Q&A Interview with BIME CEO Rachel Deacour

Rachel Delacour has taken an international route to her role as CEO of BIME, a data-centric business intelligence company that she built from scratch. 

She says, “After graduating from business school in Marseille, I began my career in finance at three large French companies with an international footprint: at Bata, Carrefour and FM Logistics Russia. As a 28-year-old controller I decided I wanted unfettered access to fresh data. I realized that Business Intelligence (BI) was just too hard to use, manage, buy, and get right. The answer for me was to quit and build the BI service of my dreams.”

I sat down with Rachel and asked her the following questions:

CW: Tell me about BIME.

RD:  BIME is a simple yet powerful service to help anyone get answers and turn data into dollars (or euros). BIME Analytics has defined cloud BI as an indispensable service for anyone with business questions and a browser. I've helped set the bar on how to connect the dots across the entire Web in an easy and affordable way and I’m considered the rare female expert on the major trends shaping the enterprise of tomorrow: cloud computing, SaaS, and how to cut through the hype around Big Data.

BIME was founded in 2009 in Montpellier, a hotbed of academic R&D in the South of France which has just been named as one of Europe’s most wired cities. BIME is the first pure cloud BI service for the age of Big Data. The company has grown fast and last year opened dual headquarters in Kansas City, MO, also a fast growing high-tech community in the Midwest. There are many companies riding the Big Data and analytics wave, but BIME is one of only a few that delivers simple-to-use yet powerful data analysis, visualization and dashboarding as a plug-and-lay service — fast, easy to set up and low-cost service so companies and teams of any size can "mine their own business." BIME is available in four languages, including Chinese, and has customers across the globe. We were the first vendor to offer front-end BI capabilities for Google BigQuery and have received numerous cloud innovation awards.

CW: What is your role there and what makes it unique?

RD: I am the CEO and co-founder of the company. At the core of my role as a pioneer lie two things.  I have been able to grow BIME with a fraction of the investment dollars that most other, mostly American enterprise software startups, raise and then go on to spend on marketing. I have succeeded in building a world-class tool for the cloud that’s used by companies from Brazil to China. Secondly, I have managed to break down barriers in the still male-dominated IT world — bringing to bear female determination and flair. And third, I’m married to the best CTO we could ever have to build a world-class cloud service. 

CW: How does it feel to be one of the few female CEOs and technologists in Big Data?

The history of the data analytics industry has been dominated by males, both in terms of technology innovation and business leadership but nowadays there are more and more women taking charge and driving this field to the next level - that is, not only for a few major companies or a select group of specialists but widespread - for all business users. I believe this vision is specific to female CEOs - I think that there are still only few female leaders in the field but I am delighted that I can participate and drive this change even further.

CW: Is BIME able to mash disparate data sets?

BIME can mix data sources on the fly with its Query Blender technology: from the most basic offline data sources such as flat files to complex ones such as SQL databases and up to online data streams such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights or even our unique Youtube Analytics connector and Big Data sources (Google BigQuery, Amazon Redshift, SAP HANA, etc.).

More than that, through the Query Blender, the user can mash, query and display the results of interconnected datasets within one dashboard with multiple views, depending on the type of users: imagine a company dashboard within which one has mixed all the financial, sales, marketing, PR or social media data sources with customized views for each department.

CW: Is your system able to create new metrics and strategic insights from data?

Definitely. BIME’s power is that it is able to generate answers to complex questions  and queries in a matter of seconds while adapting to the logic and patterns of each company, whether startup or corporation from multiple industries. The BIME platform is all about offering the user the customization options for him to create his own KPIs & metrics. More than that, the user can develop customized measures and attributes to dig deeper within data while also customizing his dashboards with filtering options so that his peers can also discover new insights on their own. Users can make their company smarter by benefiting from all the power behind the platform’s simplicity.

CW: How do the various world markets that you serve differ in BI and uses of Big Data?

I think that here we are talking about BI maturity and versatility of companies in using multiple data sources. Because BI used to be done in large corporations based on huge amounts of internal financial, sales or marketing data, there still exists the misconception that Big Data is the exclusive ground of big companies.

But with the boom of trends such as social media, Open Data or IoT, a startup or an SMB can now have access to external data streams that reach the Big Data level, empowering them to compete from the very beginning with the major players in their industry.

