Lightdash takes on Looker with an open-source BI platform built for dbt • TechCrunch

Lightdash, an open-source business intelligence (BI) platform that sets out to challenge proprietary incumbents like Looker, officially launches its core business product to the public today, backed by $8.40 in funding. millions of dollars. The round was led by Accel, with participation from Moonfire, Y Combinator (YC), Snyk Founder Guy Podjarny, and Gitlab CMO Ashley Kramer.

In its original form, Lightdash was known as Hubble when it graduated from YC’s S20 batch, with the goal of helping companies run tests on their data warehouse to identify data quality issues. data. These data quality metrics, as they turned out, were most useful in BI tools, which co-founder and CEO Hamzah Chaudhary says no BI tool on the market supports. So they pivoted the product to Lightdash and started working on the new project full-time in May 2021 to solve a big problem for data analysts..

“Modern data analysts look more and more like software developers, but they’re stuck with enterprise user interfaces that lock in business logic and slow them down,” Chaudhary explained to TechCrunch. “Lightdash provides productivity tools for analysts, allowing them to deploy BI enterprise-wide with much less effort.”

Lightdash is built specifically for dbt, a command line-based data transformation tool that allows analysts to transform raw data in their warehouse using SQL and their familiar text editor. Dbt is the “t” in “extract, load, transform (ELT), and Lightdash in turn turns any dbt project into a “complete BI platform”.

It should be noted that Lightdash is both a front-end and a back-end. So for regular business users who may not be familiar with SQL (e.g. marketing or finance), Lightdash serves as the visual layer for dbt, while in the back-end, data analysts and others more technical users can create custom workflows and define all activities. logics for metrics and KPIs, essentially “abstracting the complexity” of how they’re all calculated.

“Lightdash is focused on providing tools for data analysts to enable true self-service BI for the rest of their business,” said Chaudhary.

Lightdash Dashboard Image credits: Lightdash

Basics of BI

Business intelligence, for the uninitiated, is the process of extracting, integrating, and organizing disparate data sets to inform decision-making. Big data insights are the name of the game, helping analysts draw meaningful conclusions, identify and visualize patterns, and predict future outcomes (eg, sales forecasts).

The BI market is big business, considered a $23 billion industry in 2020 and expected to surpass $33 billion by 2025, which is likely why Google has given out over $2 billion for acquire Looker in 2020, and Salesforce snapped up Tableau for over $15 billion before that.

Lightdash, for its part, serves as the primary gateway for businesses looking to explore their data, sporting native integrations with many of the tools that make up the modern data stack, from dbt to Snowflake, Airbyte and Fivetran.

“Lightdash is designed to be open and integrated with the modern data stack, not a closed system”, said Chaudhary.

Lightdash takes on Looker with an open-source BI platform built for dbt • TechCrunch

Lightdash in action Image credits: Lightdash

The genesis of Lightdash dates back to Chaudhary and his co-founder CTO Oliver Laslett spent time together at UK insurtech Cytora, where they were tasked with scaling the company’s data analytics output.

“We saw the huge gap in the quality of tools available to our data teams compared to our software engineers, even though the tasks asked of our data analysts were equally technical,” said Chaudhary.When we left Cytora, we knew we wanted to empower data analysts and data teams by giving them more responsive and up-to-date tools. We [then] worked as data consultants helping companies set up their data stacks, and eventually realized that the weakest link in the workflow was the BI layer, as BI tools don’t integrate well with the rest of the stack data, do not support developer workflows, and make it difficult for data teams to collaborate effectively. »

And that perhaps goes to the heart of what Lightdash is trying to do: to help data analysts and analytics engineers use their existing tools, such as code editors, and to allow teams to collaborate at scale. “A platform designed to integrate with other tools”, as Chaudhary says so.

The open source factor

While the main Lightdash project is open source, the company launched a fully managed and hosted Lightdash Cloud service in beta in January, preceding the launch of its free self-hosted Community Edition in June. Today marks the launch of the public beta of its core cloud product, which has so far accumulated a waiting list of some 600 companies.

“We always planned to have a commercial version of Lightdash, but we also wanted to make sure that the open source product was usable as well – that’s why almost all of the product’s functionality is available in the self-contained open source version. hosted”, said Chaudhary.

Looker and its ilk are the obvious comparisons here, but Lightdash’s open-source credentials are one of its key differentiators, helping in part to woo SMBs and large enterprises alike. Open source is a major selling point for security-conscious companies in particular, as it means they have full visibility into how their data is being processed. It also means they can start small by rolling out Lightdash to just one or two teams to test it out before expanding further into their stack if they like what they see.

“It’s much more efficient compared to proprietary BI tools where you often have to go through a lengthy sales and sourcing process before getting to grips with the product itself,” Chaudhary said. “For many businesses and startups, this is the preferred way to get started with new tools – it has the added benefit that being open source, it’s already designed to be deployed on-premises if needed, which is often a requirement for larger companies.”

This is a model that has given success to so many startups before it: an open source foundation for organizations that need complete control and flexibility, with a business layer that removes much complexity and earthworks for those who need it.

A quick look at the competitive landscape reveals a few other players in the open source commercial BI space, including Metabase which raised a $30 million round of funding last year, and Preset which raised around $36 million. dollars to market the Apache Superset project. So it’s clear that there is a real demand not only for BI, but also for open source BI backed by a fully supported commercial service.

Lightdash is a remote first company, with its founders based in or around London and the rest of its 8-person team spread across Europe, although the company is incorporated in both the US and UK. United With $8.5 million in the bank, which includes a previously unannounced $2.4 million pre-seed round led by Moonfire, The company said it is now well-funded to ramp up its recruitment, particularly in its product team, as well as to develop an educational program called Lightdash University, designed to “hone” BI teams.

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