TechStars graduate is a cloud-based analytics platform for mobile developers—and it’s got some big-time backers

By Editor August 9, 2012

Keen_logoA Q&A with co-founder and CTO Daniel Kador. The San Francisco–based company was founded in late 2011 and raised $750K in Seed funding in late July. Investors include 500 Startups, Data Collective and SK Ventures.

SUB: Please describe, and the value proposition you offer to mobile developers.

Kador: Keen provides analytics as a service for mobile developers. We have a kick-ass set of APIs for collecting data from devices, saving that data in our cloud-based metrics store, and analyzing it to answer any question our users have about their data.

Before Keen, a developer would have to build infrastructure and write code to handle the mountains of data generated by their users. With Keen, they simply integrate with our APIs.

SUB: Who are your target users?

Kador: People building mobile applications—developers, product managers, analysts, etc.—folks who understand the value of the data generated by their users and applications and want to harness that value. Our current users come from a broad range of industries: ecommerce, marketing, medical, sales, and more.

SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?

Kador: Internal analytics and metrics teams.

SUB: What differentiates from the competition?

Kador: Keen allows our users to focus on what they do best: solving problems directly related to their business. Nobody wants to spend money and time building analytics infrastructure. Our users value us because we do the hard but necessary work of creating and maintaining the backend required to store and analyze the vast amount of data being generated by mobile devices.

SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?

Kador: We were officially incorporated in December of 2011. We all quit our jobs and took full-time roles at Keen in January of 2012. Our first step was to go through the TechStars Cloud accelerator in San Antonio, Texas, which really propelled us towards success. I can’t say enough good things about that program. If you want a lot more description, check out my blog post about it. In another sense, we were founded in 1999 when the three founders met and became lifelong friends at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?

Kador: My two co-founders and I have all dealt with frustrating analytics experiences in our past jobs: Kyle at Google Analytics and then startups, and Ryan and I at Salesforce. Every company who gets serious about analytics ends up rolling their own infrastructure to handle the custom questions that nobody else can answer. We knew there had to be a better way, but couldn’t find anything that satisfied us on the market. So we decided to build it ourselves. That was the start of it, but TechStars really helped us focus and hone the idea into what it is today.

SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?

Kador: The hardest period for us was definitely the start of TechStars. We spent a lot of time struggling with our original idea and how to communicate it. There were definitely some dark days. We had moments where we regretted quitting our jobs, where we couldn’t see a way to make our idea a reality, and where some of the smartest people in the world just totally didn’t get what we were trying to do. It was really tough.

In the end, it was totally worth it. That experience gave us a good dose of humility—and also put a bunch of muscle on us as a company.

SUB: You just raised $750K in Seed funding. Why was this a good time to raise this round, and how do you plan to use the new funds?

Kador: At the end of each TechStars class, all the companies get to pitch to an amazing group of investors at Demo Day. Our seed round was the direct result of the momentum gained by pitching well at our Demo Day. It was a great time to raise for a couple reasons. As I already mentioned, TechStars put us on the right trajectory for fund raising. Next, the space we’re in is hot right now—mobile’s big and only going to get bigger, and making sense of all the data being generated in mobile is obviously important. Finally, the market is very pro-entrepreneur now. We were over-subscribed and were able to pick and choose the kinds of investors we wanted to work with.

The money is for team and runway. We’ve already doubled the team and we want to give ourselves some breathing room, in terms of time, so we can build a really kickass product.

SUB: Do you plan to raise additional funds in the near future?

Kador: Potentially. We don’t need to, but if the right opportunities present themselves, we’re always open to that possibility.

SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?

Kador: We’re not ready to disclose a pricing model yet.

SUB: What are your goals for over the next year or so?

Kador: To solve real business problems for our customers. Everything else comes second to that—developer traction, number of API calls processed, amount of data stored, etc. Too often people get hung up on specific metrics. At the end of the day, our overarching goal is to provide a service that our customers find valuable. –