Podium Data Downloads $9.5M to Help Businesses Manage, Crunch Data

Software companies have talked for years about making tools for deep data analysis simple enough for most business users, not just seasoned programmers. There are signs those capabilities are materializing—or at least evolving.

The latest example is Podium Data, a Lowell, MA-based startup that today announced it raised a $9.5 million Series A round led by Malibu Ventures. Other backers include former XM Satellite Radio CEO Nate Davis, David Dolby of Dolby Family Ventures, David Roux of Silver Lake Partners, and Carbon Black chief marketing officer Eric Schurr.

Founded in 2014, Podium sells software that helps business analysts and data scientists quickly comb through a company’s reams of data and pull out useful insights, without having to write a line of code, says Podium co-founder and CEO Paul Barth. He previously co-founded a consulting firm and held various roles at companies such as Epsilon Data Management, Thinking Machines, and Tessera Enterprise Systems.

“Large companies often struggle with finding and understanding and preparing data for business use,” Barth (pictured above) says in a phone interview. “We believe our application democratizes data for traditional enterprises.”

Podium is part of a flurry of data management companies that have emerged in recent years with products that leverage Hadoop and other open-source data storage and processing software. Some related companies include Cloudera, Hortonworks, and MapR. Barth says Podium’s services don’t compete with that trio of larger and more heavily funded companies; in fact, the startup has partnerships with each of them. (Another related player is Talend, which does data integration and is one of the few tech companies to go public this year.)

Meanwhile, other local companies tackling data management and analysis in different ways include Tamr (data “curation” and analytics), DataGravity (data security and awareness), and Bedrock Data (synchronizing data across different business systems).

Podium’s approach involves a software application that can help businesses manage “data lakes”—huge repositories of information, often stored in a raw or unstructured form. Podium’s software helps to organize and convert messy data into formats that make the pieces of information searchable and more easily analyzed. Podium’s tools can also encrypt data and control who has access to it, Barth says—a nod to the importance of cybersecurity.

The main idea is the software makes it simpler and easier to crunch data—projects that used to take weeks or months now take days or even minutes, Barth says.

Customers may also save money because they don’t need to hire more software programmers to set up and run the data management tools. About a year ago, Japan-based Astellas Pharma switched from a traditional database system to using Podium in combination with Hadoop, Barth says. “They have not hired one Hadoop programmer in that time,” he says.

Astellas is using Podium’s software to study issues such as why some patients stop using drugs that were prescribed to them, Barth says. Meanwhile, the software is also helping TD Bank comply with government regulations, such as keeping track of loans as part of financial stress tests. Other customers include health insurer Cigna.

“The customers are basically looking at this as a long-term, permanent shift in how they manage data,” Barth says. “This isn’t an application they’ll use for some time and then move on.”

The challenge now is adding a lot more customers and growing the business. Barth and his co-founders initially funded the company themselves and were able to build the first version of the product and sign up initial customers in the first year, he says. Last year, they raised a little over $2 million in seed funding from Converge Venture Partners and a group of individual investors.

Now, they plan to accelerate the company’s growth with the help of the Series A money. It will fuel sales and marketing efforts, product development, and hiring. Barth says Podium’s 20-person team could grow to 80 people in the next two or three years, as its sales increase.

“Our plans are to more than double our bookings annually,” Barth says.

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