Big Data

Salesforce prize winner Upshot teases investors with voice-triggered analytics

Above: Upshot's Joseph Turian at the Alchemist Accelerator's fifth demo day yesterday.

Image Credit: Jordan Novet
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — A startup that won a $1 million hackathon and subsequently found itself in the middle of a controversy has been picking up lots of interest — this time, for its tech, which turns out to be legitimately interesting.

Roughly 1,100 people have submitted contact information to find out about the beta program for mobile-oriented business-intelligence application from a startup called Upshot, cofounder Joseph Turian told venture capitalists yesterday.

He was presenting at the latest demo day for the enterprise-focused Alchemist Accelerator.

Turian showed how Upshot lets salespeople dictate queries to their smartphones in everyday language and rapidly view multiple charts of data sitting in Salesforce.com’s business software.

For example, you might tell the app to show you “lost opportunities.” The app then displays charts showing deals that didn’t get completed, and you could swipe through different visualizations with a finger.

Upshot users can check out more detailed information by tapping parts of the visualizations, and they can edit queries by speaking to get different results.

Upshot’s application shares some characteristics with emerging business-intelligence software. Natural-language querying, voice recognition and rich mobile capability have caught on at companies like Birst, DataRPM, and Roambi. Presumably those companies — as well as Salesforce itself — could present competition to Upshot.

Turian, a big-data consultant with expertise in natural-language processing and machine learning, and fellow Upshot cofounder Thomas Kim, a former lead engineer for Salesforce analytics, are now building the features that beta users are asking for. They plan to raise more money in the third quarter of 2014, Turian said. That would be on top of the money from the Alchemist Accelerator — the average cash investment for each participating startup is $28,000 — and the $1 million it received from Salesforce after winning the hackathon at Salesforce’s most recent DreamForce user conference in November.

Less than 24 hours after Salesforce announced that Turian and Kim had won the competition for the best mobile app that uses the Salesforce1 platform, other contestants raised concerns: Kim is a former Salesforce employee, which might have been a violation to the hackathon’s rules. And some people claimed he was giving a demo of an Upshot app before the hackathon started, even though the competition rules required the winning application to have been built “solely for the hackathon.”

But after conducting a review of the hackathon, Salesforce said Upshot’s victory was legitimate. It did, however, give a second $1 million prize to the runner-up, Healthcare.love.

Upshot’s founders have been quiet since then, and in fact the two were busy inside the Alchemist Accelerator program for six months. They have thought up a business model — charging companies based on the number of users on a monthly basis — and etched out a vision to make a big impact on the business intelligence market.

“Upshot has a zero-cost implementation and integration [and] a one-click install,” Turian said. “When we launch, every one of these people can be up and running on Upshot within 15 seconds.”

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