LucidEra: On-demand business intelligence

Ken Rudin caught the on demand bug working as head of engineering for salesforce.com in its early days and then at Siebel as Vice President and General Manager of its CRM OnDemand business unit.
Written by Dan Farber, Inactive
Ken Rudin caught the on demand bug working as head of engineering for salesforce.com in its early days and then at Siebel as Vice President and General Manager of its CRM OnDemand business unit. Now Rudin is launching LucidEra, an on demand, multi-tenant service in hopes of becoming the salesforce.com of business intelligence.   

LucidEra’s first pre-built application will be Forecast-to-Billing, which provides analytics of the sales opportunity to invoicing and cash collection lifecycle. Applications planed for next year include a 360-degree view of customer, bringing in more customer support and marketing data, and marketing analysis, which would include customer segmentation and campaign analysis, Rudin said. LucidEra will also expose its toolset to partners who want to build applications on the platform.

The company is aiming for mid-market customers, who typically can’t afford the highly customized solutions and consultants from the established players, such as Oracle, Siebel, SAP, Business Objects, Cognos and others.

We don’t ever want to modify the underlying architecture,” Rudin told me, spouting the on demand gospel. “It increases the expense for customers, adds delays, and is equivalent to every customer saying they want different voltages—a power company couldn’t stay in business. We have to build it so a customer can add custom fields, for example, a layer above underlying architecture.”

“Instead of answering esoteric questions just a few people have, we focus the vast majority who just want the basic stuff,” Rudin added. “Most people want similar questions answered in a broad range of industries. Our solution should match the needs of 80 percent of the mid-market, and businesses have to be willing to believe that we will be able to answer their key questions, essentially out of the box.”

The company’s on-demand BI platform includes a user interface layer; data extraction, transformation and loading (ETL), data cleaning; a datawarehouse to store snapshots of historical data; and an OLAP analysis engine for slicing and dicing the data. The ETL piece comes from code licensed from Kana and Dun & Bradstreet supplies the data cleaning solution.

LucidEra’s database, LucidDB, stores data column-by-column, which Rudin said is more efficient for datawarehouse querying, but not for transaction processing. The LucidDB and foundation platform will be open sourced, Rudin said. “We will build our applications on top of the platform, but some aspects, such as how to run on a grid, we won’t open source. We end up benefiting more by adopting the open source development model--as a business model it is more questionable.”

Pentaho and JasperSoft also have open source BI platforms, and Microsoft in also aiming at a similar market as LucidEra. Rudin touts LucidEra’s on demand model as a key differentiator. “Both open source companies and Microsoft have similar issue for customers,” Rudin said. “The all run into the same fundamental problem, which is not the pricing, but the resources required to build and manage the solutions.” 

LucidEra will go into beta next month and become available in Q1 2007, Rudin said, and will charge $2,900 per month for the base platform, which also includes 5 gigabytes of data, the application, the ability to plug into CRM and ERP systems (such as salesforce.com, NetSuite, Oracle E-Business Suite, spreadsheets, Microsoft Great Plains and Intuit QuickBooks) and subscriptions for the first five users. Additional users are $50 per user per month. Rudin told that LucidEra will have more of a self-service deployment flavor in version 2, which is slated for mid-2007.

The company, with 33 employees, is capitalized so far with $7 million from Benchmark Capital and Matrix Partners and has three pilot customers, Rudin said. LucidEra has the right idea--create an on-demand BI platform that doesn't try to boil the ocean, which is an expensive proposition doomed to failure, global warming aside. If the company deliver the equivalent of a good cup of hot BI tea to the SMB market, it may have a chance to succeed. 

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