Big Data

With stealthy startup, Utah’s hero Josh James is going bigger than ‘big data’

Above: Josh James started Domo in 2010 to fix some of the fundamental problems with business intelligence software on the market. 

Image Credit: Christina Farr / VentureBeat
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According to Josh James, every single press report about his mysterious new venture Domo is flat out wrong.

The media has speculated that Domo, a $125 million-funded startup with investment from Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff and Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, must be a “big data” or new business intelligence tool.

In an interview in Park City, Utah, about an hour from Domo’s offices, James tells me that the company is dramatically different from anything that’s been done before.

I hit back saying entrepreneurs often make that claim. But with his laid back manner and apparent lack of concern for what other companies are doing, James succeeds in getting me very intrigued. Unlike most enterprise players, who are desperately latching on to the big data trend, James is over it.

“Everyone is watching us [as] we invented big data,” he said flippantly. “Big data is nothing new — I’ve been dealing with over a trillion and a half transactions every quarter since 1996.”


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Go big or go home

Prior to forming Domo in 2010, James took web analytics company Omniture public before selling it to Adobe for a massive $1.8 billion.

The son of a Mormon airline pilot, James spent most of his childhood on the road. For much of his adult life, he has remained in Utah, despite pressure from investors to relocate to the Bay Area. James told a story of how an investor simply walked away without a word mere seconds after James informed him that his offices were in the beehive state.

Indeed, after a few minutes chatting with him, it’s abundantly clear that James is not your typical technology executive.

For his latest venture, James was able to raise huge sums of funding from top Silicon Valley firms, including Benchmark and Greylock. He recruited about half the management team from Omniture — those who remained “hungry” enough for another startup.

Utah has proven to be a great place to build a company, he tells me, as his most talented software engineers aren’t receiving weekly calls from recruiters or competitors. “Twitter is not down the street,” he said.

I ask whether he would consider selling Domo, given that Omniture was acquired. James stresses that he’s in it for the long haul — he intends to run this company until he’s 70.

“Why didn’t I think big like Benioff thinks big?” he asked a roomful of entrepreneurs and investors after our interview, midway through his keynote. “Why not be the next Larry Ellison?”

Fending off the competitive threat

Domo is showing some early signs of success and has already amassed some 300 customers. However, James admits the company isn’t growing as quickly as he’d like it to.

At this stage, James declines to go into much detail about Domo’s revenues or growth, but he provides some hints about the product. “The big problem I had when I was running a public company? I never felt like I had enough data,” he explained.

Domo is designed for marketers, sales teams, and other business employees to leverage data. It’s simple enough to use that an intern wouldn’t struggle to use it, James explains. He said the product will sell directly to these business customers (not CIOs, as “they are everyone else’s target,”) to review data collected from hundreds of disparate sources, including social media sites.

The early version of the product is currently being piloted by brand-name customers and a few technology startups, including RelayRides.

It sounds a lot like a big data play to me. But James claims that Domo does much more than just storing and managing megabytes of information.

He told me that potential rivals are so threatened by Domo that they have called up the offices under a pseudonym and requested a product demo.

Before agreeing to show them the product, James’ team will check IP addresses and verify their credentials online. This may seem a bit paranoid, but James is fearful that competitors will find out what he’s doing and try to replicate it.

“Our premise is that we help customers make money,” he concluded. “I don’t care if it’s big data, small data, visualizations — we’re doing all of the above in ways you’ve never seen before.”


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