Platfora Targets Average Business Users With Big Data Visualization Platform

The data management analytics sector is already worth more than $100 billion and is growing at a rate of 10 percent every year, twice as fast as the software business as a whole. To take advantage of the rise of big data, and the need for tools to help the average business user make sense of large datasets, today San Mateo-based big data startup Platfora announced the launch of its solution for companies looking to understand and visualize their data.

The company is debuting its in-memory business intelligence tool for Hadoop this week at the Strata Conference in New York City. Platfora’s platform revolves around Hadoop, an open source framework that makes it feasible to analyze large datasets without using a large-scale business intelligence solution like Oracle. Its approach is similar to another data visualization we covered recently, Venngage, though focused on making sense of large datasets rather than social media data or Google Analytics.

Founder Ben Werther said Platfora is the other side of the equation to companies like Cloudera and MapR that help companies support their data infrastructure, and rather focuses on making it useful to people in an organization after they’ve uploaded and stored it. “Our product Platfora turns that from a slow-running programming-oriented system into a beautiful visual, into a reactive system, for everyday business users to do business intelligence and exploration around big data,” Werther said in an interview. It currently works in conjunction with Cloudera, MapR, Amazon Web Services, and Hortonworks.

Using Platfora, companies can take their raw data in Hadoop and transform it into web-based visual reports called Vizboards, which answer specific questions about that data. Rather than trying to make sense of a spreadsheet or numbers, marketers can drag-and-drop questions to help analyze their data, for example asking where their users come from or which ones make the most purchases. Companies can search their Hadoop datasets in Platfora, add comments and export Vizboards as images or as a CSV file, and view the raw data behind the visualizations.

Platfora founder Ben Werther said the company’s ideal customer is someone who might be fluent in Excel or in using simple visualization products, but doesn’t necessarily know how to write code or program their data. He said it’s targeted at companies that have millions of users, customers, or transactions they need to analyze. Right now to analyze that data marketers often have to ask their IT department or data analysts to answer a specific query, or put together a report, which can take a long time.

“Today the status quo if I’m a marketer is really I have to ask IT to build a data map for some of this information, and it’s usually a year-long process,” Werther said, adding that often marketers are looking to answer questions about their customers, from purchasing behavior to comparing subsets of users. “What we want to make possible is unleashing business users to start to ask these questions and understand their business and their users…visually without being an expert on the technology.”

Werther said their pool of beta customers include companies in advertising, financial services, telecommunications, and marketing, and they’re helping with everything from fraud detection to product development, as well as helping companies understand their users and improve customer satisfaction. Werther said that unlike other business intelligence software, Platfora isn’t priced by number of users, but rather on a per-sever basis, which means that it’s not limited to data analysts, but rather anyone within the organization who wants to understand their data.

“Companies understand that there’s a whole lot of data that they’re throwing away every day, enormous amounts of data, that they never thought was necessarily valuable. There’s a realization that today it might not be valuable, but there are questions you might want to ask about user behavior or quality of your service or your product, and if you throw away the data today you’re not going to be able to answer those questions down the road,” Werther said in an earlier interview with BetaKit. “The only answer is to store all the data, and ideally be in a position to be able to tap into it.”

Ultimately Platfora wants to make it feasible for anyone to leverage the data their company is already producing to answer questions about customer behavior, in a timeframe that means they can actually act on it. In June 2012, business technology solutions provider Avanade surveyed 500 global business executives and IT leaders, and found that 73 percent of the companies included had used data to increase new or existing revenue streams. In addition, 84 percent of respondents believe big data helps them make better business decisions. As companies start to use solutions like Platfora, that number will likely go up, since marketers and data analysts alike are trying to harness the power of big data to positively affect their bottom line.

Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin has covered startups and technology for over three years in publications including Sprouter Weekly, The Globe and Mail, Business Insider, Mashable, and VentureBeat. She also writes a regular startup column for the Financial Post, and is a technology expert on CTV News Channel. Before BetaKit Erin worked as Director of Content & Communications at Sprouter from its launch in 2009 until its acquisition by Postmedia Network Inc. She was recently named one of Marketing Magazine's 30 Under 30 in 2012.

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