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Summary:

Tableau’s initial public offering is on Friday, and expectations are high. The company has inspired much of the next-generation analytics space, and how it fares could be telling about just how powerful the data movement is.

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Tableau Software has priced shares for its initial public offering on Friday at $31. The company is offering up 5 million shares, while stockholders are offering 3.2 million shares. Tableau co-founder and CEO Christian Chabot will ring the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange, where the company will list under the symbol “DATA.”

That’s an apt ticker symbol for a company that is in some ways a bellwether for the current fascination with all things data. Tableau isn’t a big data company, per se, but its visualization software breathes life into many big data calculations. Its focus on making software that’s easy to use and that creates visually captivating charts has turned people from numerous professions into amateur data analysts. (I’ve even used it in the past, including for the first time in 2011.)

Christian Chabot

Christian Chabot

As Chabot told me during a conversation in 2011, “In any field of human endeavor … there are a hundred to a thousand more people who understand the data of that field more than they understand reporting and analytics.”

Anytime you read about a hot new visualization or analytics startup promising the moon, you’re also seeing the results of what Tableau has sown in terms of the user experience. Many of those same companies will be quick to tell you how limited Tableau’s capabilities are. It’s memory-bound, it doesn’t have a database, it’s not available in the cloud (or on the Mac operating system), it can’t do predictive analytics. All true.

Of course, if it raises the kind of capital it expects to by going public, it can build and buy a lot of those capabilities. If pricing stays flat all day Friday, Tableau stands to make $155 million from its 5 million shares. Previous estimates had Tableau’s market cap at around $1.7 billion at a price of $29 per share (the company’s S-1 filing is available here).

If investors have really bought into the company and the concept of a data-driven world, then who knows. Machine-data expert Splunk wnet public in 2012, flying the big data banner, and saw shares peak at 91 percent above its original asking price of $17.

I’m not suggesting Tableau is the biggest name in data, or even that it will some day become it. This next-generation analytics field is very young, with startups and larger vendors alike sometimes competing against themselves to win wholly new accounts than trying to displace legacy vendors within large enterprises. And every month, it seems, I come across some new startup that was built with the same principles in mind as Tableau, but with the advantage of having today’s best practices baked into its software.

But Tableau definitely commands a lot of the mindshare. How it fares as a public company could be a strong indicator of just how powerful the data movement is, and how well it capitalizes on a new influx of cash will determine how long it stays on the top of customers’ minds.

This post was updated at 7:01 p.m. to include previous estimates of the company’s market capitalization and a link to its S-1 filing.

  1. this is another pump and dump scheme imo
    they don’t have much revenue, nothing really – just a bunch of pretty charts
    the valuation is much too high for it – imo of course

    wait for the shares to pull back (see fb) to -50% before even thinking abt buying anything
    good luck

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  2. I know nothing about whether or not the valuation is much too high or not (although I can’t wait to see what it does), but Tableau is certainly not a bunch of pretty charts. They are rapidly growing so the bottom line doesn’t look great, but sales are soaring for a reason. Tableau offers a good product and is quick to involve the end user in changes. (Just read about all the new features released in version 8 – most of them came from customer requests generated on the Tableau ideas board). I think Tableau is staying (at least I hope they do), but it will be interesting to see how the company changes once shareholders have more say in the ways things are run.

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  3. Here’s the challenge…data visualization is remarkable when put in the hands of business experts, but there’s a much large problem that standalone software like Tableau doesn’t solve…it can’t bring the data and it doesn’t offer a way to predict what will happen next, meaning users have to integrate with data sources and then try to find that ‘needle in a haystack’ every time. Once the needle is found, a visualization tool by itself won’t help the user to take action on the knowledge they gain. Big data is a platform, not a tool.

    Our thoughts are here: http://successfulworkplace.com/2013/05/17/despite-tableau-ipo-excitement-are-we-headed-for-the-end-of-the-standalone-application/

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  4. Derrick Harris Friday, May 17, 2013

    Chris, that’s a fair point, which is why I think we’ll see Tableau expand post-IPO. Either way, though, it’s one of the poster children for the data movement, if not the big data movement.

    Also, I’m not going to track this all day, but as of 8:03 a.m. PT, DATA is trading at over $48 per share.

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  5. Hey Derrick, nice write up, but maybe it’s been a while since you’ve looked at Tableau?

    “It’s memory-bound” – Not true, Tableau employs a dual connectivity architecture. Can connect live to the database (no memory involved) or use it’s extract engine which can swap between memory and disk

    “it doesn’t have a database” – Also not true. It’s in extract engine is a compressed columnar store database

    “it’s not available in the cloud” – Sort of not true. From what I hear Tableau soft launched its cloud version last month, and has had Tableau Public as an offering for years.

    “or on the Mac operating system” – True

    “it can’t do predictive analytics” – Not true – http://www.tableausoftware.com/new-features/forecasting

    “All true” – Sure about that?

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    1. Derrick Harris Friday, May 17, 2013

      I think it’s a shades of gray argument. Tableau does a lot of things (although not truly cloud yet), but still might not replace other products (e.g., SAS or bigger data stuff) for a lot of users. I expect it to expand its feature set, though.

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