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NEW YORK — The Strata + Hadoop World conference attracts the biggest names in big data — think Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Facebook, and Cloudera — but it also gives some smaller, emerging players a chance to shine.

On Monday night, VentureBeat had a chance to chat with some of the Strata startup showcase finalists to learn about how they’re approaching big data differently. (If you have a great offering and your company isn’t featured here, it may be because we didn’t have time to talk to everyone. Readers, see the full list of showcase finalists here.)

With that said, here are six promising startups we met at Strata.

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Sqrrl offers a NoSQL database for private enterprises that relies on technology created by the National Security Agency.

The company wants to convey one thing above all else: its database is secure.

“We are the most secure, scalable, and flexible NoSQL database out there,” Ely Kahn, Sqrrl’s vice president of business development, told VentureBeat. “And I’d probably put those in that order in relation of importance to our customers.”

In 2008, NSA director Keith Alexander decided to build a powerful, secure database that could cull data from disparate silos. Called Apache Accumulo, the database was always meant to be open source, but it took the programmers behind the project three years to convince the NSA to open it up to the larger ecosystem of Hadoop developers.


Sqrrl tags every key value pair — the most granular level of storage — with a unique security label that dictates who can access that piece of data at the application layer. But it doesn’t stop at key values: Sqrrl also features graph store and document store capabilities.

The company already has six paying customers: two government agencies, two major banks, a health care company, and a telecommunications company, according to Kahn, who declined to provide the organizations’ names.

Founded in 2012, Sqrrl has offices in Cambridge, Mass. and Baltimore, Md. It raised a $5.2 million funding round from Atlas Venture and Matrix Partners last week. Sqrrl won the audience choice award at the Strata startup showcase.

Metric Insights

Is this the one ring — er, business intelligence tool — to rule them all?

Metric Insights‘ software ties into data sources like Hadoop, MongoDB, and Cassandra (among many others) and displays the resulting metrics in a customizable, predominantly visual web interface.

The problem with business intelligence today, said Metric Insights COO Steve Mock, is data overload.

“There’s way too much data and way too many dashboards,” he told VentureBeat. “The bigger and messier a network is, the more appealing our system is. Our customers typically have two or more business intelligence tools.”

Some of those customers include Barnes & Noble, United Online, and HomeAway, which pay Metric Insights an annual subscription fee per user.

Metric Insights is cash-flow positive, according to Mock, and has only raised money from private investors so far — though it’s in the middle of raising another round now.

Metric Insights snagged first place in the Strata startup showcase. Congratulations!

Alpine Data Labs

Alpine Data Labs wants to make data analysis accessible to everyone in the enterprise, not just the data scientists.

The San Mateo, Calif.-based startup this week launched Alpine 3.0, the first full-fledged version of its analytics solution for Hadoop. The browser-based software is primarily visual, replacing scripting with drag-and-drop actions.

“When people ask what our language is, I tell them, ‘the language of the mouse,'” said Bruno Aziza, chief marketing officer at Alpine Data. “We want users to rule the math, not rule the code.”

There are obviously tradeoffs to making data analysis primarily visual, but Aziza thinks it’s okay if Alpine loses the academic researcher or advanced statistician by appealing to less technical folks in the enterprise.

“Let’s go after the 80 percent first, and after the 20 percent later,” he said.

Havas Media is using Alpine to figure out which social platforms are the most effective for ad campaigns. Alpine enables the sales and marketing people to interact with the data directly, rather than relying on data scientists.

“And that’s the game changer,” said Aziza.

Instead of moving data to a separate analytic server, Alpine’s software takes advantage of Hadoop clusters’ massively parallel processing power. In other words, data gets processed quickly because it doesn’t have to go anywhere.

Alpine Data Labs has been working on its accessible analytics platform for the last 18 months. It currently has 45 employees and counts Barclays, Equifax, EMC, and Disney among its customers. Alpine raised a $7.5 million funding round in May 2011.