To make analytics faster and more usable, the Interana team built an analytics engine from the ground up. Here's how they built a data analytics tool for the everyman.
What if every time you searched for something on a popular search engine, it took ten minutes to get your results back? You'd probably take a lot more time crafting your questions and you would likely hesitate before asking a follow-up question.
According to Interana CEO Ann Johnson, this is the current state of data analytics, and it is exactly what Interana provides a solution for — people who need analytics fast. Interana is a self-service data analytics tool that allows any user to input queries without coding and receive responses in mere seconds, not hours or days.
Typically, analyzing data requires custom SQL queries. Interana enables complex queries through its visual query builder, where users can ask real questions using a series of drop-down lists. For example, you can tell the tool you want to see the changes in mobile users over the past few months and it will bring that up.
"Interana's analytics also understand the temporal nature of the data — they allow users to visualize how metrics change over time and help them understand complex user behavior," said Mike Dauber, general partner at Amplify Partners and an investor in Interana.
And that gets right to the goal of the company: to make data analytics usable for all people.
"No longer do you have to have a department of people who are the high priests of data," Ann said. "Now, the person who needs the data, the person who wants the business answers from the data can have direct access to it."
Speed is the other factor for Interana. In fact, Ann said that it's often difficult to convince potential clients in sales meetings that the tool is actually doing what it is supposed to do, that there's no smoke and mirrors.
Much of Interana's speed comes from the way it treats the data it's analyzing. Interana works as an event-based analytics tool, meaning it was built specifically for continuous, timestamped data, sometimes called "events." That kind of data carries with it an abundance of information about user behavior.
Inputs could be sensors, clickstreams, machine data, or user data. Raw data can be loaded from files or databases, or it can be streamed live. According to its website, Interana stores that data "in a compressed, distributed, column-oriented data store."
According to Ann, the only difference between sensor data and people data is the time in between the data, sensors could come milliseconds between inputs, while people could take days to input data.
Mark Horton, head of marketing, uses it to determine which email clients his customers use and what their individual click-through rates are. Then, he can take that back to his team and make sure the email renders perfectly in those clients so they get maximum return from that email campaign.
Another question Ann and her team often get is what core tool or foundational technology their product is built on, expecting an answer like Hadoop. However, they built everything from the ground up. Dauber said that Interana existing as a full stack solution is another aspect that sets Interana apart.
Ann founded the company with her husband of 15 years, Bobby Johnson, and Lior Abraham. Both Bobby and Lior came from Facebook where Bobby was working on infrastructure and Lior was working on the live site performance team.
"Bobby was the director of engineering at Facebook for infrastructure," Ann said. "From very early on, the back half of the Facebook product — its performance, its scalability, its uptime — was all owned by Bobby from when they were about 10 million users to when they went, to about a billion users."
While at Facebook, Bobby had determined that Hadoop wasn't the answer for big data. So, he designed an analytics database that was uniquely geared toward the type of data people are using today.
Lior, when he was at Facebook, needed data quickly, so he built an interface that allowed the performance team to have a visual input for their data and get a visual output quickly. This was a radical change over the command-line type interface they were using. People began to look over his shoulder and ask if they could use it. It quickly spread to other departments and, when he left, over 50% of the company was using this interface tool.
Then, Ann recommended they take the individual work they had done at Facebook building these internal tools, and build it into a company. They went through Y Combinator, where they built the prototype.
Dauber, who met Bobby through a mutual friend, said the team was the first reason he chose to invest in the company. Additionally, he said the work they did came about at the right time and the company is playing in a massive market.
Interana officially launched on October 7, 2014, with six beta customers. The company recently raised a Series B funding round in January for $20 million with Index Ventures its salesforce has grown to around 50 people now.
Horton said the company is seeing customers in SaaS, eCommerce, online hospitality, travel, and social networking. However, right now they are getting the best response from tech companies and innovator who are willing to take a risk.