InsightSquared Gets $8M to Continue (Boring) Business Intelligence Growth

A few weeks ago, Fred Shilmover, the CEO and co-founder of InsightSquared, gave the most boring interview I’ve done all year.

In this case, that’s a good thing.

The Cambridge, MA-based business-intelligence startup is announcing $8 million in Series B funding today, led by new investor Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Previous investor Atlas Venture also participated in the round, which brings InsightSquared’s total funding to $13.5 million. It sounds like the new money will be used for a classic expansion of product and sales.

But what’s really “boring” about this company is its growth and performance—straight out of a VC pitch deck. Shilmover says its revenue increased by 6x in 2012 compared to the previous year (its first full one), and its customer base tripled. Meanwhile, its staff has doubled from 25 to about 50 in the past year.

“Up and to the right for all key metrics,” Shilmover says, with nary a yawn.

When we last reported on the startup in May 2012, it was much the same story. Disruptive to business intelligence giants like IBM/Cognos and SAP, easier to use than GoodData and other customized software, going after small and medium-size businesses, yada yada yada. Its product: software that helps online businesses pull data from multiple sources and get insights into sales trends, deal progress, and other snapshots of performance.

With business analytics startups being bought by the dozens, I tried to wind up the CEO by asking him (again) whether his company would just get snapped up by (a previous investor in the startup), IBM, or some other behemoth looking to get nimbler. To no avail.

“I think we’re going to be huge, and I haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary,” Shilmover says. “I fundamentally believe there’s an opportunity to build a large independent organization. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy.”

InsightSquared does seem to be expanding out of its initial customer niche of staffing and recruiting firms. Now it’s really addressing any company that uses Salesforce for tracking sales data. Think finance, healthcare, life sciences, high tech, and so on.

And, as data visualization is a big part of the product, I wondered if Tableau Software’s recent IPO held any special meaning. “It’s great that the market is really coming together on this,” Shilmover says. But on the competitive side, he says, “Our customers can’t afford Tableau. Well, maybe a single license. There’s not a lot of competition with them.”

More to the point, Shilmover acknowledges that for his startup there’s been no pivot, no big shift, no near-death experience (not yet anyway) that typically makes for a good story. In fact, things have been eerily predictable—and some might say, downright boring.

“I very recently opened up a business plan I wrote for the [Harvard Business School] contest in 2010. I thought, ‘I could use this as a pitch deck today,’” he says. “It’s pretty close to where we are today. It was completely dumb luck.”

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