Data – Not Software – Is Eating the World

by Jan Hammer

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In this post: Collibra

As Collibra raises $112.5m in funding co-led by Index Ventures, Jan Hammer highlights the significance of data intelligence and the fast rise of the modern librarian, the Chief Data Officer. 

When Gutenberg invented the printing press, he was the catalyst not just for the mass distribution of a new medium – the printed book – but also for a radical overhaul in how we relate to information. As Gutenberg’s technology spread across the world, libraries rose to the challenge of categorizing and organizing all the rich new types of data that were now available.

Nearly 600 years later, we’re at a similar inflection point. Last decade was about ‘software eating the world’. Now, in truth, it’s more accurate to say that data is eating the world. The smartphone and ubiquitous computing have produced an exponential data explosion.

And, like the guardians of knowledge in Gutenberg’s day, organizations are now faced with the huge problem of managing and taxonomizing the information they create. In the Middle Ages, the person responsible for storing and making sense of it all was a librarian; now, it’s the figure of the Chief Data Officer – a position only invented recently, but one that’s become a necessity for every large enterprise. According to Gartner there were 15 CDOs a decade ago, now there are more than 10,000 people with that role. 

Collibra is a New York and Brussels-based company that offers the leading global solution to this vital challenge of data management, governance and intelligence. What began as a research project emerging out of Belgian universities has matured into a business with 450 customers around the world. Founded by CEO Felix Van de Maele and three university colleagues, Collibra has been part of the Index family since 2015. At the time, a large international bank had just purchased a multi-million dollar Collibra license, and a light went on in our heads about the scale of the then-nascent opportunity. We have now followed this up with a fresh Growth investment to capitalize on the market leadership opportunity to expand the suite of data-centric products across Fortune 2000 client base, from native Brussels and around the globe.

The company now has a footprint in just about every major industry, from finance to healthcare, transport, retail and utilities. Collibra originally started in data governance, ensuring companies were compliant with ever-increasing regulation. But Collibra’s real innovation has been to release a centralized platform and suite of products that empower C-suite decision makers with insights about their own business. The product has shifted from being a ‘defensive’ IT infrastructure towards becoming a ‘proactive’ platform for data intelligence, which other software companies can plug into and build on top of in order to create additional capabilities. The result is that Collibra is quickly becoming the operating system for the world’s commercial data. 

Gutenberg could hardly have foreseen the profound economic, social and political consequences of the print revolution, reverberating over many centuries. Likewise, we’re still at the very beginning of the 21st-century data revolution, and of understanding its second, third and fourth-order consequences. We are now in a period of profound global uncertainty – but regardless of how the world looks when we emerge from the fog of the current crisis, the value of data is only going to become clearer.

Published — April 2, 2020