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December 9, 2015

Platfora Riding High on Wave of Big Data Growth

The big data analytics business at Platfora is booming these days, accounting for 100 percent revenue growth this year. With a $30 million round in funding announced yesterday and software industry veteran Jason Zintak now at the helm, Platfora is ready to scale the business to new heights.

Before Zintak took over the CEO’s job from Ben Werther in August, he researched the San Mateo, California company and its products, customers, and business model. With 18 years of industry experience at companies ranging from SAP and Oracle to JDA Software to Capgemini and Blue Martini, Zintak knows what success in the enterprise software market looks like.

Particularly impressive to Zintak were Platfora‘s marquee customers– Fortune 500 names like Citi, Cisco, Disney, and Sears, along with industry leaders like, Kelley Blue Book, Opower, Riot Games, and TiVo. Some of Platfora’s customers were spending “non-trivial amounts of money” with the company, including million-dollar annual contracts for software subscriptions, and they were getting back fantastic returns–in some cases, 100x.

“I did quite a bit of due diligence in making that career move,” Zintak tells Datanami. “Before I joined, I asked customers ‘Why did you choose Platfora?’ And the answer I got back was that the traditional BI tools aren’t solving our big data needs and we’re looking for a new class of architecture and application that allows us to go after big data and condense our speed to insight.  To me that was fairly telling. The size of spend, the brands, and the fact that we’re pan industry.”

“Platfora has the DNA of a billion-dollar enterprise,” he added.


Platfora president and CEO Jason Zintak

Only time will tell if Platfora achieves that unicorn status, but yesterday’s news of a $30-million round of growth-stage financing certainly helps. The round was led by investors HSBC and Harmony Partners, and included investments from earlier-stage backers. All told, the four-and-a-half year old company has brought in $95 million in financing.

The new money will go largely to helping Platfora do more of what it has been doing. “More of the same, absolutely that,” Zintak says laughing. “We’re putting this money into field expansion, sellers, customer success managers, trainers, and development efforts.”

The company doubled its revenues and customer base in 2015, and will likely double it again in 2016, Zintak says. One hundred fifty people work at Platfora today, and that number will likely grow by 2x by December 2016. With 95 percent of its revenue tied to software licenses—as opposed to services, which account for the bulk of revenues at the upstream Hadoop distributors—scaling the company and its business should be relatively straightforward.

Zintak hopes to build on Platfora’s 2015 success. “This year it really seems that the wave is cresting with respect to early customers,” he says. “What started out as an initial use case in one division has seen success, and it’s cross-pollinating across the organization. We’re catching that wave, which is nice.”

The initial doubt that large enterprises had with big data tech in general is being replaced by a readiness to adopt. “At large enterprise organizations, it’s gone from I’m experimenting to ‘I’ve got to be there,” says Zintak, who is CEO and president. ” Even in last three months, we’ve seen a real acceleration in the market relative to understanding what they need, what they want, and how that need applies to certain new technologies. It’s a fast-moving market. It’s changed even in the last quarter.”

It wasn’t uncommon to hear customers expressing doubt about the claims Platfora would make about its software, called Big Data Discovery, which is best described as an end-to-end analytics application that sits atop Hadoop, makes use of MapReduce and Apache Spark engines, and does everything from ETL and data prep to analysis and data visualization.

“Quite often they don’t actually believe that it can do what it does,” Zintak says. “I’m constantly amazed that there’s a disbelief that the platform can solve in a timely manner on petabtyes of data. Then they become believers after they adopt it.”

Zintak says Platfora is competing and winning against traditional business intelligence tools that struggle with big data sets and can take weeks or months platfora_logoto find answers.

Once the customers start using Platfora, proving ROI is not difficult, Zintak says. Some of the customers in banking and insurance have told the CEO they will save $1 billion over 10 years thanks to the insights that Platfora is providing, whether it’s spotting money-laundering or identifying fraudulent claims.

Getting these big clients to go on the record with their success is one of Zintak’s top priorities. But he admits it’s difficult when the clients view the software as “their secret weapon.”

At the end of the day, the business intelligence and analytics market is changing rapidly, and the competitive advantages that early adopters enjoyed will not last forever. In the meantime, it’s good to be in the shoes of people like Zintak and selling picks to the gold miners rushing to stake their claim.

“Data science is the new competitive advantage, but enterprise don’t have lots of data scientists sitting around, so we’re trying to make citizen data scientist out of business analysts,” he says. “We like to think we’re solving the high-value business problems. We’re not a simple report engine, but we are actually helping customers do critical thinking and get answers to strategic problems.”

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