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Five Factors In Building Giants Of The Big Data Era

Posted Aug 30, 2014 by Navin Chaddha (@NavinChaddha)
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Editor’s note: Navin Chaddha is managing director of Mayfield, an early-stage venture capital firm. Some of the companies he is currently championing include Gigya, Elastica, Lyft, MapR and Poshmark.

As we enter the second half of 2014, it would be fair to say that big data has gone mainstream, attracting coffee table books, multiple industry landscapes, consumer applications, and large amounts of funding. Having seen many technology cycles during our 45 years in venture capital — including the birth of the PC era, the transition to client-server computing and then web-based computing, and the emergence of the cloud and SaaS models — we have pattern recognition on what it takes for a company to go from startup to leader.

Here are some observations we’ve made about what it would take to build a lasting big data company:

1. Transition from a platform to an ecosystem

One of the clearest ways to see whether a technology platform is taking hold is to look at how fast the ecosystem is growing around it. For example, in the SaaS era, Salesforce rapidly became a giant because of its expansive ecosystem. Big data will be no different.

One thriving big data company that is transitioning from platform to ecosystem is MapR. It is the only distribution for Hadoop that combines the benefits of open source (community innovation, portability and flexibility) with unique architectural enhancements that provide enterprise-grade dependability, security, and performance.

The MapR ecosystem embraces both the flourishing Hadoop open source community as well a rapidly expanding portfolio of partner solutions in the MapR App Gallery. This enables enterprise customers to easily expand and implement their big data initiatives with ready-made, big data utilities and applications.

Another example is MongoDB, an open-source and leading NoSQL database used by companies for a wide variety of applications. MongoDB is building a significant ecosystem of partners across industries.

2. Solve the messy, hard problems no one wants to touch

This is not a particularly glamorous part of the big data world; however, we believe that many big companies will be built doing this work. In the client-server era, data integration pioneer Informatica became a giant by tackling tough data integration challenges and has maintained its edge by being positioned as a leader in the Gartner Data Integration Magic Quadrant eight years running.

An example of a company to watch in this space is Trifacta, which enables both technical and non-technical analysts to access and transform raw data into actionable data.

3. Reinvent business intelligence for the big data age by providing insights, not just data

Companies such as Business Objects that empowered line of business executives to gain insights grew into giants in the client-server era. We believe that a similar class of big data companies are in the making with companies such as Platfora, which are built natively on Hadoop and rapidly deliver insights visually and iteratively.

4. Embed deep domain expertise

Ensure that valuable expertise from your specific domain is embedded into your analytics application so that it cannot be dislodged. SAP became a giant in the software industry using this strategy.

We see this valuable domain expertise in big data analytics companies such as Palantir which provides human-driven, machine-assisted solutions for specific use cases like anti-fraud and cybersecurity as well as to vertical industries like defense, insurance, healthcare, & law enforcement; and Splunk which transforms machine data into insights.

5. Delight your customers with an intuitive interface

Give your IT and line of business customers compelling interfaces to interact with their data. Understand how users interact with your application and invest in the details of the user experience to make it intuitive and delightful. For example, Dropbox became a giant after creating a simple, intuitive approach to file sharing that is now shared by more than 200 million users around the world.

Big data companies with intuitive interfaces include Tableau, which can create visualizations to help enterprises easily see, understand and derive insights from their data, and Elasticsearch, the open-source solution that offers a fast and rich search experience.

And what’s coming next?

And one more thing, keep your eye on how the Internet of Things will transform the landscape by serving up data in all kinds of new forms. Today it’s thermostats, phones, watches, even drink glasses… tomorrow data will come from places we have not yet dreamed of. The whole idea of data ownership, lifecycle and ingestion will have to be rethought, spawning new companies. This will give rise to a wave of innovation and companies creating new products and services never thought of or possible before, and existing ones re-imagined.

IMAGE BY Bryce Durbin
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    • Elasticsearch

      • Founded 2012
      • Overview Elasticsearch is on a mission to organize data and make it easily accessible. The company delivers the world’s most advanced open source search and analytics engine available and make real-time data exploration available to anyone. By having a laser focus on achieving the best user experience imaginable, Elasticsearch has become one of the most popular and rapidly growing open source solutions in …
      • Location Los Altos, California
      • Categories Real Time, Cloud Computing, Open Source, Search
      • Website http://www.elasticsearch.com
      • Full profile for Elasticsearch
    • Informatica

      • Overview Informatica (NASDAQ: INFA) is a provider of enterprise data integration solutions for Oracle, PeopleSoft and Siebel environments. Informatica Corporation provides data integration software and services that empower organizations to access, integrate, and trust all their information assets held in the traditional enterprise, off premise and in the Cloud. Informatica gives organizations a competitive …
      • Location Redwood City, California
      • Categories Big Data Analytics, Cloud Computing, Data Integration, Software, Mobile Devices
      • Website http://www.informatica.com/Pages/index.aspx
      • Full profile for Informatica
    • MongoDB

      • Founded 2007
      • Overview MongoDB (from humongous) is reinventing data management and powering big data as the leading NoSQL database. Designed for how we build and run applications today, MongoDB empowers organizations to be more agile and scalable. It enables new types of applications, better customer experience, faster time to market and lower costs. MongoDB has a thriving global community with over 4 million downloads, …
      • Location Dublin, Dublin
      • Categories Open Source, Cloud Computing, Software, Databases, PaaS
      • Website http://www.mongodb.com
      • Full profile for MongoDB
    • Palantir Technologies

      • Founded 2004
      • Overview Palantir's mission is to solve the most important problems for the world's most important institutions. Palantir was founded in 2004 by a handful of PayPal alumni and Stanford computer scientists. Since then Palantir has doubled in size every year while retaining early-stage values: a startup culture, strong work ethic, and rigorous hiring standards. Palantir works in a variety of problem …
      • Location Palo Alto, California
      • Categories Analytics
      • Founders Nathan Gettings
      • Website http://www.palantir.com
      • Full profile for Palantir Technologies
    • Platfora

      • Founded 2011
      • Overview Platfora’s mission is to empower customers to transform their businesses into fact-based enterprises. Platfora's Big Data Analytics Platform masks the complexity of Hadoop, making it easy for customers to understand all the facts in their business across events, actions, behaviors and time.
      • Location San Mateo, California
      • Categories Analytics, Software
      • Website http://www.platfora.com
      • Full profile for Platfora
    • Splunk

      • Founded 2003
      • Overview Splunk is the leading provider of operational intelligence software used to monitor, report and analyze real-time machine data as well as terabytes of historical data--located on-premise or in the cloud. More than half of the Fortune 100 and more than 6,400 enterprises, service providers and government organizations in over 90 countries use Splunk to improve service levels, reduce IT operations costs, …
      • Location San Francisco, California
      • Categories Software
      • Founders Rob Das
      • Website http://www.splunk.com
      • Full profile for Splunk
    • Tableau Software

      • Founded 2003
      • Overview Tableau Software, a public company (NYSE:DATA) based in Seattle, provides easy-to-use software applications for fast analytics and visualization. Its products include Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server.
      • Location Seattle, Washington
      • Categories Big Data Analytics, Data Visualization, Software
      • Founders Christian Chabot, Pat Hanrahan
      • Website http://www.tableausoftware.com
      • Full profile for Tableau Software

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