Birst, a San Francisco-based startup that offers on-demand business intelligence and analytics solutions for companies big and small, has raised $26 million in series D financing, led by Sequoia Capital. Existing investors, including Hummer Winblad and DAG Ventures, also participated in the round, bringing Birst’s total funding to $46 million.
Founded in 2004 by a team of Siebel Systems veterans, Birst has developed a set of products that aim to make analytics and reporting quicker to deploy, easier to use, and affordable for organizations of all sizes, from individuals to enterprise.
How does it do this? Well, Birst is a business intelligence appliance, but it’s not hardware. It’s available as SaaS, and on-premise. Is it magic? No. Birst has been a player in the BI cloud space since it first launched its SaaS product in 2009, and CEO Brad Peters says that the most valuable chunks of this “big data” that we like to drone on and on about are actually being produced by applications that businesses run behind the firewall.
So, the key for Birst, then, is offering a solution runs just like any other lightweight SaaS tool, in that you can access it through the browser without stressing about upgrades or adding features, but it works on-premise, behind the firewall, so that businesses can take their business apps, be they Salesforce, Omniture, or the like, and funnel them all into a dashboard.
Birst builds on the mission of all BI solutions, that is to offer better ways to aggregate and present data so that they help companies make smarter, quicker, and more informed decisions. BI solutions help companies manage and make sense of their CRM, or make it easier to compare marketing spend to conversions. A company, for example, would be able to tell that the amount of leads and conversions its seeing from a new marketing campaign don’t justify the spend, relative to its marketing budget. Something needs to change.
Of course, there are all manners of smart data visualization tools companies can use to present their core business metrics, and you may have heard of behemoths like SAP, IBM, and Oracle, all of which offer serious, 16-cylinder analytics and reporting technology. The problem, the Birst CEO says, is that the enterprise players designed their solutions for a previous generation of IT, and most of them require cobbling together a workable system from a bunch of disparate parts.
The barrier for entry in implementing enterprise-grade BI is fairly high, so Birst set out to build this “virtual appliance” for analytics and reporting that make implementation considerably easier — and more affordable. And that’s really the kicker. Oracle’s Exalytics and SAP’s HANA, for example, employ great tech, but unless you’re a multinational, the costs and maintenance can be prohibitive. Unless you want to hire an enormous IT team, after all, they would appreciate it.
That being said, Birst is working with plenty of big players, including Citrix, Rackspace, and in the last year, it’s added Aruba Networks, en World Japan, Five9, Grupo Tress, Host Analytics, Motorola, oDesk, Saba, SunCap Financial, and more. But the key is that Birst is usable by both enterprise and smaller businesses, so where there are a bunch of companies offering great starter solutions for basic analytics, but try to get more sophisticated, and you won’t find much depth or scalability.
Combining advanced visualization with big data capabilities in a way that’s amenable to the cloud or use behind the firewall — hasn’t been done well yet. Birst wants to be the first. While rhyming, naturally.
Of course, you don’t have to dig deep in market analysis to come to the conclusion that there are more than a handful of companies playing in the greater BI/reporting/analytics space. There’s GoodData, PivotLink, QlikTech, Tableau, SAP, Oracle, IBM, Business Objects, and Microstrategy — to name a few — with QlikTech probably being Birst’s closest competitor.
Peters says that, having been in the space for more than a decade, and seen many venture-backed BI and analytics companies hit the deadpool, it’s not worth underestimating the competition. The stakes are high, as B2B servies are hot right now, and any service that offers companies great and small the ability to analyze their core business metrics, make them more actionable, operations more efficient — and boost that bottom line — will be speaking to a big audience.
Unfortunately, for the reasons above, Birst is keeping funding details, user stats, and revenue close to its vest. However, Peters did say that the company doubled its revenues and increased its customer base by more than 40 percent in the last year. In terms of the number of organizations using it technology, Peters says the number is in the “thousands,” which means that they are “well north” of 100K individuals. It also just built a new data facility to accomodate scale.
It isn’t clear at what valuation Birst raised its new $26 million round, but Peters did say that we can be sure it wasn’t a $50 million valuation that resulted in its series D. (To state the obvious, it was higher.)
For more on Birst, check ’em out at home here.