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Think Big. Move Fast.

Business Intelligence (BI) is the gift that keeps on giving. For years, startups have popped up, promising better insights and faster decision making capabilities, consistently resulting in new waves of highly valued companies. Take a look at the past decade, which has seen massive consolidation as well as a hot new set of public companies. For example, SAP snapped up Business Objects for $6.8B in 2009, IBM acquired Cognos for $5B in 2008, and Oracle acquired Hyperion for $3.3B in 2007. The most recent set of public BI companies include upstarts such as Tableau, Qlikview, and Splunk which each captured the markets’ imagination with promises of Big Data and Analytics.

Increasingly, BI has been recognized as a strategic tool by the world’s most successful and nimble enterprises which run their businesses on metrics and use BI tools to rapidly make data-driven decisions.

However, despite the steady progress in technology, there is still a problem with BI. The status quo remains a complicated mess of reports and dashboards coupled with a very IT-centric approach to serving, accessing, and exploring data. Despite the incumbent vendors’ promises of “speed of thought decision-making” and “democratization of data,” a user’s ability to ask questions of her data is still impacted by IT’s ability to manipulate the data tools. Put simply, no one has solved the problem of letting a business user directly search and ask questions of her data. And as a business analyst will quickly tell you, the more questions you can ask, the better insights you get!

Take a second to think about your life on the web. When we have a question to ask of the internet’s wisdom, we turn to Google and have millions of answers in less than half a second. However, when we have an answer to ask of our corporate data that falls outside the existing data schema, we turn to IT. And then we wait. And wait. And days or weeks later, we may have an answer.

It is this massive gap between the power of web search and the inflexibility of corporate BI that led Ajeet Singh and Amit Prakash, the founders of ThoughtSpot, to sense an opportunity. They asked themselves the audacious question: why not bring the elegance and speed of the Google search experience to the enterprise? Specifically, why not build a simple, clean interface that users can easily understand, paired with the performance and flexibility of an in-memory, scale-out database appliance?

This is a big idea and a huge technical challenge. But, Ajeet and Amit are no strangers to big ideas. Ajeet was a co-founder at Nutanix, one of the fastest growing enterprise infrastructure companies of the past decade, and Amit was a founding engineer of Microsoft Bing’s Search team and then spent many years at Google, leading technical teams in the AdSense Analytics group.

To tackle this huge challenge would require bringing together a cross-functional team of world class engineers, designers, and architects to take on a problem that no startup had yet attempted. Ajeet and Amit set out to build one of the valley’s best engineering teams. They recruited as jr co-founders Shashank Gupta, Vijay Ganesan, Sanjay Agrawal, Priyendra Deshwal and Abhishek Rai – technical stars from Microsoft, Oracle, Google, who have made significant contributions to technology such as Google’s Search Index, Google’s Project Borg, Google’s Ads Database, Microsoft’s SQL Server, and Oracle’s BI-in-the-cloud. And they raised $10.7M from Lightspeed and a number of strategic angels to finance building the product.

Fast forward 18 months and, today, ThoughtSpot unveiled their Data Search Appliance, a revolutionary way for business users to search, analyze, and explore their data. Designed for enterprises, the appliance is scalable, secure, and elastic, with the performance and intuitive experience you’d expect when asking questions of Google.

At Lightspeed, we’re extremely excited about our partnership with the ThoughtSpot team as they rethink business intelligence for the enterprise and bring the power of search to business data. For more information about ThoughtSpot’ launch, visit www.thoughtspot.com.

 

Follow me on Twitter at @arifj

 

 

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Congratulations to Tony Fadell, Matt Rogers and the world class team at Nest!  Today Nest announced that it has agreed to be acquired by Google.   As investors in the company since the early days, we here at Lightspeed have been honored to be a partner of Nest.   Nest is a very special company with a truly exceptional team… a VC’s dream.  We are thrilled to see Nest have an opportunity to further accelerate its business as part of Google.

I first met Tony Fadell, co-founder and CEO of Nest, in the summer of 1991.  I was an intern at a then 30 person startup called General Magic (GM) while I was a student at Stanford Business School.  Unbeknownst to the rest of the world because it was in deep stealth, GM was trying to create what we now know as the mobile Web with the world’s largest telecom service providers and consumer electronics companies based on GM’s technology.  Tony was a fresh U of Michigan grad and part of a small team that worked on low-level software and hardware to develop prototypes of PDAs (the ancient predecessors of what is now an iPhone) that companies like Sony, Panasonic and Motorola would manufacture.  As I look back, Tony’s success throughout his career starting at GM has been his uncanny ability to make software and hardware meld together as one to create a sublime user experience.   In a company full of talent (the founders of eBay, WebTV, Android all came from GM), Tony stood out even at a very young age.  Not only was he exceptionally gifted technically, he gained everyone’s respect for his integrity and strong convictions about the company’s product direction and overall strategy.  Tony even as an individual contributor in those very early days of his career was already a leader with vision and capability.

