Looker Raises Another $30M For Its New Approach To Business Intelligence

Looker, a business intelligence startup co-founded by early lead engineer from Netscape and LiveOps Lloyd Tabb, has raised another $30 million in Series B funding, money that co-founder and CEO Frank Bien says will be used to invest in growing the company’s technology organically — not by acquisition.

“We’re a tech company and will continue to lead with technology,” he said. “We’re improving the product across the board, including building on our ability to embed Looker in other web applications, generally improve our business-user experience, and increase the power of working ‘in database’ across the data infrastructure landscape. We do not have any acquisitions planned at this time.”

It is hiring, however: the company currently has 110 employees and projects 200 by the end of this year.

The news comes after a year in which the company’s revenues grew 400%. 250 customers now use Looker to parse their data troves to make business decisions, including biggies like Yahoo!, Warby Parker, Asana, Instacart, Docker, Venmo, Upworthy and Gilt.

The round was led by new investor Meritech Capital Partners, which has backed of other notable SaaS businesses like Tableau (which Looker competes with), Cloudera and Greenplum. Sapphire Ventures — formerly known as the strategic investment arm of SAP — and existing investors Redpoint Ventures, First Round Capital, PivotNorth also participated. This brings the total raised by Looker to nearly $48 million (following a $2 million seed round and a $16 million Series A). As part of this round Meritech MD Rob Ward is joining the board.

Looker is not disclosing its valuation in this round.

One of Looker’s unique selling points has been that it has created a new language for database queries, an easier-to-use approach to SQL called LookML.

In an interview, Frank Bien, Looker’s CEO, said that introducing a new language has not been a hurdle. “LookML is based on SQL, so data people are fluent in LookML almost immediately,” he said. “The key for the analyst is the reusability and modularity of LookML.” He claims that “it’s the difference between writing 50 lines of LookML and 1,000 lines of SQL.”

In addition to newer platforms like Tableau and Qlik, Looker competes with the traditional BI vendors such as IBM/Cognos and Microstrategy and this is an area where LookML has helped it stand out.

“Legacy tools have become outdated and were built for a different generation of databases in which data needed to be ETL’d into highly manicured silos before being exposed to the end user for exploration,” he said. “With the evolution of powerful databases and the transition to web-based over client-server, there is an opportunity to support the exploration of complex data in a modern and completely new way.”

Tableau is a competitor but also potentially a funnel for more Looker use, since data visualization will often raise more questions that Looker can help answer.

“There is a clear need for business to expect more from BI, and for business users and business analysts to facilitate a cycle of innovation, and vendors like Looker can fill in that more,” he said.

This is also what interested Ward at Meritech. “Meritech is excited about Looker because we see the next evolution in the data analytics space will be in data transparency and the democratization of data across an organization,” he said in a statement to TechCrunch.

That has helped the company win business, but also, at a time when many new services see quick uptake but then fast attrition of usage, continued engagement.

“One of the keys to success for Looker has been its forward-deploy model, through which the company has a 70 percent trial to win rate, as compared to an 11 percent average for SaaS companies,” Bien said. He claims that Looker customers experience as much as 80-90 percent user adoption across an employee base, compared to traditional BI deployments.

The platform, which is sold as either an on-premise or hosted offering — is based either on monthly recurring license fees on annual or multi-annual commitments.