Larry Page's College Friend Has Launched A Cool New Startup

Ben Werther, CEO, PlatforaBen Werther, CEO, Platfora

Photo: Platfora

Imagine hanging out with Larry Page in college while working on your Ph.D., sharing an office with him and then choosing to join a virtual-worlds startup called There Inc. instead of the thing Page was working on.You know, the search engine with the funny name.

Hindsight is 20/20. Fortunately, for Ben Werther, life doesn’t offer just one make-it-or-break it chance.

Today Werther is bringing his own highly anticipated startup out of stealth mode. It’s called Platfora and it has some big-name backers including Andreessen Horowitz, In-Q-Tel (a CIA-backed venture fund), and Sutter Hill Ventures. Platfora raised $7.2 million in its first formal financing round about a year ago.

To be fair to Werther, he cut his teeth at some pretty well-known companies before heading out on his own including Siebel Systems, Microsoft, and Greenplum, an early big-data analytics startup bought by EMC in 2010.

Platfora is a search engine of sorts, too—but instead of searching the Web, Platfora searches data stored in Hadoop databases.

Hadoop is an open-source version of MapReduce, a technology developed at Google. It allows companies to store humongous amounts of data on inexpensive servers and storage but as they store more data, they face two problems: 1) people can’t easily turn all that data into charts and 2) it can take a long time—minutes—to get results when you ask a question.

Platfora solves both of these problems by letting business users run fast searches and reports against Hadoop and producing visual graphs and charts, too.

Plus, it’s easy to set up. Where most business-intelligence software takes weeks to install and requires specialists to set up designated reports, Platfora can be ready to go relatively instantly, Werther says.

“We got the first standing ovation from a customer that I’ve ever got in my career,” Werther told Business Insider. The customer had “petabytes of data” stored in a data warehouse. “We went in there with our software on a USB stick. Within about three hours they were looking at their data visually.”

Platfora is one of a new crop of tools that have venture capitalists really excited. Ravi Mhatre, managing director of venture firm Lightspeed Venture Partners previously told us that he expects these new visualisation tools to disrupt the $30 billion “business intelligence” software industry that is dominated today by SAP’s Business Objects, IBM’s Cognos, and Oracle’s Hyperion.

“We’re talking an industry today that’s probably $20 [billion] to $30 billion that I think, overnight, is going to be replaced by a completely new set of platforms,” he predicted.

Don’t miss: The Next 25 Big Enterprise Startups >

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