The latest startup to capitalize on the big data trend is Alpine Data Labs, a San Francisco-based company that just raised $16 million in venture funding.
Alpine primarily works with customers who have made some investment in Hadoop, the open-source software framework that can process large data-sets on commodity hardware. Hadoop has become an increasingly popular option, as companies begin to search for new ways to manage mountains of internal and external data.
“It’s now time for them to leverage that data into the ‘killer app’ of big data: analytics,” said Joe Otto, the company’s chief executive.
What’s most interesting about this startup is that you don’t have to be a data scientist to use Alpine’s tools. It’s designed to be dead simple for customers. “You can definitely use the Alpine system without understanding a language like MapReduce or Pig,” said Otto by phone.
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Alpine’s founders say they can work with virtually any company, but an ideal customer would have one data scientist or analytics nerd on staff. Potential customers must also be sold on the idea of predictive analytics — and not stuck in the old world of business intelligence.
Big data: A hot market
The market is flooded with big data and analytics products, so Alpine faces some tough competition. Otto claims that the technology stands apart, as it adds more value than helping customers create nifty data visualizations. “Vendors focused on visualization aren’t building complex algorithms,” said Otto. Another point of differentiation, particularly from legacy vendors like IBM and Oracle, is that Alpine is focused on Hadoop.
Alpine also offers a fairly cool in-built “data science adviser” function. For customers that need help from a real person (not some customer support helpline), an Alpine analytics expert can step in at any time.
“We making our data scientists available to business people,” said Bruno Aziza, the company’s marketing chief, who was recently recruited from Israeli big data startup SiSense. “We make sure they won’t fail.”
The startup’s rivals include giants like IBM along with as well-funded newcomers like Platfora and Datameer. Otto is convinced that more than one vendor can win, as “there is a lot of market space right now,” with hundreds of companies looking for new ways to analyze and derive insights from their data.
And according to a recent IDC research report, the industry will grow 54.9 percent through 2017.
Competition aside, Alpine has scored some impressive customers since it was founded in 2010. According to Otto, it’s not just large financial services firms and technology companies, who tend to be early adopters. Health care giants like Kaiser Permanente are also customers of Alpine, as well as media conglomerates.
He described how one digital media company, Havas Media, uses Alpine for its marketing attribution. When Havas runs a campaign, they need to find out exactly where the last click came from before a customer made a purchase, without running through billions of rows on a spreadsheet. According to Otto, this information is highly relevant and useful to advertisers.
Alpine raised its funding from Sierra Ventures, Mission Ventures, UMC Capital, and Robert Bosch Venture Capital.
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