Mobile Analytics Company Keen Announces Seed Round

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Keen, a mobile analytics startup, announced a $750,000 series A seed round from 500 Startups, Data Collective, SK Ventures, Cloud Power Fund and several big name individual investors, including Dropbox investor Pejman Nozad, early PayPal employee Jared Kopf and TechStars. You can find a full list of investors on AngelList. CEO Kyle Wild, a former Google Analytics employee, says that the company deliberately raised raised less than it could have.

Keen falls into a growing category of software that Gary Orenstein called “infrastructure apps” in a post for GigaOM. Not to be confused with infrastructure-as-a-service, infrastructure apps are cloud services that provide non-differentiating and easily standardized components of web applications. SendGrid handles sending large quantities of e-mail, Twilio handles voice and SMS integration, Urban Airship provides push notifications. Each of these things saves developers from having to re-build these components from scratch, and saves operations teams from having to manage and scale the infrastructure needed to support them.

Keen hopes to do for analytics what SendGrid has done for e-mail.

“The problem with analytics is that you’re constantly studying what someone else thinks you want to study,” explains Wild. For example, Google Analytics has a set of metrics that it tracks and a set of dashboards based on those metrics. You can do some customization of the reports, but you can’t teach it to gather a metric that it doesn’t monitor. So developers who need custom analytics end up having to build it all by hand. “But just collecting data is the easy part. Analysis, scaling, visualization – those are the hard parts.”

So Keen inverts the Google Analytics model. You define the events you want to track – a particular behavior or keystroke or whatever else you’d like to monitor – and send it to the Keen API. Keen processes that data and makes it useful. You just add snippets of code to your application – a one line API call for each event that you want to track. Keen collects the data and provides you with a customizable dashboard. Wild makes it clear that Keen doesn’t do any “snooping” itself – it just collects whatever app developers send back to the API.

Wild explains that at his last company, a Facebook game startup that’s still in stealth, he built a analytics tool that could track all sorts of events and metrics. The basic idea was to make it as easy for the CEO to use as possible so that Wild wouldn’t have to spend any time supporting it. Then he realized that this framework could be reused by many others. Keen has built a whole new version of what Wild built for the other company that’s significantly more flexible.

Wild took the idea of starting an analytics-as-a-service company to two friends he’d known since high school: Dan Kador and Ryan Spraetz, both of whom were working at Salesforce.com. “We’d talked about starting a company since college, but they knew I was serious this time,” Wild says. As detailed in a post on the company’s blog they applied to both the YCombinator and TechStars incubator programs. The team ended up being accepted at TechStars and quit their day jobs, moved to Austin and the rest, as they say, is history.

As for the future Wild is ambitious. Mobile phones are just the beginning. “I want every vending machine, every car sending data to us.”