With $550K, Beekeeper Gets Buzz for Building “MailChimp for Data”

Matthew Rathbone left his job at Foursquare, the location-based social network headquartered in New York City, in 2013 after nearly three years of employment. While he didn’t miss his old job enough to return to the company, he says he did long to use some of the tools he had co-developed there. During his time at Foursquare, one project Rathbone worked on was helping to build an internal system that allowed employees to query databases and send the retrieved information to others.

“It was extremely popular,” Rathbone says. “When I left Foursquare, I kind of felt this gap in my tool set. I really wanted that piece of software back.”

So he set out to build something similar, but flexible enough that it could be adapted to different companies’ myriad databases. The result is Beekeeper Data, a Madison, WI-based startup that calls itself the “MailChimp for data.” That analogy highlights what Beekeeper sees as its mission: simplifying data retrieval and sharing for non-technical users, similar to what Atlanta-based MailChimp has done for e-mail marketing.

Beekeeper recently closed a $550,000 seed financing round. Rathbone says the company will spend the money on people—Beekeeper has three full-time employees and two part-time staffers—and on further development of its products, with a focus on making them easy to use. Investors in the round included Wisconsin Investment Partners (WIP), the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, Champaign, IL-based Serra Ventures, and “a range of other investors across the Midwest,” according to Beekeeper.

The company also announced two new board members: WIP co-manager Michael Thorson and and Eli Collins, chief technologist at Cloudera, a Palo Alto, CA-based developer of data management software.

Rathbone says Beekeeper is making its flagship product available after a yearlong “private beta” rollout. Madison companies who have used or tested Beekeeper’s software include Shoulet, which makes social media management tools; EatStreet, an online food-ordering service; and Abodo, whose website and app help users find apartments. Recently, Beekeeper did a “production deploy” with Solomo Technology, a Madison-based company that makes software and sensor devices to connect businesses with consumers, he says.

“They’ve been key in helping us drive the vision of the product, and they’re getting a lot of value from it,” Rathbone says of Solomo.

Beekeeper’s software, which Rathbone expects customers to use for sharing data externally with customers and internally with colleagues, can integrate with most widely used data-processing frameworks, including Hadoop and MongoDB

Rathbone says he doesn’t know of any other companies taking Beekeeper’s approach to data management.

“The biggest competitor we have is companies building their own systems that quickly grow out of hand and become unmaintainable,” he says. “The traditional reporting products in the market are from the 1990s and they’re kind of out of fashion.”

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