Changing of the Guard at Dgraph Labs

Aug 31, 2020 – I wrote this email to the board. Accounting for some sensitive information, this is a fairly close copy of the email that went out.

Hi all,

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided that it is time that we bring in a CEO for Dgraph Labs.

December 4th, 2015 was when I launched Dgraph v0.1. Soon, I’ll mark the 5th anniversary of leading Dgraph, which seems like a nice milestone for change. Once we have a CEO, I’ll assume the title of CTO (or maybe CPO, or Chief Community Officer, or just that guy. I’m not sure yet). Overall, I’d like to focus on engineering, product, and community.

I have placed Dgraph’s bets for the market. The intersection of Graph and GraphQL DB is a unique offering and allows us to sell to both of these growing markets. I think a new CEO can hopefully take this direction and run with it, while I ensure that Dgraph as a product stays top-notch.

I’m very confident in my abilities to bring in a solid VP team and lead the GTM motion. But, I’ve also realized that Dgraph is an intrinsically technical product. While I can find other S&M folks, finding a true engineering replacement for me has been, and will continue to be a real challenge.

I can be a good CEO. I just can not be a good CEO, a good CTO, and the top engineer on the team for a highly technical product, all at the same time. If I could have found a true engineering replacement for me, I’d have stayed on as the CEO.

In most other companies, multiple co-founders divide up the engineering and business side of things. In Dgraph, I’m a solo founder. That also makes such a hire really important. I need a true partner to me, who can help me build this company into a unicorn.

The need for a partner has been clear for a long time. Two main reasons why I’m making this decision now. One, my son was just born, and my elder daughter needs more of her father – particularly in the middle of a pandemic. So, I could use a bit more family time.

And two, we lost a couple of deals last quarter due to engineering challenges I can help solve in weeks but would take my team months on their own. Some of these problems wouldn’t get solved without my help. And yet, if I spend time on engineering, I feel guilty that I haven’t pushed the business side of things; and vice-versa. It’s an unwinnable battle.

With that clear understanding, I think it would be best for Dgraph to bring in a CEO who can lead this company for me, while I focus on tackling the hard engineering problems that make Dgraph an exceptional product. Having a top-notch product is the fuel that the team needs to be able to win in market.

Today, we have two big-name valley companies agreeing to buy Dgraph licenses for multiple internal projects. I’d like to ensure that they succeed with Dgraph.

This email probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but a moment of clarity for me around what Dgraph needs, and how I can push it further. So, let’s go find a CEO to run this company for us.

— Cheers, Manish


Since sending this email end last August, I was able to find and close someone who I have known since mid-2019. I believe he’s a solid partner to run the company with and is the right leader for Dgraph.

I’ll take over the CTO and Chairman of the Board role starting today. By the end of this month, we plan to introduce the new CEO of Dgraph Labs. I’m confident that the company is in great hands with the new CEO and excited about this future.

— Cheers, Manish