Started as a government research project on the Stanford campus seven years ago, the team behind Tableau worked down the hall from Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In fact, the two companies share more than a common address, co-founder and CEO Christian Chabot said.
“We are like the sister company of Google in some sense, and I want to say that lightly so it is not misinterpreted,” Chabot said. “But Google was trying to make unstructured databases easy to use, and Tableau was founded to make structured databases easy to use.”
The difference is that Tableau’s software creates a graphical interface for “old-fashioned” databases such as Oracle, SQL Server and Excel while Google’s technology is built for unstructured data on the Internet, he said.
Creating a graphical system that allows people to easily sort through piles of corporate data is something that computer scientists have struggled with for years, Chabot said.
“Do a survey of the great unsolved problems in computer science and your research will show that just making databases easy to use is one thing we have not figured out yet,” he said. “We are swimming in data, yet no one can see what is going on.”
The company describes itself as a Visual Spreadsheet for databases.