"Shared annoyance" inspired the founders of Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup Interana to build a business. "The idea that people are out there and cannot find things in their data drives us crazy," said Ann Johnson, Interana's CEO. "We want everyone in a company to be able to easily know what is going on with their products and their users."
Fortunately Johnson and co-founders Bobby Johnson (also her husband) and Lior Abraham possessed the know-how to build a self-service analytics solution. Ann Johnson met her husband while both were students at Caltech and worked at Intel before teaming with him to found Interana. Bobby Johnson and Abraham worked together at Facebook, where the former led a team tasked with solving infrastructure and scaling challenges faced by the social network and the latter created a popular internal data analytics tool called SCUBA.
Interana has seen "an incredible demand" for its product since launching in October after two years in stealth developing it. "One of the most common responses from our customers is 'we've never been able to do this before,'" said Mark Horton, the company's director of Marketing.
Convincing Data Analytics Skeptics
Interana customers are sometimes skeptical at first, said Ann Johnson, and understandably so.
"The Big Data landscape is so big you think there has to be a great solution in there somewhere, but the fact there are so many players speaks to the fact that no one has really figured it out," she said. "Companies tell us, 'We are collecting all this data and storing all this data. We believe there are interesting insights, but for some reason we still can't find them.' Many of our potential customers have already tried four other things, so they are skeptical."
Interana focuses on analyzing raw event data, which the company's founders believe will become "the standard data format of the future," Ann Johnson said, adding, "With raw data you can look at things you might never have realized you wanted to look at, and you will have questions you never even thought to ask before."
Analyzing event data helps Interana customers like Tinder, Jive and Sony understand user behavior. For example, Horton said, an online gaming company may want to see where users get stuck in a game. "If they are selling in-app purchases in level two of a game, they want to make sure everyone advances past level one. That is where understanding behavior becomes important."
Its full-stack approach makes Interana's solution especially well suited to handle event stream data, Johnson said. "We are a lot faster because storage, analytics and visualization layers are all integrated together. It gives us a giant advantage in terms of speed, with no calling out to other programs."
Another differentiator is Interana's user experience, which includes user-friendly features such as drop-down menus and templates that help users advance rapidly to questions such as "do you want to understand your customer retention funnel?"
Some data analytics software marketed as self-service only allows users to work with pre-determined metrics or data models, tweaking information to put into a dashboard or report on it, Horton said. In contrast, Interana facilitates end-to-end data analysis with no assistance from IT teams.
"When we say self-service analysis, we mean the whole process not just 'here is a dashboard of data you can play with,'" he said. "Almost all other data visualization solutions require some kind of command line; if you do not know how to write that code, you are dependent on someone from the IT team."
Interana landed a $20 million Series B round of funding in January, which it is using to "invest very aggressively" in hiring engineers, with plans to double its engineering team by the end of Q3, said Ann Johnson. The company is also beefing up its sales and marketing teams.
Fast Facts about Interana
Founders: Ann Johnson, Bobby Johnson, Lior Abraham
Product: Interana is a self-service analytics solution for event data at scale that combines a columnar storage back-end, an analytics engine and an interactive visual front-end that allows people to get answers to questions in seconds without writing code
HQ: Menlo Park, Calif.
Customers: Sony, Tinder and Jive, among others
Funding: $28.2 million in two rounds from eight investors, including Index Ventures, Battery Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Fuel Capital, Silicon Valley Angels, Data Collective, Mike Olson and Harris Barton
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.