Tableau Doubles Revenue by Making Data More Visual, More Fun
Tableau Software has made it clear over the past year that it is one of the rising stars of the local software community. Spun out from Stanford University in 2003, the company has spent the last seven years carving out a global market of businesspeople and consumers itching for a new product to help them sift through mounds of data efficiently, and even having a little fun.
The company has sought its answer through taking something that causes most people a headache—staring at an unorganized document full of data and attempting to make sense of it—and transforming that muddle into graphics and visualizations that are easy to create, and manipulate, to get the most out of the information as possible.
“Working with data is like the web search before Google—it’s a pain! It’s cumbersome, it’s difficult to use, and it’s hard to just answer questions that you have,” says CEO Christian Chabot. With Tableau, he adds, anyone who can use a computer can have a “nice free form canvas for exploring and visualizing the data,” transforming lengthy spreadsheets into moldable graphic representations.
“Wherever there is a pile of data, we think it’s too hard for people to ask it questions. We just make that really easy. And it’s a product that pretty much anyone can use,” he says.
Although titles like “business intelligence software,” and “data visualization” don’t immediately stand out as the sexiest products on the market, Chabot begs to differ. In the last year, the company has more than doubled its sales, and is raking up some high-profile clients, including Apple, UNESCO, Logitech, Vanguard Health Systems, Zynga—even the Dallas Cowboys.
Tableau is privately held and doesn’t have to disclose its financial reports, but it has said it generated a 106 percent increase in its sales in the first half of 2010, compared with the same period a year earlier. The company said it grossed $20 million in revenue in 2009.
“Tableau is experiencing just tremendous sales and customer growth,” Chabot says. “Of the last 22 quarters, 21 of them have had consecutive sales and customer growth. So the business is just building, and building, and building, and building.”
After years of development, Tableau, priming for expansion, moved from what Chabot affectionately referred to as its “startup office,” to a more spacious Fremont spot looking out on the Ship Canal and Aurora Bridge, and right next to software giant Adobe, last summer. But the company’s reach is clearly moving beyond its expanded Fremont offices. In January, the company boasted record sales with a modest 100 employees. Today Tableau has 136 employees, and Chabot estimates they will be hiring another 100 in the next year.
“Essentially we’re just seeing incredible success with our products we invented and they’re really taking off in the marketplace, and accordingly, we’re hiring up a storm. And we’re very anxious to tell people in Seattle that news because we’re always looking for great people.”
It is difficult for Chabot to hide his excitement about the future of Tableau. When asked the question many of you may be wondering—how has this seemingly niched technology managed to become so popular?—Chabot explains that need for data visualization capability is really much more widespread than you might think.
“From the NSA looking at billions of rows of data, to a newspaper journalist trying to write a good story, to non-profits trying to communicate their donations to the community—people struggle with how do I take this data and go serve it up to people in a way that doesn’t take forever, and is actually kind of fun, and gives my audience some beautiful, interactive, informative windows into that useful data?” he explains. “You could do that now by hiring a bunch of software developers. But who’s got that? With unlimited time and budget you could go hire a Flash developer to go build some app for you, but it’s going to take you four weeks and cost you $25,000. Tableau just lets anyone go create useful, interactive data experiences.”
When Chabot first got involved in the technology that Chris Stolte and Pat Hanrahan were exploring at Stanford, he says he saw global opportunity to not only make data easier to … Next Page »