FORTUNE --- If you hadn't heard of Tableau Software before its glamorous debut on the public market last Friday, you're not alone. The Seattle-based company makes visual analytics tools for technical and non-technical employees alike but is far from a household name. And yet, it raised around $254 million in its initial public offering and closed its first day of trading at just over $50 per share, up more than 60% from its IPO price of $31. Not bad for a data visualization tool.
Tableau (DATA) has tapped into one of the hottest trends in enterprise technology -- the overused buzzword that is big data. The company allows users to query and present large data sets using a graphical interface (think bright and colorful interactive charts). "We just finished a two-week roadshow and found that there's tremendous interest in data and analytics and the power that data can bring to improving lives," says Christian Chabot, co-founder and CEO of Tableau.
Tableau was lucky enough to get the ticker symbol "DATA," but it's just one in a line of several recent and upcoming enterprise tech and big data IPOs. Another software company, Marketo (MKTO), also made its public market debut last Friday and saw its share price rise 78% on its first day of trading. (Marketo sells cloud-based software for, you guessed it, marketing departments.) Of course, the march of enterprise tech IPOs actually started last year. And while consumer-focused Facebook's (FB) stock may be down 30% from its IPO price one year ago, less sexy companies like Splunk (SPLK), Workday (WDAY) and Palo Alto Networks (PANW) have fared better.
So who's next? There's file storage site Box, mobile device management player Good Technology and security software maker FireEye, to name a few. Then again, despite the recent high-profile IPOs of a handful of enterprise software companies, probably the most anticipated public offering is that of microblogging site Twitter, currently valued (by some estimates) at a whopping $10 billion.
Unlike Twitter, Tableau needed to go public to help build "awareness and credibility." The company's current customer list includes heavyweights like Wal-Mart (WMT) and eBay (EBAY) plus regional hospitals and government agencies. "It's not so much about pivoting from one customer to another as it is about increasing all customers," says Chabot. "Our products can be used by anyone who needs to use a spreadsheet." Of course, Tableau has a long way to go before anyone who needs to use a spreadsheet actually considers using its product (and not a growing list of competitors' software). But a glamorous debut on the New York Stock Exchange stage could help.
Former Pixar engineer Pat Hanrahan has found a new calling organizing and analyzing business data, and bringing the information to life.
By Richard Nieva, contributor
FORTUNE -- How many enterprise software executives can brag that they have been feted by Hollywood? At least one: Pat Hanrahan, a Stanford University professor and co-founder of Seattle-based Tableau Software, earned a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award for visual-effects technology he designed while working at Steve MORENov 15, 2011 5:00 AM ET
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