Alpine raises $16M; A New Era of Big Data Analytics Software has arrived!


Alpine Data Labs

I love soccer.  I love it almost as much as my main sport; investing in great technology companies. The game is competitive, requires team spirit, grit and persistence to succeed.  About two years ago, something magical happened to my soccer experience, and it made me like the sport even more.   I bought Adidas F50 soccer shoes which were equipped with a chip that tracked all my moves.   After a few practices, I became more aware of my game, started gaining feedback and adjusting my technique.  While I did not quite start playing like Messi or Dani Alves (as I had hoped) it improved my game tremendously.

As I reflected on how Big Data had entered my favorite pastime, through my shoes, I realized the parallel that could be drawn between my personal experience and the lessons companies of all sizes can now learn if they leverage Big Data faster and in more natural ways.  Combination of “my data” and the Adidas generic shoe had made it into “my shoe”.  I was an Adidas fan for life! 

Big Data has gravity and impacts customer buying behavior

We, at Sierra Ventures, have always been in the forefront of Data Innovation: we took Teradata public (NASDAQ: TDC) in 1987.  In 2007, we lead Greenplum’s Series B and were there when EMC (NYSE: EMC) acquired them in 2010.  This past October, another great Sierra-backed company, Runa, got acquired by Staples, the largest office product company in the world.         


There is no doubt: Big Data is real, it is mature and it is here to change our lives forever.  If you are a CXO, you know that competitive advantage is not going to come from the way you operationalize your I.T. infrastructure anymore.  Rather, you will win because of the way you enable your entire company to embrace data in ways that will teach you to play better, adapt your game and move faster to finally score.   Our CIO network meetings are full of stories of leaders that take Big Data into a new era, from Facebook to Walt Disney to Adobe and Merck.  Read here how Merck’s CIO talks about “IT-induced disruption” and the role Big Data can play. 

Big Data is not only exceptional as a technology, but it can have an incredible impact on a corporation’s products and innovation culture.  When used well, its values transcend the world of I.T. and the Business.  If you’re not convinced about this, watch what Ken Rudin, Facebook’s Analytics Head, had to say about it in his Strata keynote last month: Big Data is about business needs.

A New Approach is required

Achieving Facebook’s excellence is hard.   No matter how many data scientists you can afford or how many servers you can store your data on, it can take months, sometimes years to leverage the benefits of Big Data investments.  Turning droves of data into digestible dashboards and visualizations is certainly a great first step.  But what happens when you need to forecast outcomes, optimize campaigns and use data in more meaningful ways?  What happens when you want to do this on the latest data stack available?  (E.g. Hadoop)

Many companies have experienced that taking a “BI bite at their first Terabyte” was not enough.  To improve performance, they need to develop models, incorporate feedback and adapt their approach. 

The circle of performance is an iterative one and competitive advantage comes to those who can go through it effortlessly.  This does not just come from visualization.  It is the result of sophisticated and rigorous math applied by creative and business minds.  Technologies covering this field are referred to as “Advanced or Predictive Analytics”.

“Big Data” Predictive Analytics = Simpler Richer Insights = Companywide Adoption

In the past, this field was reserved for a few companies, and a few employees inside those corporations.  They were the researchers, the statisticians and other scientists who knew the methods, the algorithms and were trained to use the few software packages available to solve these problems.  There were the “Data Priests”.  Their job was highly specialized and they would code their way through various datasets extracted from their data warehouse.  Because their software couldn’t scale to interrogate billions of rows at a time, they would practice something referred to as “sampling” – a statistical process by which one selects a subset of a large database, applies math to it and extrapolates the results of their analysis on the entire dataset.  And if a company needed to do more analytics, they just hired more data scientists or required business people to become scientists.

While this approach might have been appropriate in the pre-Hadoop era, it is now starting to show its limits.  We can capture more data than ever, we can store it for a fraction of the cost; distributed technologies like Hadoop make it possible to process it all very economically.

In addition to having more data to analyze, more employees want and are expected to make more data-driven decisions.  Most of these employees are not scientists or researchers.  They have great business sense but they are not coders.  While I think the entire industry will agree that “Analytics is Big Data’s Killer App”, the way we write these sophisticated Analytics matters.  Our scale will come through better intuitive analytical software.

We need software that’s usable by most, with lower effort while multiplying impact.  This will empower the whole company and not just cater to the “data priests”.  If you haven’t read my belief for this type of software, check out my blog on “beautiful software” here.

Here comes Alpine

It’s not a surprise then, that, when we looked at Alpine Data Labs and the technology they were building, we immediately fell in love.  The team has been focused on building “beautiful software” for Advanced Analytics. 

Their solution is web-based, requires no coding, no data-movement and is native to Hadoop and Big Data (MPP databases like Greenplum’s).  Their latest version shipped last month at the Big Data Strata Conference and it has gained tremendous traction.

The company is now at a stage where it is ready to scale globally.   What better partners than UMC capital (with its ties to Asia) and Robert Bosch (and its connection to Europe) to partner with in this Series B round!

The team is rocking the world of Big Data and is executing at lightning speed.   In just a few days, the company pulled off an incredible launch party that gathered the “Who’s Who” of Big Data, announced our new round and launched their new website in the same breath.

I couldn’t be more excited to be part of this.  Go (al) Alpine!