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Investors have been piling money into business intelligence (BI) startups in recent weeks, suggesting their next-generation approach to BI is gaining momentum.

Most recently, San Francisco-based Birst raised another $65 million in funding. In addition, Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Looker raised $30 million in Series B funding.

Birst-ing Open

Wellington Management led Birst's latest investment round financing. It was joined by existing investors, a list that includes Sequoia Capital, Hummer Winblad, DAG Ventures and Northgate Capital.

Birst, a cloud-based business intelligence provider, has now raised a total of $156 million. It's a testament, CEO Jay Larson told CMSWire, to its two-tier tech approach as well as the explosion of demand for all things analytical in the enterprise.

Birst plans to use the money  to expand these capabilities as well as increase investment in sales and marketing. It also plans to expand its international footprint.

Brad Peters, Chairman and Chief Product Officer at Birst, said the data warehouses and management operations at many companies are in a sorry state.  "About 20 percent to 40 percent of their data might actually be useful," he said.

That subsect of useful data is fueling most analytical endeavors. These projects are typically crafted by discovery tools doing one-off analysis, he continued. Birst, Peters said, "has integrated light weight data refinement into the process." 

In Gartner’s recently released Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics, Birst is rated as a Challenger for its product strategy and innovations. 

It "has a unique two-tier data architecture coupled with a BI and analytics platform and allows customers to keep their data on-premises if they so choose," Gartner noted. But it is still focused in North America and Northern Europe and is an evolving platform, researchers noted.

Another Look(er)

Looker, for its part, focuses on the discovery portion of BI. It seeks to make data as accessible as possible to the end user, with tools that create custom data experiences.

It also has more than its fair share of well known clients. Looker's tool set, for example, has helped to fuel Warby Parker's growth, Carl Anderson, director of Data Science at the online eyeglasses retailer, said when Looker announced its funding.

"Looker provides our analysts with an intuitive, powerful environment to ask deeper, richer, and more nuanced questions that help us make the best, confident decisions," he said. "In addition, Looker’s access and sharing model allow us to democratize data and provide timely and relevant information to the team at large."

Gartner analysts said Looker "offers tools for business-user-driven data transformation and exploration. Its purpose is not to compete with traditional BI tools, but to facilitate analytic processes between data analysts and end users."

Disrupting BI

Both of these offerings are variations of a theme Gartner predicted would dominate BI this year

Specifically, Gartner said platforms that expand access to analytics and deliver higher business value are challenging market leaders.

To be sure, making BI easy to use for anyone who doesn’t hold a Doctorate in computing has long been a goal of the sector. Every few years the industry inches closes to the ideal of 'BI for the everyman' but this application is still notoriously difficult to use.

New tools in data preparation, though, suggest a leap forward in this process, Gartner analyst Rita Sallam said earlier this year.

"Data preparation capabilities are emerging that will provide business users and analysts the ability to extend the scope of self-service to include information management, and extract, transform and load functions, enabling them to access, profile, prepare, integrate, curate, model and enrich data for analysis and consumption by BI and analytics platforms."

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by Moyan Brenn.