There’s so much buzz and activity going on in and around Hadoop these days, that it’s become a running joke with our Enterprise IT team and the entrepreneurs in the space … “I have Hadoop, but what’s it doing? Hadooping?” There’s truth behind any joke, and in this case, clearly Hadoop has taken off and is making a huge difference in the way companies store and analyze data. But then what? How to you access and make that data usable? Fortunately, we’re working with two new companies and incredible teams that are leading the way here.
The last 24 hours have been very exciting for Battery’s Big Data portfolio. Yesterday we announced that we led Platfora’s Series B financing and this morning news is out that we co-led the Series A for Continuuity (after investing in their seed round earlier this year). Both companies are led by exceptional founding teams in an enormous market, but there’s something else going on here. Both companies are fundamental bets on a trend that we’re a huge believer in — making Big Data accessible to mere mortals.
For much of the last two years, we’ve focused on investing in and around Big Data. Our thesis has been pretty simple — Big Data (starting with Hadoop) disrupts a market that’s $50B and growing. Whenever there’s a fundamental disruption at the base layer of a stack (in this case Hadoop replacing traditional relational data models — the RDBMS) it creates opportunities throughout the stack for new entrants. Traditional players have a hard time balancing their existing business with the new emerging businesses. To us, this is a classic case of Innovator’s Dilemma.
In the course of our work at Battery, we spoke to countless end users. In the process of doing that, one thing became crystal clear: While Big Data offered a tremendous opportunity for new businesses, there was also a major challenge — how to take advantage of the power that Big Data provided without being a Big Data expert. In many of the companies that we saw who were early adopters of Hadoop, the ones who were successful all had seasoned Data Scientists and PhDs who knew Big Data backwards and forwards. These are hard people to hire — there aren’t a lot of them and they’re in very high demand. Furthermore, in many businesses, even those that had these Data Rockstars (as we began to call them internally), the people who knew the advanced techniques weren’t always tied into a specific portion of a business. The key was finding companies that abstracted the massive complexity in Big Data so that smart business users or programmers could take advantage of all of the power of Big Data without understanding the complexity that sits behind it. That concept is quite simple, but the implementation is extremely difficult. Making something hard appear familiar and easy requires an exceptional understanding of the technology. Yet, this is precisely what Continuuity and Platfora are doing.
Continuuity is focused on developers. Their core idea is that there are a number of developers out there who want to be able to write Big Data applications, but who have trouble writing the applications to take advantage of Hadoop, and also have issues scaling their apps. This concept made perfect sense to us. Weblogic pioneered this for Java over a decade ago (in fact, two of the founders of WebLogic are seed investors/advisors to the Company), but that was for relational data stores. Didn’t a WebLogic for scale-out Big Data infrastructure need to exist? Continuuity does more than this, but at their core they’re enabling developers to take advantage of Big Data without needing to understand the underlying details of Hadoop.
Platfora, on the other hand, is focused on business users. BI has proven to be a huge category with a number of big winners over the years from Business Objects and Cognos, to more recent companies such as Qliktech and Tableau. The problem with all of these companies is that they were built to sit on top of SQL, not Hadoop. The result of this is that they require complicated, manual translation layers and expensive data warehouses to sit between themselves and Hadoop. For the past two years we’ve been looking for a BI company that allows business users to directly harness the schema-less nature of Hadoop. In Platfora, we’ve found that company. Empowering business users to visually explore data natively in Hadoop without any complicated transformations, to us, is game-changing.
It’s still very early in the evolution of the Big Data market. To use a sports analogy, we’re probably still in the first inning. However, Continuuity and Platfora’s ability to harness the power of the Big Data engine without their customers needing to understand the gory details creates a massive opportunity for both companies.
We think we’re very lucky to have the good fortune to work with such great teams. Want to talk Big Data? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.