Summary:

If you don’t think venture capitalists and other investors love all things big data, think again. In the past three days alone, companies claiming some connection to big data — either analyzing and/or storing large volumes of data — have announced at least $56 million in new funding.

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If you don’t think venture capitalists and other investors love all things big data, think again. In the past three days alone, companies claiming some connection to big data — either analyzing and/or storing large volumes of data — have announced at least $56 million in new funding. On Tuesday, it was online advertising specialist DataPop with $7 million and big-data storage engine Terascala with $14 million; Wednesday brought $20 million more for analytic database ParAccel; and on Thursday morning, Metamarkets announced a $15 million round led by Khosla Ventures.

For the San Francisco-based Metamarkets (see disclosure), the Series B round brings its total to $23.5 million, and represents some serious confidence in the company’s cloud-based analytics platform. Investors should be confident: the company has a handful of customers, but they’re rather large, and it has already spurned acquisition offers from some household names in the IT world, including Twitter.

ParAccel is in another league altogether, having now raised nearly $100 million over the past several years, and having just completed a first quarter that saw 500 percent year-over-year revenue growth. It’s one of the best-known independent analytic database providers around after Greenplum, Netezza and Vertica all got snatched up by large vendors in the past few years. Last summer, Amazon came on board as a strategic investor, a move rife with possibility considering persistent rumors of an Amazon Web Services analytic offering.

However, big data isn’t constrained to companies building the technology. Often times, as with DataPop, it’s the consumers of big data technologies that are the most interesting. At just under $9 million, it’s hardly the highest-backed user of big data, even in the marketing space, but the story is the same across the board. In theory, big data means more-accurate and dynamic ad targeting, which means more money for everyone.

Terascala plays in an entirely different field — the high-performance computing field — where the speed of big data systems becomes critical. Terascala and companies of its ilk don’t analyzing anything, rather they feed enormous scientific (and other) data sets to high-performance processors without creating a bottleneck. That means their research, government, media and financial services users can do existing analyses much faster, and can even do entirely new types of analysis that used to be slowed by a lack of performance and a lack of analytic tools (e.g., Hadoop).

When buzzwords reach a certain level of ubiquity, they start to mean both everything and nothing, which is arguably the case for big data right now. But I don’t see it as too big a problem. I see it as a new understanding of the power of data, which — harnessed correctly — is immense. For investors, it’s not a question of whether to put money behind big data, but of figuring out which of the dozens pitching themselves as big data companies are actually doing it right.

Image courtesy of Flickr user kaibara87.

Disclosure: Metamarkets is a portfolio company of True Ventures, which is also an investor in GigaOM. Om Malik is also a venture partner at True.

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