A series of the world markets and companies have started to understand the essential competitive advantage that lies in mixing internal and external data sources and obtaining key business insights through using collaborative and interactive dashboards within their teams. This is why we the markets and the companies that will dive deeper into using cloud BI at its full potential will become giants without building empires.

CW: Why open your American office in Kansas City instead of US cities like Palo Alto or New York where other BI and Big Data companies are based?

Our European headquarters is in a place that most would consider an unconventional location for a tech start-up: Montpellier, in the south of France. But this city has an internationally recognized scientific community on which we were able to build its growth. Setting our first office in Montpellier enabled us to keep our operational costs down and focus on building a cutting-edge yet low-cost, sophisticated cloud BI service.

Now - fast forward to Kansas City. KC Is rapidly emerging as an attractive location for high-tech start-ups and it’s no surprise that one of the premier think tanks for entrepreneurial research, the renowned Kauffman Foundation, is based there. Its research ranks Kansas City 3rd among all large metropolitan areas in the US between 1999 and 2010.

Moreover, the fact that Google chose KC to launch its Fiber service was another indicator for us of the area’s potential in terms of both technological and entrepreneurial opportunities. Therefore, we wanted to tap into this vibe by opening our US headquarters in The Crossroads neighborhood of Kansas City, thus having access to a great talent pool and building a team ready to grow fast (and only 7 time zones away from our French headquarters). We are excited to become an integral part of this growing community of high-tech innovators.

It’s true that there are many business intelligence companies in the Bay area, but that just means more inflated prices and more unnecessarily complicated recruiting processes. We think we have a strong advantage over those other companies by having the first pick of graduates from the well-known universities as well as others who are drawn to the city. It certainly helps that Mayor Sly James and other local groups are working hard to make Kansas City the country’s ‘Most Entrepreneurial City’.

CW: Can you give me some predictions as to how the Big Data landscape will evolve over the next 3-5 years?

I believe that two main changes are happening right now in the Big Data field: the way we understand / define Big Data and the way we use Big Data through cloud BI platforms. We already outlined this year a trend that is truer than ever for the following years: The entire web becomes the data warehouse. New data sources are popping up everywhere - everyday. Data becomes Big Data by default, even for small businesses.

Cloud computing and cloud BI, in particular, are changing the business game. Taken together, they let organizations of any size seamlessly connect their data sources on the fly, they enable enterprises to get answers to their business questions in seconds and they empower companies to mine their businesses to discover competitive advantages. This approach saves substantial amounts of time and money for all types of companies - from start-ups to large corporations.

The advantages of this lightweight yet powerful PaaS model are becoming obvious - being in the know will come down to connecting far-flung data repositories and querying them almost instantaneously, without moving the data around. It means getting rid of budget- and time-consuming installations or appliances. Instead, the entire web becomes a seamless and scalable data warehouse that grows with an organization’s needs. Sources become Resources.

But saving time and money through the power of cloud BI would not be possible without a radically changed User Experience that makes it natural to analyze Big Data through a UI that hides power behind its simplicity. As a PaaS vendor, it is our responsibility to mask the complexity in order to democratize the use of cloud BI as the new way to do business intelligence at any scale.

When creating a User Experience as natural as the ones of consumer apps, a single user will be to achieve in days what required months of work, an army of people and several hundred thousand dollars. More importantly, he will enjoy the process as decision has been streamlined, infrastructure has been abstracted and the UI will fade to reveal itself only when needed.

I think that it is extremely important for the future of cloud BI that we built BIME to be able to  answer questions as they pop up during a business day, in a fast, fluid and engaging way and, most importantly, on any device. It’s not only about viewing dashboards on a mobile device, but about actually doing sophisticated BI wherever you are, particularly on a tablet.

My consolidated prediction: If one knows how to build a presentation, he will be able to use the entire web as his own data warehouse, create compelling visualizations and share relevant insights anywhere, with anyone, on any device.

CW: How is BIME continuing to evolve?

Our great US team is growing by leaps and bounds in terms of customer wins while putting cloud BI at the core of business activities in various industries - from solar energy companies to digital marketing agencies and up to major universities or science labs.  In this context, with new data sources and data streams popping up everywhere every day, BIME is also enhancing its architecture and partnership network to open our platform for usage all over the world - from Australia to Japan - empowering users to make their companies smarter.

Interview conducted by Charlene Weisler, Weisler Media LLC. She can be reached through her research blog or at Twitter:

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