clouds

Business intelligence (BI) isn’t sexy, but generation one of the category resulted numerous multi-billion dollar companies. And now that business software has shifted from on-premise to cloud-based solutions, many of the same data connectivity and analysis problems require solving again.

So is the thesis behind Numerify, a stealthy, pre-launch BI startup that today announced an $8 million Series A round of financing led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. The round also includes participation from several strategic angels such as ServiceNow CEO Frank Slootman, Google Enterprise President Amit Singh, LinkedIn SVP of products & user experience Deep Nishar, former NetSuite EVP of sales James Ramsey, and former Oracle Public Cloud SVP Abhay Parasnis.

Numerify’s aim is to integrate data from cloud and on-premise applications while making it simpler to securely access and customize the insights extracted from across these various sources. Netsuite’s Ramsey says in a statement today, “Companies that adopt SaaS based applications also need analytic solutions that span these sources and provide unified metrics across customers, suppliers, products and employees.”

This will be no small feat by any measure. One reason for the major vote of confidence by the above group of industry stalwarts is the equally impressive pedigree of Numerify’s founders. The company was founded by several of the early pioneers of the BI category from generation one companies. This includes co-founders, Gaurav Rewari and Srikant Gokulnatha, the company’s CEO and VP of development respectively, both of whom ran product at MicroStrategy, Hyperion, and Oracle.

According to Lightspeed partner Bipul Sinha none of the current crop of SaaS analytics tools have gone far enough in the way of automation. Rather, he says, most tools are really a base software platform plus a professional services contract. Where Numerify will differentiate itself is by creating a BI layer that automatically recognizes and responds to changes at the underlying SaaS application level, such as modifications to the number of sales funnel steps in Salesforce.com, removing the need for manual intervention.

Says Rewarsi in a statement today:

At Numerify, we believe that a large part of the burden of this new data integration and analytics challenge can be shifted from man to machine. Further, we believe that the SaaS business user can, and should drive the scope of ‘numerification,’ i.e. what data assets get assembled for analysis when and how.

So it’s clear that Numerify has a big vision for how the future of cloud-based BI will look and feel. But at present, there’s no actual product on which to judge its progress. Rather the company, which today consists of 50 engineers, designers, and product managers, is wrapping up development behind closed doors with the goal of launching publicly in early 2014.

There’s little argument that Numerify will enter the market as demand for analytic solutions increases. The IDC predicts that cloud analytics it is posed to grow at a compound rate of 10 percent per year through and reach a $10 billion total market opportunity by 2017. The spike in adoption is triggered by a preceding jump in adoption of underlying SaaS applications that have created new cloud-based data silos across the enterprise. Someone needs to unpack this mess and extract meaningful business insights.

“We think that by making cloud analytics both more powerful and at the same time easier to user, we can significantly increase adoption and ROI for business customers,” Rewari says.

According to a statement from Google Enterprise President Amit Singh:

Numerify’s unique platform-driven approach holds the promise of dramatically altering the economics of building, deploying and managing such business analytics applications in the cloud, thus unlocking the full power of the SaaS delivery model for IT and business users alike.

Put another way, much like Salesforce’s AppExchange helped drive the company’s massive growth, Numerify plans to implement a similar platform model, expanding both its reach and speed to market in a number of niche categories. The company has yet to announce pricing, but it will be in alignment with the rates and structures offered by other enterprise SaaS giants, Rewarsi says. The company will also deploy a direct, outside sales model according to the CEO.

Today’s $8 million financing may seem like a big bet for a company that has yet to build or sell a single product. But as Lightspeed’s Sinha notes, Numerify’s predecessors raised massive sums of capital before ultimately exiting for north of a billion dollars, often nearly a decade later. Hence the investors are approaching this iteration with similar expectations in terms of the size of the opportunity and the resources that will be required to capitalize on it.

The Series A round was actually closed late last year, Rewarsi says, although it’s just being announced today as the company prepares to launch its first commercial product. This means that the company is already well into putting this money to work and will likely forced to think about its next round of financing sooner rather than later.

The distance between experienced founders raising a Series A round and delivering a compelling product to market is massive, not to mention the chasm that must be crossed to create anything near a billion-dollar outcome. But this is very much the expectation of those involved with this company. It will be several years before we know whether they’ve lived up to these lofty goals.

Regardless of whether its Numerify that wins the cloud analytics race, this is a massive problem that will be solved by someone in the next few years. And to that victor will go the (staggeringly large) spoils.