A postmortem of Neato BI, a cloudless data analysis and visualization tool.
Neato was to be a data analysis and visualization (aka, business intelligence) tool. There were a few features that I had in mind that would (hopefully) make it a unique product offering:
- A browser-based (or Electron-based) tool built on modern web standards
- In-memory or direct-connect only; data would never be copied or moved (aka, "cloudless")
- SQL, AWK, and R support
- A lower price point than other BI tools
A very rough early version of Neato running in Electron on Linux.
Neato became my core project because data visualization is something I am very passionate about; it's in my wheelhouse. At my last job, I developed and led an initiative to vastly improve data-based decision making by creating a data warehouse and introducing business intelligence tools (we adopted Tableau back when it was fairly new; we were probably one of the first companies to deploy their server product.)
So like I said, Neato has been my core project, at least in theory. On the one hand, it's the project I keep coming back to. But on the other hand, I only keep "coming back" to it because I keep getting distracted with other ideas. That's a red flag.
The nail in the coffin has been a wave of competition in the space. Frankly, I'm extremely jealous. Many of these tools look awesome, and a few even have features that align with what I conceived. But make no mistake, there are a ton of these tools now. Here's a taste:
Older, Established Companies
- Tableau (founded in 2003)
- Microstrategy (1989)
- Qlik (1993, acquired by Thoma Bravo in 2016)
- Tibco Spotfire (2007)
- Microsoft Power BI (released in 2014)
- Pentaho (2004, acquired by Hitachi Data Systems in 2015)
- Chartio (founded in 2010)
- Looker (2011)
- DataHero (2011, acquired by Cloudability in 2016)
- BIME Analytics (2009, acquired by Zendesk in 2015)
- Wagon (2014)
- Reflect (2015)
- ReportPlus (by Infragistics, 1989; product recently released)
- GoodData (2007)
- Sisense (2010)
- datapine (2012)
- Platfora (2011)
- Dundas (BI product released in 2014)
Not Completely Dead
Given that my company is "Neato Software", the name obviously lives on. There just won't be a core data visualization product named "Neato". However, as development progresses on lowercase, perhaps it makes a comeback as a feature, a theme, a plug-in, or something.
Have thoughts on the BI and data visualization market? Let me hear them on Twitter @cschidle.
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