In 2003, Silicon Valley data cruncher Christian Chabot founded a company in his bedroom. He wanted to develop a data visualisation software for the masses.
This led to the creation of Tableau – now a multinational company worth billions of pounds, of which Chabot is chief executive. It has taken off in a big way recently, with revenue more than doubling every year for the past four years.
Claiming that people in all professions are becoming “data geeks”, Chabot told City A.M. that its success comes down to satisfying a great, but largely uncatered for professional need – to harness and analyse big datasets. “Most of what's currently available is complex and too difficult for most people to use,” he explained.
Managing investments, studying diseases and increasing sales are some of the ways Tableau has been put to use by businesses, and its clients now include Spotify, EasyJet and the London Mayor’s Office Policing and Crime unit.
The company's main market has always been the US, but Chabot hopes to cause a stir in Europe, too. The plan has worked so far - uptake of the product has been fast across Europe, brought about by what Chabot describes as a “deep thirst for understanding data” here. Competitors are thin on the ground, which has also been a help – there's a Swedish company called Qlik Technologies, a new cloud-based visualisation tool from Microsoft and a few startups like Platfora.
In August 2014, Chabot relocated to work from Tableau's London office, which was set up in 2010 and now employs 150 people. “It is certainly nice to go to a place with a startup culture, since it is easier to find businesses willing to try out something new,” he explained, praising the capital's investment in new business.
A new type of investment
It's a new area with few established businesses, so when Tableau listed on the New York Stock Exchange in May 2013 the outcome was relatively difficult to predict. But it raised the considerable sum of $2bn (£1.36bn), going at $31 per share. Since then, shares have more than doubled in price, peaking at $100 last month.
It's a risky investment area but has been paying off so far, according to Chabot. “Now we are a couple of years into it and the honeymoon period of the IPO is over,” he said.
“We are left with the big question of what investors think, and so far Wall Street investors have been very receptive and interested. They are confident about overturning the last generation of software and ushering in new technologies – they seem to find it very exciting.”
He added that although European investors were initially more hesitant about getting involved, they have also been warming to the area, and that there is now a “general trend of risk taking in the new sector”.
“Europeans were a little more reluctant to begin with, and I think it's because Tableau is better known by US investors. But now that they have been educated, a more positive attitude has become apparent among European investors.”
Chabot believes this will continue, as more and more businesses have to use data analysis on a daily basis. “Over the next five years or so, it will just become expected that a business can deal with data and use it to make decisions," he said.