AtScale has Soul

A Storm portfolio company AtScale made a little noise this week in the press mostly around detailing the recent financing.  Some of you might have heard of the company before: it got a lot of attention a few month ago, when it came out of stealth.  For a quick perspective, you might want to check out this Forbes article: AtScale Launches To Democratize Hadoop.

We were an early investor in the firm and this week, we were happy to announce renewed participation from our friends at XSeed as well as new investors and advisors, UMC Capital, AtScale is also pleased to have Jerry Yang (Yahoo! cofounder), Amr Awadallah (Cloudera cofounder) and Michael Franklin (AMPLab, Spark) as investors and advisors as well.

So why did Storm invest in AtScale?

As background, I met one of the founders, Dave Mariani, in 2013. I did not fully appreciate the opportunity and potential from our first meeting. Within a month and meeting Matt Baird, Dave’s early co-founder,  I was working convinced and really believed in the team and vision. I was working to find a syndicate partner for a seed round that saw things the same way. Fortunately, we met up with Xseed and the rest is history.

The vision for the company has been consistent since the beginning and I’ve been impressed by the team’s laser focus on the market opportunity around Business Intelligence on Hadoop. The rest of the founding team is impressive as well with equally deep domain expertise. After the seed financing, we were able to attract Josh Klahr from Greenplum / Pivotal and most recently Bruno Aziza from Business Objects and Microsoft to lead marketing.

Team: When I think back on that decision and what continues to give me conviction about the team is that they really understand the Business Intelligence (BI) problem. This team is not full of carpetbaggers. In fact, Dave Mariani has been a customer of BI in his roles at both Yahoo and Klout. He also built BI solutions at MineShare, a startup he founded and sold in 2000. This team knows the problem first hand and knows what solutions customers want based on that deep experience. In an area as technical and specific as BI, this experience has proven to be invaluable against a landscape of what seem to me to be weak set of competitive offerings often from teams that have remade themselves in the light of “big data” as the next new thing (and of course in full disclosure I am biased). It was difficult as an investor to wade through all the pitches of big data solutions to find something with soul. AtScale has soul.

Timing: The AtScale solution/product wasn’t possible “pre” Hadoop. Hadoop and the ecosystem that has emerged around it is a figurative freight train that has changed the data IT landscape in a remarkably short period of time.  AtScale’s solution would not be possible without the SQL-on-Hadoop innovations like Impala, Spark and TEZ which did not exist a few years ago.  As a result,  anyone trying to do something similar to AtScale earlier had to build the full Hadoop-like solution stack and now are somewhere on the tracks in front of the freight train. AtScale really is an example of the power of a new class of applications on Hadoop infrastructure. Infrastructure is only as valuable as the applications and insights that it can enable.

Market: I really believe that analytics is the first killer application on Hadoop. Hadoop is really incredible in terms of what it enables but the key is the applications. AtScale is the key enabler that ties both the Big Data market estimated at $50B by Wikibon to the Business Analytics market which IDC expects to grow to more than $50B by 2018. I know thats a lot of billions but I like to have sea room. AtScale not only is a force multiplier between these two markets but it can leverage BI interfaces like Tableau and Excel. It turns out Excel is really the largest BI tool in the market today with over 1 billion users worldwide. In addition to Excel, there are more than 100 million BI users of more dedicated applications today. These users are the key to pushing Hadoop even further into the enterprise as a critical asset. AtScale is the missing link.

We could find ourselves on the tracks in front of some other freight train – nothing is easy. But I think the opportunity in front of AtScale is just tremendous. There are many signs that point to other successful investments Storm has made over the years. I will do whatever I can to help AtScale reach all of its potential. After all, it’s not everyday you get to work with a company with real soul.

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