Boston: Cradle of Liberty and Data Startups

12/20/11

I didn’t know the full extent to which the Boston area has a thriving data and analytics startup scene.

I had always associated the city primarily with biotech innovation. My company, Chart.io, provides hosted business dashboards to help companies visualize their database data. We’re based out in San Francisco (we were part of the 2010 Y Combinator class), but our investors, Avalon Ventures, call Boston home. When my friends at Avalon-backed Kinvey (mobile backends as a service) and Boston-based SessionM (a platform to spark deeper consumer engagement with mobile content and ads) and I decided to co-host a data visualization and analytics meetup for the local community, we expected to get 20-30 RSVPs at most. Instead, we broke 100 in a flash and saw a steady torrent of emails from data enthusiasts pleading for admission.

In fact, a deeper look into the Boston tech scene reveals quite a rich history of data and analytics companies, including Netezza, Endeca, ITA, EMC, and other giants. And it turns out, the startup scene is equally rich, with companies innovating around NoSQL, data storage, search, healthcare, and a variety of cloud computing ventures. Here’s a quick tour of the Boston- data landscape. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

As data volumes have exploded in the past decade, so have the number of companies building tools to store, retrieve, analyze, and generally manage the deluge of data.

Two Boston-area companies, Cloudant and Basho, are tackling the big data problem through non-relational databases (NoSQL), designed to handle hundreds of gigabytes and even terabytes of data and enable applications to elastically scale out to meet the demands of millions (or hundreds of millions) of concurrent users. In this vein, Cloudant offers tools to help companies use Apache CouchDB, while Basho developed its own data store called Riak.

Meanwhile, other local firms are focusing on the next generation … Next Page »

David Beyer is the co-founder and CEO of Chart.io, which provides dashboards as a service for database data. Follow @

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  • http://www.relaytm.com Dave Greenwald

    Nice survey of the data and analytics companies. While there is no shortage of powerful new technologies entering this space over the past several years, I think the companies that end up being successful once all is said and done will be the ones use the tech on big data to answer the right questions for the right stakeholders.

  • http://parelastic.com Ken Rugg

    Yes, Boston certainly has a thriving data management and you didn’t even touch on any of the companies in the Michael Stonebreaker “cluster” like Vertica, VoltDB, StreamBase or SciDB. There’s also some action in the NewSQL area with previously mentioned VoltDB, Akiban, Tokukek, NuoDB and my own ParElastic. There’s also EnterpriseDB’s PostgreSQL offering. Oracle even has an outpost with the BerkleyDB team that just released Oracle’s new NoSQL product.

    There’s some great database heritage in the area to draw on here. Beyond the ones you mentioned like Netezza and EMC, there was also the RDB folks at DEC and a couple of companies that I spent some time at, Object Design, the leader in object databases, and Progress Software, a quiet little half billion dollar company built on a 4GL and database technology.

    It’s great now that the data management industry has become much more dynamic in the past few years with innovation coming from companies beyond the traditional power houses of Oracle, Microsoft and IBM. It is certainly a fun time to start a data management company in Boston!

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