Plotting a BI coup, Hadoop startup Platfora raises $20M

Ben Werther

Platfora, the white-hot San Mateo, Calif., startup that has built a next-generation business intelligence engine on top of Hadoop, has raised a $20 million Series B round from Battery Ventures along with Andreessen Horowitz and Sutter Hill Ventures. The new investment brings Platfora’s total funding to $25.7 million just over a year after exiting stealth mode.

Platfora finally took the wraps off its product in October. The product combines Hadoop scale, in-memory speed and HTML5 flexibility, resulting in something that shows Hadoop’s promise as a technology that can be accessible by everyday business users and that can do more than perform batch processing. Essentially, says Founder and CEO Ben Werther, it’s a better way to do data warehousing and business intelligence than what legacy technologies can provide.

Platfora’s focus on disrupting the BI incumbents is actually somewhat unique in the Hadoop space, where most well-funded companies provide the core Hadoop software and actually partner with those legacy vendors in order to position themselves as complementary technologies. Even Impala, Cloudera’s new interactive query engine, is still too slow for true interactivity like what Platfora can provide, Werther said, and just “seems like a lifeline” for the incumbent companies who are now “on the wrong side of history.”

A screenshot of Platfora in action.

If Werther sounds overconfident, maybe he is. Or maybe Platfora really has struck a nerve with the IT buyers and data analysts whose devotion the company will require if it’s going to live up to Werther’s plans of becoming a billion-dollar public company. Platfora has several dozen customers queued up that it just hasn’t had time to engage with yet, he said, and he and others have received standing ovations after presenting the technology to potential users.

Investors seem to get it, too — a good thing considering Platfora’s big plans. Werther said this funding round went from earnest discussions to signed term sheets in three weeks and was generally a stress-free experience. That probably has something to do with the consensus the company has seen among venture capitalists, who project Hadoop will take about 20 percent of a $30 billion legacy BI market and are looking for the startups with the vision to win that business.

However, although Platfora’s legacy BI competition might be many things, they’re not underfunded. “We’re going to be going effectively head to head with some very large incumbents,” Werther said. And it takes the kind of money Platfora is raising in order to build a company that scale to compete with the like of Oracle or Teradata in terms of developing its product, spreading its message and supporting its customers. If those companies want a piece of the big data market — and they do — perhaps we shouldn’t be so fast to dismiss their chances of getting it.

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