Why US Venture Capital Firms are looking toward Business Intelligence, again...


The last two years have been a landmark regarding the Business Intelligence (BI) industry; to some extent not in the best of ways. Indeed, it has become clear that the Internet players -Google, Facebook, Groupon as well as the e-commerce players such as Amazon-have come with CRM and BI offers that bring so much breakthrough,that the traditional players suddenly look almost naked. It is true that, contrary to most traditional businesses, internet has come with a very unique value-proposition : the ability to track and follow every single move than the consumer makes. This simple opportunity eventually triggered a deluge of creativity from the marketing teams of these new players and their peers, Internet startups. Their new practices became so efficient that they shifted their model from CPC (Cost per Click) into CPL (Cost Per Lead) and eventually into CPA (Cost Per Action or Sale). Most innovations came from companies that didn't exist ten years ago: sponsored links (Google), retargeting (Criteo), e-couponing (Groupon), profile targeting (Facebook), initiated a highly efficient ecosystem aiming at the fulfillment of the consumers' needs.

Lately, most marketing directors from the traditional FMCG and retail industries realized that their practices and processes haven't moved so much during the past 20 years. Sure, most have initiated some loyalty programs and built up some CRM that can let them pretend that they can track their customer's behavior, but the vast majority can’t help but agree with  modern advertising trailblazer John Wanamaker : "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." (one should agree that is obvious that we could replace "Advertising" by "Marketing" in that sentence). As a result they began to show great concerns, clearly expressed in some surveys.

An HD Marketing 2010 study show that CMO’s main concern is about metrics : 31% of them wish to develop dashboards in order to measure their ROI, 45% of them would like to use dashboards to build their marketing mix.

While the past two years have clearly shown that "traditional" marketing directors had to regain the BI battleground, it became also clear that the pace of the marketing arms race has been accelerating in the Internet field.

The problem was that during the last 20 years, very limited progress has been made. One has to remember that the companies mastering the space are players such as   businessObject, created 17 years ago...This is why the initiative came (again) from some unknown start-up, such as Palantir, which were able to bring (again) some real innovation. This remains quite an early change in trends, but VCs haven't been blind about these marketing military drills and 2010 was quite probably a turning year with companies such as Cloud9 Analytics Inc. being able to raise an $8 million Series C round in May from Mayfield Fund, InterWest Partners and Leapfrog Partners. So far, one cannot say that this trend has already crossed the Atlantic. European VCs are still fascinated by Groupon and Facebook “me-too’s” and remain extremely shy about anything that doesn't fit in any of their known area.

That, though, may soon change !