More Rain For Cloud Business Intelligence As Birst Raises $65M

Birst, a cloud-based business intelligence (BI) platform, has raised another $65 million in funding — a Series F round that CEO Jay Larson said will be “the last one” before it gears up for an IPO.

“We think it will not be this year, we’re not giving specific direction,” he said. “But the combination of the size of the BI market and us, we think we have the makings of a great company.”

The round — led by Wellington Management Company LLP with participation also from existing investors Sequoia Capital, Hummer Winblad, DAG Ventures and Northgate Capital — brings the total raised by Birst to $156 million. It speaks to a lot of the activity and optimism for the future of new companies tackling the legacy BI space.

The announcement comes less than a week after Looker, another cloud-based BI platform, raised $30 million to build out its business. Larson said that at the moment Birst is growing its revenues at a rate of between 80% and 100% annually, with a lot of that down to new and larger customers getting added to the client list, rather than the existing base simply buying more services. It is not yet profitable — “young SaaS businesses rarely are,” he reminded me — but he said that they are inching to it.

The problem that a company Birst is tackling is the fact that businesses are collecting a mass of information electronically that, looked at intelligently, could help them make better strategic decisions. While there have been companies like IBM and others offering business intelligence solutions for some time now, the problem is that many legacy offerings are on-premise and are not able to cope with newer forms of data, let alone use newer algorithms to extract information, or the fact that these days it may be as likely that a person on the business side wants direct access to this information, bypassing heavy lifting from a data analytics team.

“The legacy products are running out of gas and are dying,” Brad Peters, a co-founder of Birst that is now the company’s chairman (he had been CEO), said. “The desktop products for discovery and visualization don’t scale.”

Tellingly, Birst also knows that cloud services are not going to win the day for everyone that soon: it offers solutions that let businesses source data both online and offline, and users can run Birst’s software either in the public or private cloud — the latter being the most common way that it is used when the customer in question is a government organization, Larson said.

Companies that use Birst include Citrix and Reckitt Benckiser, the huge consumer packaged goods company behind brands like Lysol and Clearasil.

Citrix as a customer is interesting in itself, considering the wider business trajectory for Birst and the fact that a lot of its competition comes in the form of companies like Oracle and IBM offering one-stop-shops to enterprises for BI and many other OSS/BSS functions.

Larson is not commenting on the valuation of the company right now, except to note that “it is a big upround for us, we can say that much.”