Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Birst Raises $38 Million in Series E Led by Sequoia Capital

birst-logoBirst, the cloud-based business-intelligence firm that isn’t always in the cloud, announced today that it has raised $38 million in funding, in a Series E led by Sequoia Capital.

The investment included funding from a new investor, Northgate Capital. Previous investors who participated in the round included Hummer Winblad and DAG Ventures. The round brings Birst’s total capital raised to $84 million. Its last round, a $26 millon Series D landed in May 2012, was also led by Sequoia.

Birst is one of a number of companies looking to disrupt the established software players in the field of business intelligence, like IBM, Oracle and SAP. Its basic approach is to run its software in the cloud, but also as a virtual appliance that sits behind the customer’s firewall, where a lot of the high-protein internal company data gets generated. It’s sort of a mixed cloud-plus-on-premise approach, and customers who use it still do so via a browser, so they get charged subscription fees as if it’s a typical software-as-a-service offering.

On top of the new funding, the company says it is expanding into Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and added a boatload of new customers in the first half of the year, including American Express, Cisco Systems, Samsung and Intercontinental Hotels. It has also announced strategic alliances with other cloud software companies, including NetSuite, Marketo and Amazon.

The primary point of business intelligence (BI, for short), is to crunch data created by business applications and pour it into a dashboard that makes it easy to visualize, thus making it easier to act on or rearrange, in order to make business decisions.

The classic use case for BI is comparing spending patterns on marketing campaigns. If you learn from the data that you’re spending a lot on one type of marketing campaign that isn’t bringing in any new sales leads — something that’s a little difficult to detect in a spreadsheet — a good dashboard would show you that it’s not working, and help you adjust your spending accordingly.

There’s been a lot of startup activity and fundraising in the BI space in recent months. Just this summer, GoodData, another BI startup, raised $22 million from the Brazilian software company TOTVS, which also became its exclusive distributor in Latin America. With that round, it has raised $75 million.

Another BI company raised money this month. Tidemark, led by the Romanian jazz-guitarist-turned-SAP-executive Christian Gheorghe, raised $13 million in a round led by Tenaya Capital, bringing its total capital raised to $48 million.

The other BI startup getting attention is Utah-based Domo, run by Josh James, the former CEO of Omniture, now a unit of Adobe. In March, Domo raised $60 million in a Series B, which brought its total capital raised to $125 million.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald