10 big data startups to watch

These startups are helping big data live up to its potential in areas such as marketing, pharmaceutical research, and cyber security

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Pursway's software is intended to improve customer acquisition, cross-selling opportunities, and retention. By imprinting a social graph onto existing customer and prospect data, identifying actual relationships between buyers, and identifying target customers who have a demonstrated influence over others' purchasing decisions, Pursway argues that it can help consumer-facing organizations close the gap between how businesses market and how people actually buy.

Customers include Sony, Orange, and Comcast.

Competitive Landscape: Competitors include Angoss, IBM, and SAS.

8. PlaceIQ
What they do:
Provide a data-driven mobile advertising and consumer targeting platform.
New York, NY
Duncan McCall, who formerly founded PublicEarth.
The company is backed by $27.75 million raised in three round of funding from IA Ventures, Social Leverage, kbs+ Ventures, Neu Venture Capital, US Venture Partners, Valhalla Partners, Harmony Partners, and Iris Capital.

Why they're on this list: Mobile advertising and marketing present a unique challenge. The typical way companies try to understand consumer behavior online is through cookies. On smartphones and tablets, cookies don't have as much traction. Even if cookies are enabled in mobile browsers, they aren't terribly useful, since browsers are giving way to apps.

However, a potentially better replacement is location. Just as cookies track your journeys through the Web, marketers can glean demographic information from the actual physical locations you've visited.

PlaceIQ says that it "provides a multidimensional depiction of consumers across location and time." This allows brands to define audiences and intelligently communicate with those audiences to support greater ROI. PlaceIQ's product, Audiences Now, focuses on targeting customers where they are, in real time, creating an immediacy to a brand's marketing strategy.

Customers include Mazda, Disney, and Montana Tourism.

Competitive Landscape: The competition includes Verve Mobile, xAd, Placed, Sense Networks, jiWire, 4INFO, and Millennial Media.

9. MemSQL
What they do:
Provide in-memory database technology for real-time Big Data analytics.
San Francisco
Eric Frenkiel. Before MemSQL, he worked at Facebook on partnership development.
The company is backed by $45 million in funding from Accel Partners, Khosla Ventures, First Round Capital, and Data Collective. Their most recent funding was a $35 million Series B closed in January 2014.

Why they're on this list: Big Data and real-time analytics have the potential to profoundly impact the way organizations operate and how they engage with customers. However, there are challenges that prevent companies from fully extracting value from their data. Legacy database technologies are prone to latency, require complex and expensive architectures, and rely on slow disk-based technology.

The result is an outdated computing infrastructure that cannot handle the velocity and volume of data in the timeframe required of a true real-time solution.

MemSQL says that it solves this performance bottleneck with a distributed in-memory computing model that runs on cost-effective commodity servers. MemSQL's in-memory SQL database accelerates applications, powers real-time analytics, and combines structured and semi-structured data into a consolidated Big Data solution. MemSQL says that it empowers organizations to make data-driven decisions, which helps them to better engage customers, discover competitive advantages, and reduce costs.

Customers include Comcast, Zynga, Ziff Davis, and Shutterstock.

Competitive Landscape: Competitors include incumbents like SAP and Oracle, the open-source platform MogoDB, and startups such as Aerospike and Platfora.

10. Couchbase
What they do:
Provides NoSQL database technology.
Mountain View, Calif.
Bob Wiederhold. He formerly served as chairman and CEO of Transitive, which was acquired by IBM in 2008.
Couchbase has raised a total of $56 million in funding from Adams Street Partners, Accel Partners, Mayfield Fund, North Bridge Venture Partners, Ignition Partners, and DoCoMo Capital.

Why they're on this list: The landscape for Big Data database technology is in flux. Hadoop and NoSQL seem to be the platforms most favor, although plenty of organizations are still betting on SQL.

Couchbase is placing its bet on NoSQL. The startup argues that its NoSQL document-oriented database technology provides the scalability and flexible data modeling needed for Big Data-scale projects. Couchbase also claims to offer the first NoSQL database for mobile devices.

Customers include AOL, Cisco, Concur, LinkedIn, Orbitz, Salesforce.com, Zynga, Amadeus, McGraw-Hill Education, and Nielsen.

Competitive Landscape: Competitors include MongoDB and DataStax.

Jeff Vance is a Santa Monica-based writer. He's the founder of Startup50, a site devoted to emerging tech startups. Follow him on Twitter @JWVance, or reach him by email at jeff@sandstormmedia.net.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

This story, "10 big data startups to watch" was originally published by Network World.

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