BI startup Sisense raises $50 million to disrupt SAP


Eighteen months and several hundred customer wins after its last funding round, Sisense Inc. has raised another $50 million from investors to shift into the next gear of growth. The startup hopes to achieve that through a classic combination of increased marketing investment and the development of new features for its namesake analytics platform. The software offers an alternative to traditional business intelligence solutions from the likes of SAP SA for companies that need the advanced functionality but can’t always afford the price.

Sisense is capable of analyzing large datasets using fairly modest amounts of low-cost commodity hardware thanks to a homegrown execution engine that took its founding team some six years to develop. It works by organizing information in columns that reside on the disk drives of the host machine most of the time and are only moved into memory when they’re actively needed. The highest priority files are automatically identified along the way and get redirected to the speedy cache attached to the processors, which is the fastest of the three storage mediums.

In a live demonstration that Sisense held at Strata + Hadoop World 2013, its software was able to blaze through 10 terabytes of data under 10 seconds on a low-end Xeon server priced below five figures. And that was more than two years ago, a small eternity in the  technology world. The startup has since made numerous improvements both to the data crunching engine and the graphical analytics interface layered over the top, which is the other major selling point of its platform.

Sisense allows business users to handle everything from the initial process of aggregating information for analysis to visualizing the results that come out at the other end with relatively straightforward drag-and-drop commands. The functionality has earned the startup a long list of big-name fans including Merck & Co., which uses its software to research vaccines, Target Corp. and eBay Inc. that the new funding should help expand considerably.

The investment was led by private equity heavyweight Bessemer Venture Partners and included contributions from all of the startup’s prior backers, most notably fellow venture capital giants Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Battery Ventures.  The group has injected a total of a $94 million into Sisense’s coffers since its first funding round back in 2010.

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