Alpine Data Labs, a startup with advanced data analytics software, is reporting today that its paid subscriber base and billings grew 10 times over from 2013 to 2014.
That certainly sounds impressive. But the growth isn’t a function of the usual strategy of hiring more salespeople. Chief executive Joe Otto believes the results might have something to do with a change in the startup’s pricing structure in the past year and a half.
After making customers buy a perpetual license and pay maintenance fees every year, Alpine instead started charging for subscriptions to the software based on the number of “collaborators,” or users, inside a given company. As a result, getting more and more people to use the software means more revenue. For that to happen, the software has to be easy to use for a wide variety of people.
Otto says it is and points to Alpine’s graphical user interface, which simplifies the ordinarily complex process of running predictive models on data in massively parallel databases or Hadoop clusters.
The user numbers are certainly going up.
“One of our customers went from three to 10 to 285” seats, Otto told VentureBeat at the startup’s San Francisco office last week. “And they’re trying to outfit now 16,000 folks.”
The billing growth suggests that it’s a good idea to think about whether people actually can and do use software, rather than just accumulating sales deals that lead to just a handful of new users.
Other companies have come to similar conclusions. Fred Laluyaux, chief executive of financial planning software company Anaplan, realized in 2013 that user count was a better metric than customer count.
Alpine has more technical prowess than those startups — it can do more than visualize data — but now it has aligned with them when it comes to ease of use.
If people do end up lost inside Alpine’s software, they can always click the AdvisorNow button, which Otto described as “half Genius Bar, half Amazon Mayday button.” It connects users with Alpine employees who can provide insight into “some of the more knowledge-oriented aspects of being a data scientist,” Otto said.
This year, Otto and his team are looking to get still more people using Alpine, by introducing new distribution channels and forming partnerships, Alpine said in a statement the company is releasing today.
Alpine started in 2011. In November 2013 the startup announced a $16 million funding round. Now it has more than 60 customers, including EMC, Ericsson, Kaiser Permanente, Lockheed Martin, Morgan Stanley, NBC, and Visa.