InsightSquared Scores $4.5M, Looks to Bring Business Intelligence to the Masses

5/14/12Follow @gthuang

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visualization tricks, such as displaying which sales opportunities have positive or stalled momentum, or have taken more or less effort, based on the size or color of symbols on a chart. Another intriguing feature is a Twitter-like feed of every salesperson’s activity and its impact on the business.

“Our goal is to disrupt the business intelligence market,” says Fred Shilmover, the company’s founder and CEO.

That’s a bold statement, but InsightSquared already has 120-plus paying customers, mostly in the staffing and recruiting industry. (Locally, HireMinds is a customer, and Bullhorn is a partner.) “This is a classic Clay Christensen disruption model, where we go after a market that’s uninteresting to the incumbents,” says Shilmover.

Shilmover has previous experience as a venture guy at Bessemer, a corporate development exec at Salesforce.com, and a business consultant. He brought on co-founders Sam Clemens (formerly of HubSpot and BzzAgent) and Bryan Stevenson (formerly of 80concepts, Groovr.com, and Akamai) in the early days of InsightSquared’s formation. The startup now has about 25 employees and is planning to staff up to around 50 by the end of the year.

When asked about the competitive landscape, Shilmover says his startup sits above companies that provide a “shallow layer of analytics” and a nice dashboard but require technical knowledge to use (he cites Chart.io as an example, though that company might disagree). And it sits below more complex, ad-hoc, customized software and services such as those provided by GoodData, Birst, and QlikTech, he says. Still, it’s clear that bringing business intelligence to the masses is a very crowded field.

So is this company being built to get acquired by someone like Salesforce.com in a couple years? After all, Jeff Fagnan, the startup’s lead investor at Atlas Venture, says Salesforce.com is “not good at the actionable part of analytics”—and that’s a key differentiator for InsightSquared. “We want to do something that’s world-changing,” Shilmover says. “We think there’s a lot of upside in a standalone company.”

In the end, Shilmover brings the discussion back to his core mission. “There’s such an opportunity to make small businesses more competitive,” he says. “That’s the goal.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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