RethinkDB failure


Scalable database for the real-time web


RethinkDB was an open-source database, the first of its kind that makes use of a distributed and scalable NoSQL database. RethinkDB was built from its inception for real-time web applications. It provided solutions to make processes faster and more reliable such as using live push updates instead of the traditional and slower polling for data in queries.


Software and Hardware
United States
In 2009
By 2016
Number of Founders
Name of Founders
Michael Glukhovsky, Slava Akhmechet
Number of Employees
Between 11 And 50
Number of Funding Rounds
Total Funding Amount
Number of Investors
Precise Cause of Failure
Bad Market Fit
Business Outcome

Cause of Failure

RethinkDB founder highlighted in a postmortem some of the reasons for which he believed his company failed to thrive despite that fact that they had a good product.

Choosing the ‘wrong market’ was mentioned as one of their major mistakes. Since the beginning they were taken by their clients as being an open-source tool and pretty much no one wanted to pay for it. If a substantial price barrier would have been put, users would have probably searched for another tool in the ocean of free and open source tools that other developers make available. Another major blunder was that despite they focused on seemingly important metrics, these weren’t the metrics users and clients were primarily interested in. Their ‘metrics of goodness’ according to the startup were releasing a flawless product (and yet their successful competitors at MongoDB became very popular even though they had an initial buggy product), design a simple interface, and database consistency. On the other hand, customers wanted the products to be available as soon as possible (they had to wait almost 3 years for RethinkDB), speedy performance, and a good and tried way to store JSON documents and create reports.

Fortunately, enough, RethinkDB technology won’t fall into oblivion as it has been acquired a couple of months after its 2016 shutdown by the Linux Foundation (CNFC).

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