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Tableau Software’s IPO Path

Posted on Friday, Mar 29th 2013

According to an IDC report released earlier this year, the worldwide big data technology and services market is projected to grow annually at 31.7% in 2012 to $23.8 billion in 2016. The biggest increase should be seen by the storage market, which is projected to report annual rates of over 53%. Services for big data technology will grow annually at 21.1% during the period.

Tableau’s Financials

One of the players trying to make it big within big data analytics space is Seattle-based Tableau Software. IDC estimates that within the fast-growing big data market, business analytics software will grow to $50.7 billion by 2016.

The company was founded in 2003 by Stanford alumni and professors Christian Chabot, Chris Stolte, and Pat Hanrahan. Hanrahan is also credited with co-founding Pixar, the animation leader. Tableau was formed to simplify data visualization to make it easy to understand.

When I spoke with Cabot a few years ago, he explained the working behind the core invention of Tableau. It is based on the logic of sending a VizQL statement to a database so that the response is a picture and not a SQL table. It is “an algebraic formalism that embodies both the graphics commands and the query which is required to bring tuples back into the data engine. By virtue of marrying both into a single language, it is easy to provide a single picture of the data.”

Tableau’s offerings are known as “the new BI” as they include features such as cloud hosting, mobile access, visual interfaces, and collaborative functionality. Using these tools, organizations can turn complicated data into graphics and charts.

The company’s products include Tableau Desktop, a tool that lets users explore and visualize data by combining multiple views into a dashboard and by letting them work with spreadsheets, databases, or big data warehouses from their own desktop machines. The tool is priced at $999 per user for individual customers and at $1,999 per user for a professional customer. Tableau’s Server offering lets people see data graphics in their browsers or on a mobile device and lets them publish links to the graphics. The offering is most used by customers wishing to deploy analytics across their organizations. Tableau also offer a free cloud-based product that can be used with public data for analysis and dashboard creation. Users can even publish their graphics through this service.

Tableau’s tools are now being used by multiple organizations. Last year, they entered into an agreement with Google to offer visualization technology for Google’s BigQuery database search service. Their customers include Barclays PLC, Charles Schwab Corp, Kimberley-Clark Corp, Facebook, LinkedIn and Exxon Mobil, to name a few.

Analysts estimate that the company has seen strong growth over the past few years, with revenues up from $10 million in 2007 to more than $110 million last year. A year ago, in 2011, they earned revenues of $72 million.

The company has been profitable for a while and has managed to fund its growth without excessive reliance on venture or debt funding. They have received $15 million funding from New Enterprise Associates, and they claim this money is still largely unused. Tableau is expected to soon become public, and they have hired Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and JP Morgan to lead an offering expected to raise $200 million this summer. Analysts expect that the IPO could help value Tableau at $2 billion. They plan to use these funds for market expansion, both domestically and internationally.

Unlike the plethora of valuation without revenues companies, I much prefer a multi-billion dollar valuation attached to a company like Tableau that has demonstrated clear revenue and profitability.

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