Good Data Gets $2 Million for Cloud-Based Business Intelligence

7/23/08Follow @wroush

Cambridge, MA-based Good Data wants to do for business intelligence software what Salesforce has done for customer relationship management: put it on the Web and make it easier to use. In theory, that will give more people in an organization the ability to spot business trends and make informed decisions. Today, the 30-person Web 2.0 startup announced that it has collected $2 million in seed funding to test that theory, by turning its prototype into a full production system.

The money comes courtesy of tech-celebrity investors Esther Dyson and Tim O’Reilly, as well as Good Data founder and CEO Roman Stanek and New York-based VC firm Windcrest Partners. Good Data’s focus is “delivering bite-sized, use-as-you-go data analytics that will actually get used by normal people,” Dyson said in a statement announcing the investment. (It’s the third time Dyson has invested in a company headed by Stanek; the first two were Java programming company NetBeans and enterprise software infrastructure provider Systinet.) “I think of it as the data equivalent of an ATM: You can get the value out when and where you need it.”

Good Data Demo -- Screenshot 1
Good Data Demo -- Screenshot 2
Good Data Demo -- Screenshot 3

“Business intelligence” or BI is the general term for the layer of software tools programmers have developed to make sense of, and help executives make decisions based upon, the untamed morass of data that most big companies collect in their transaction-level databases—for example, sales data from a chain of retail stores. The Boston area is a hub of sorts both for BI toolmakers (IBM’s Cognos division, Metatomix, Visual I|O) and for builders of the data warehouse software and appliances that often intermediates between transaction-level databases and BI interfaces (Kalido, Netezza).

Good Data is trying to set itself apart from all of these companies by combining the data-warehousing and business intelligence functions into single service, and offering the whole thing over the Internet, using the Software-as-a-Service (Saas) model pioneered by Salesforce and others. While its software isn’t yet available, a demo on Good Data’s site shows how users can upload raw data to the company’s cloud of servers, then experiment with different ways of arranging, filtering, and visualizing the data using simple, Web-based drop-down menus and drag-and-drop buttons. In the fictional case study used in the demo, a marketing executive is able to sort through historical sales data from a chain of convenience stores to identify the most effective promotional events at each store.

Overall, the analytical part of Good Data’s system seems to work a lot like Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheets, but with an attractive Web 2.0 pastel color scheme and, more importantly, built-in mechanisms for workers to access data from their Web browsers and to annotate and share their insights—for example, by saving custom graphs or tables that highlight interesting trends. (Good data is promoting the term “collaborative analytics” to describe this process. Click on the images at left for bigger views of Good Data’s user interface.)

As the company’s software engineers, who are mainly based in the Czech Republic, use the seed funding to get the Good Data tools ready for rollout, the company is collecting names of volunteers for an upcoming hands-on preview.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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