Tableau on the Run: IPO Underscores Seattle Big Data Leadership

5/20/13Follow @bromano

Tableau Software continued producing visually stunning stock charts during its second day of trading, shining a favorable light on both the Seattle tech industry, and on big data companies.

Shares of the company (NYSE: DATA) were nearing $60 at one point in Monday afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, up more than 90 percent from the $31 per share IPO price set last Thursday night. Shares finished Monday at $53.43, up 5.3 percent on the day.

It’s reason to celebrate, though the people watching Tableau’s corporate treasury could be forgiven for having a tinge of regret. More on that in a minute.

As a reminder, Tableau’s DNA is Silicon Valley, and Stanford University, in particular. But 10 years ago, the company’s founders decided they needed a change of scenery and chose the “mountains and salmon and coffee and rain” of Seattle, in what CEO Christian Chabot has called one of the best decisions the company has made.

It’s an unequivocal endorsement of the Seattle area as a place to build technology companies in general, and of the region’s leadership in big data.

“Seattle is in the catbird seat—because of the ‘big guys’ (Amazon, Microsoft, and a significant Google presence) and also because of smaller companies like Tableau, Zillow, Inrix, Sage Bionetworks, and many others,” says University of Washington computer science professor Ed Lazowska in an email. “We can ‘own’ this.”

The UW, too, is a driver of regional leadership in big data—the broad effort to collect, manage, and make sense of fast-expanding quantities and types of data. High-profile hires over the last year has added to an already deep pool of expertise in machine learning and other disciplines underpinning big data technologies.

Tableau makes data visualization software that is meant to democratize big data—putting fast, powerful analysis tools in the hands of non-specialists. That’s something lots of companies aspire to do, and several competitors, including legacy business intelligence companies, are trying to ride the coattails of Tableau’s IPO. Alteryx, an Irvine, CA, company which aims to “humanize big data” with easier-to-use analysis tools, announced a $12 million financing round today.

Kevin Merritt, CEO of Seattle-based Socrata, which makes a platform to help governments publish data, says data represents “the next big generational shift in computing,” comparing it to hardware in the 1980s, software in the ’90s, and cloud computing in the 2000s.

“We’re all taking raw data, trying to help it tell stories, help it be more meaningful, help it change lives, help it improve the efficiency of businesses,” Merritt says. “…Data has this amazing gravitational pull, and we are now in my opinion at the forefront of this period where data companies are really going to be what everybody focuses their attention on.”

Tableau’s IPO is the first by a Seattle technology company since … Next Page »

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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