Series A Whopper: Benchmark Invests $33M in New BI Company Domo

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A new software as a service company Domo is formally launching tonight at a party in Salt Lake City. I have no idea how opulent or bare-bones this party will be, but theoretically the company would have plenty to spend on drinks, T-shirts and canapes. It just raised a massive $33 million series A from Benchmark Capital. Actually, counting the angel investments that were closed earlier but rolled into the same round, the company has raised $43 million.

But before you cry “COLOR!” it’s worth noting Domo has a few unique things going for it. It is founded by Josh James, the founder and 10-year CEO of Omniture, one of the very few SaaS companies out of thousands funded in the late 1990s/early 2000s that actually managed to build a $1 billion-plus company. (He’s to the left enjoying his Nasdaq moment.)

He’s not a household name, because he’s not in the consumer space. But Benchmark partner Matt Cohler — who’s worked with some of the best entrepreneurs as an early executive at Facebook and LinkedIn– was salivating at the thought of backing the next Josh James company. In fact, after Omniture went public and subsequently sold to Adobe for $1.8 billion, Cohler told James, “I know you are not finished and you are going to do this again. When you do please give me a call.” When James called, Cohler dropped everything and flew to Utah. “I don’t say this about many people, but he is one of the best entrepreneurs in the world,” Cohler said.

Bromances aside, Domo is also building a product for a very defined, large market space: Business intelligence is a $10 billion industry today and expected to become a $14 billion industry by 2014, according to Gartner. And although companies spend loads of money on the basic problem of trying to figure out what is going on with their business at a glance, nearly everyone is unhappy with current market solutions. In other words, it’s a classic enterprise software market opportunity.

There’s a good and a bad to that. The good is people are hungry for something that works. The bad is that after decades of promises– everything from Tom Siebel saying his software could “see around corners” just before his own business tanked to the early SaaS obsession with dashboards– companies just don’t believe vendor promises anymore.

In truth, this is one of those hard problems that there’s probably no single, silver-bullet solution to. Certainly the early waves of enterprise and SaaS systems have made things better, even if they aren’t great. But Cohler points out that the problem itself and the expectations for what software should be able to do also keep changing dramatically.

I’m about as sick of people saying “consumerization of enterprise” as I am of “gamification,” but in truth, people are considerably more Web savvy today and they have higher expectations of how any software they interact with should function. “If you add it up Facebook and Twitter’s active users are almost $1 billion people,” Cohler says. “150 million people use Amazon in the US alone.” Humanity en masse is just more tech savvy. On top of that SaaS has continued to gain acceptance within large companies, and of course data is just exploding at a rate that makes the business intelligence problem exponentially bigger and the pain exponentially worse. Even if past solutions worked back then, they’re increasingly getting obsolete.

Domo isn’t talking much about its product yet aside from these broad brushstrokes, but the company is pretty far along. Part of this series A went to purchasing a company called Corda that has helped accelerate some of the back-end development, and there are already several customers in beta.

Benchmark is the only VC firm that invested, although some other VCs invested as individual angels, including powerhouse enterprise software guru Ben Horowitz. (I asked Cohler if Benchmark muscled Andreessen Horowitz out of the deal and got a “no comment.”)