of times at big public companies, being a CFO is all about budget controls and risk mitigation. But the exciting thing about being a CFO at this stage is being able to be very integrated into the growth and strategy of the company and being a very large part about building something special. That is what is really exciting to me about being a CFO at this stage.

Chitra: I hear that you have been approached by several companies for a CFO role in the past, but you were never quite ready. What was different this time?

David: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think when I look back on my career, I spent the first 12 years of my career in finance, and I just didn’t feel like I was getting a broad enough knowledge of business, in purely finance roles. So I went and spent the last 10 years in Sales and Operations roles. I think that has really allowed me to gain more empathy for customers and sellers. I learned a lot more about marketing and the go-to-market process. I feel [all of those experiences] have positioned me, finally at this point in my career, to be a well rounded CFO: Someone who can be strategic, business minded, but still have the core finance knowledge necessary to do the job.

I think the other thing about this point in time is the special team that we have here. From the moment I met Justin to the rest of the executive team and all the employees here, it felt like the right culture and the right people for me to be a CFO for the first time. Everybody was very welcoming but they were also very committed. They work hard. They’re strong believers in doing the right, high integrity thing. And it just felt like I was at the right place in my career.

Chitra: Starburst is just so fortunate to have someone of your caliber and expertise. Talk to us about wins. What has been your most exciting win here at Starburst?

David: Yes, I think to me, the most exciting thing has been really the opportunity to build out the team and watch [their] contributions. When I started my organization, it was five people. Now, it’s approximately 20 people. The ability to grow that team, look at the impact they’ve had, and be able to build a diverse team has been huge. Building diverse teams is something that has been very important to me and has been a big focus in the last year. Looking at the diversity that I have been able to build and the increased diversity across the company makes me very proud.

Chitra: Very cool. Starburst is great at growing leaders from within and you’re a shining example. What tips and tricks do you have for folks out there who are aspiring to become leaders here at Starburst?

David: I think when it comes down to it, if you follow the company values — be authentic, work hard, be a workhorse as we say, be humble — you will have success. Be honest, be open, tell people your opinion. Don’t be timid. You don’t need to be arrogant, be respectful and be humble, but have an opinion. Drive towards what you believe in and you will have great success here.

Chitra: That’s great, David. One final question, you’ve been a part of four successful IPOs. Is that on the cards for Starburst?

David: Well, it’s actually not something I think about that much. If we do all the right things, if we grow the company, that is something that is on the path and will likely happen. But to me, it’s just a point on the journey, not the destination of the journey. So, yes, I do believe it’s on the cards, but it’s more about building the right kind of company, and that will be one of the exciting moments in the journey.

Chitra: Point on the journey, not the destination. Very well said, David. Thank you so much for taking the time and doing this. 

David: Great. Thank you, Chitra!

Chitra Rakesh

Director of Content Marketing, Starburst

Chitra is a marketing leader and a former journalist. She has more than 12 years of experience in technology startups with a strong focus on content and communications. She currently works as the Director of Content Marketing at Starburst.

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