Confluent delivers strong growth and has big plans for Flink - but workforce cut by 8%
Confluent beat the high end of its guidance in Q4 and the number of large deals with buyers are increasing. However, the vendor also announced layoffs in the face of tough macro conditions.
Confluent - the company that provides a commercial offering of Apache Kafka and is spearheading the concept of ‘data in motion’ - has delivered a strong set of Q4 and FY2022 numbers, beating the high end of its guidance. However, the tougher macroeconomic environment forced a restructuring, with Confluent announcing an 8% workforce reduction.
CEO Jay Kreps told analysts that the efficiency savings allow Confluent to hit its operating margin targets, whilst the company is also looking to rationalize on discretionary spending and reduce its real estate footprint.
Significantly, Confluent also highlighted how the number of customers spending $100,000 or more in ARR has also increased by a large margin.
Kreps also took the opportunity this week to highlight the importance of the company’s recent acquisition of Immerok, which has developed a cloud-native, fully managed Apache Fink service, as Confluent aims to monetize the application development of data streams in addition to the data streams themselves.
Commenting on the results this week, Kreps said:
Exiting 2023, less than one year from now, we will be a market leader in a deeply strategic space, operating a profitable business and driving sustained high growth in a very large market. This market leadership is driven by our platform differentiation and the significant TCO advantages we deliver to our customers.
The key figures announced include:
Fourth quarter revenue of $169 million, up 41% year over year; fiscal year 2022 revenue of $586 million, up 51% year over year
Fourth quarter Confluent Cloud revenue of $68 million, up 102% year over year; fiscal year 2022 Confluent Cloud revenue of $211 million, up 124% year over year
Remaining performance obligations of $741 million, up 48% year over year
991 customers with $100,000 or greater in ARR, up 35% year over year
133 customers paying more than $1 million in ARR, up 51% year over year
Confluent Cloud revenue grew 102% to $68 million
Despite the solid earnings, Kreps didn’t shy away from highlighting the tough macroeconomic conditions facing the vendor, describing what he sees as customers instituting “additional budget inspection in pockets”. This is leading to elongated deal cycles and some expansions taking longer than in the past. He said:
While the vast majority of the deals are still in our deal path, this does indicate that increased scrutiny continues to exert pressure on large deals and new business. We think that this combination of higher interest rates and economic uncertainty puts pressure on the purchasing environment.
The result is a substantially different environment for tech than what we were operating a year ago. We are setting our plans for 2023 in light of this and making some changes in how we operate. We have taken steps to adjust our cost structure to accelerate our time to profitability by one year, while still maintaining approximately 30% revenue growth.
This environment has in turn led to Confluent’s restructuring. Kreps explained:
We've undertaken a restructuring of our workforce, optimizing for top strategic priorities and high ROI business areas. This includes a reduction of our workforce by approximately 8%. We're also taking steps to rationalize our discretionary spend and real estate footprint.
We don't take the decision to restructure our workforce slightly. We're saying goodbye to many friends and colleagues across the company. We thank them for their important contributions to Confluent, and are making sure that the departing team members are taken care of.
While the restructuring will help streamline sales and marketing spend, we're preserving quota-carrying capacity and continuing to prudently invest in our go-to-market to drive new business and durable growth in the years ahead.
Numbers aside, Kreps also took the opportunity during this week’s analyst call to provide some more detail on Confluent’s recent acquisition of Immerok - which it appears will form a central part of the vendor’s strategy in the coming years. The deal was announced in early January and, according to Kreps, will see Immerok’s Apache Flink allow Confluent to move up the stack into application development.
Commenting on the acquisition, Kreps said:
This is a very exciting step for Confluent and I want to explain a little bit about our strategy in this area. We've watched the excitement around Flink grow for years. and saw it gaining adoption among many of the most sophisticated technology companies in the world, including Citi, Goldman Sachs, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Netflix, Uber and Apple. This popularity has been driven by a rich feature set, including a powerful processing model that generalizes both batch and stream processing. It is battle tested at scale on some of the largest real-time processing workloads on the planet.
And perhaps most importantly, it has an incredibly smart innovative community driving it forward. In short, we believe that Flink is the future of stream processing and by adding it to Confluent Cloud, we can significantly advance our data stream platform and help our customers get more value from their data streams.
Kreps said that Confluent plans to launch the first version of its Flink offering in Confluent Cloud later this year, building a service that is truly cloud native and is fully integrated across all the major cloud providers. The focus being on application development for data streams. Kreps added:
We think this combination of an open popular interface offered with a deeply differentiated cloud-native core is the key to success for cloud data systems. We think that over time, this offering can be a substantial driver of growth in our business, comparable in size to Kafka itself.
Adding this new offering will allow us to better monetize the compute and application development around data streams in addition to the core stream data, expanding spend of existing customers. Further, by making streaming easier, we pull more workloads into our streaming platform. In addition, the processing of streams generates more streams, helping to accelerate the growth of our Kafka, connector and data governance products.
In this way, stream processing accelerates consumption in a multiplicative fashion, which we think will be a very positive tailwind for growth as these capabilities come to maturity.
Alongside many other major B2B technology companies, Confluent has had to make some difficult workforce decisions now that it’s faced with a tougher buyer environment in 2023. That being said, it looks like Confluent is set for an interesting year in terms of its product roadmap and fleshing out its offering. Recognizing that it has an opportunity to not only own the system that governs data streaming in the cloud, but also the application play on top of it, could prove very a very interesting sell - particularly with regards to the conversations it has with buyers around use case opportunities. I look forward to seeing how those customer stories evolve, particularly in terms of what data streaming applications look like in the enterprise.