 

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Tony –working on “iPhone” circa 1992              Me–product manager, having a ball

 

After General Magic went public and Tony and I went on with our respective careers, we would bump into each other from time to time whether it be at tech conferences, at a General Magic alumni gathering at Zot’s, for Halloween at the home of our mutual GM friends Marco & Tracy DeMiroz, or at Hobee’s in Cupertino.  I had a long-standing “joke” with Tony that whenever I would run into him, I would tell him I had Lightspeed’s checkbook handy and was ready to write him a check whenever he wanted to start a company.  Not sure he knew, but I was dead serious.

After many years and all the success Tony had at Apple—from creating the iPod to leading the development of the first iPhones—I finally had the opportunity to write Tony a check.  There was no hesitation from my partnership.  That’s what we here at Lightspeed live for:  to back visionary, world-changing entrepreneurs like Tony Fadell.  And our excitement went off the charts when we met Matt Rogers, Tony’s co-founder, who was responsible at Apple for iPod software development and one of the first engineers on the original iPhone team.  We would have invested had they been looking to start a food truck.  We had a deep belief that Tony and Matt would make something BIG happen no matter what—it would have been a game-changing food truck no doubt!

Already thrilled to work with Tony and Matt, our enthusiasm for Nest was compounded because of our strong belief in a disruptive wave of next generation, connected devices.  The opportunity is massive as even the seemingly most mundane items (like the smoke detector or the thermostat) will be innovated on and brought to life.  At Lightspeed we are convinced that we are at the dawn of new era where every product stands to be improved through innovation around Internet connectedness, cloud-based services and data.  We are big believers in the use of disruptive Big Data technology (such as from our companies DataStax and MapR) that can make these devices smarter, more capable, and easier to use.

We had high expectations for Nest given all this, but the team exceeded even those expectations.  The vision and product design were all exceptionally compelling and powerful, but what really impressed me was their relentless execution and focus on every little detail.  I was one of the beta testers for their first product.  Matt personally brought a beta unit of the first Nest thermostat to my house and took copious notes as he watched me install it.  Thereafter every single bug I reported was attacked until squashed and every piece of feedback I gave was voraciously devoured.  What also struck me was the team’s ability to make decisions through instinct but backed up by hard cold numbers and analysis. The team was supremely confident but at the same time incredibly paranoid.  They got the Ying & Yang thing down!  I honestly wish I could have done more to help them, but it seems like great teams like Nest’s that we are fortunate to back don’t need much help.  Any time I attempted to add some insight, they were already at least two steps ahead of me!  Our role was really to be consistent supporters as the company rapidly grew and tackled all the challenges they faced.

We applaud and thank them for their amazing accomplishments.  It has been personally fulfilling to work with Tony again and thrilling to see him, Matt and the team build an incredible Nest and hatch their first couple of eggs.  The acquisition by Google is just a milestone along the way as these brilliant, visionary founders and world class team continue their quest to change the world.  I can’t wait to see the rest of their eggs hatch and how they will continue to bring magic to all those unloved things in our homes…

 

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Today is an exciting day for Nimble Storage. We are fortunate to be early investors and partners to the company, having made our initial investment during the depths of the global financial collapse in late 2008. Nimble successfully completed its IPO on the NYSE today – a testament to the team’s vision and execution.

At Lightspeed, we had identified the flash storage trend in early 2007 with an investment in Pliant Technology, a manufacturer of SSDs that was later acquired by SanDisk. Our investment in Pliant gave us an early view into how flash memory would fit into next generation storage systems, and how quickly those systems would make their way into the Enterprise. We blogged about the potential for hybrid storage in late 2007 and 2008.  During that time, the Nimble team of storage and software experts recognized the opportunity to develop a platform that would transform the industry.  They built their platform from the ground up, starting with a fundamentally new file system software that takes advantage of the high performance characteristics of flash memory and the capacity and low cost of disk. Over 2,100 end-customers later, Nimble is a public company.

We salute the entire team at Nimble Storage.

 

@barryeggers @jvrionis

 

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New content sites like Buzzfeed, Upworthy, ViralNova and PolicyMic*are growing fast through social sharing. Yesterday Facebook made some changes to their newsfeed algorithm that will deprecate low quality memes and highlight high quality stories that get clicked and read a …

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Bitcoin has been on a nice run over the last few months, currently trading above $500 USD/BTC.

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A large driver of the run up has been growing demand for Bitcoin in China. BTC China has always been …

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In yesterday’s Facebook earnings call, a lot of concern has been raised about how teen usage on Facebook has dropped slightly. Said Facebook’s CFO:

“Our best analysis of youth engagement in the U.S. reveals that usage of Facebook among

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Social media sites by definition involve user generated content. In some cases, like Youtube comments or Chatroulette, that makes for some unpleasant behavior. In other cases, like Pinterest and Quora, the better angels of our nature win out. The difference …

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We all know that internet usage is steadily shifting over to mobile. We also know that mobile phones are not just mini laptops. User behavior changes on mobile phones. I have a guest column in Pando Daily today that talks …

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Education is a topic near and dear to my heart. Today I attended the demo day for Co.lab, an incubator focused on the intersection of edtech and games. Co.lab is a joint venture between the non profit venture philanthropy …

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This morning, John Schroeder, CEO of MapR, shared a great post on what it takes to run a company that is “Built to Last.” As John writes, being “built to last” is an idea that is arguably most relevant in …

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