Tableau's Building the 'Google for Data'

(Updated with additional CEO commentary after 9th paragraph)

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Just a little more three months away from its one-year anniversary as a publicly traded big-data pure-play, Tableau Software (DATA) may be relatively young for its space, but it's proving to have the answers to questions of how to exploit the billions of databases around the world for valuable businesses intelligence.

Fortune 500 corporations, small- and medium-sized businesses, government agencies, universities, research institutions and non-profits make up Seattle, Wash.-based Tableau's more than 17,000 and growing domestic and international customer accounts. That roster is the result of the company's aggressive research and development programs. At their core, those programs help customers see and understand data quickly. But if the foundation of the company's mission seems simple, execution is not. 


"Tableau's stated goal is to build one of the most research- and development-intensive companies in the history of this industry," Tableau CEO Christian Chabot told TheStreet during an interview last week.

Tableau's non-GAAP R&D investments have amounted to 24% of revenue for both 2013 and 2012. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, R&D investments jumped more than 87% year-over-year to $42.5 million, with total R&D headcount increasing by over 76% to 297 employees.

Nearly a third of all the company's 1,039 employees consisted of R&D staff as of Sept. 30.

The research and development team has been heavily focused on developing technology that's free of skillset constraints, utilizable by everyone. This direction has been driven by the broad, corporate cultural shift to employee-centric, online-accessible data analytics, from the more traditional, hierarchical or top-down approach toward data analysis and dissemination.

Tableau 9 and Tableau 10 that are in the product pipeline and soon-to-be-shipped Tableau 8.2 are designed to highlight "storytelling" or visually striking data presentation.

Well-positioned to ride the big data wave, Tableau shares, as of Tuesday's intraday high of $95, are now trading over 206% above its initial public offering price of $31 set on May 16. The company closed with a market cap of $5.76 billion on Tuesday.

The company said last week it expects revenue to grow about 58% year-over-year to up to $63 million in the first quarter, and that it added over 1,800 new customer accounts in the fourth quarter.

Chabot commented that Tableau's listing on the New York Stock Exchange increased the credibility and awareness of the company to a level that it hadn't experienced before. And the debut of its Tableau 8 line of fast analytics and visualization software launched last Spring was a major upgrade to the company's product suite, helping Tableau close more business deals.

"The investments that we have been making for a number of years have begun to produce extraordinary results," Chabot told TheStreet.

What follows is an excerpt of the conversation:

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