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Businesses are buying analytics software even if investors aren’t

Stocks Continue Downward Slide On Heels Of Yesterday's Extreme FallStocks Continue Downward Slide On Heels Of Yesterday's Extreme Fall
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.Photograph by Spencer Platt — Getty Images

Despite strong — sometimes skyrocketing — growth in corporate revenue and profits, it has been a rollercoaster year on Wall Street for pure-play data analysis companies. During the last couple of months, shares of Tableau (DATA), Splunk (SPLK) and Hortonworks (HDP), all of which went public between April 2012 and December 2014, have taken some hard hits.

However, while Splunk and Hortonworks have dropped largely in line with the overall stock-market downturn over the past month, it appears something else is up with Tableau, the Seattle-based company that pioneered easy-to-use data analysis software. Its share price dropped precipitously in July after an earnings report in which it grew revenue by 65% and beat analyst expectations on most fronts. But the company’s shares have yet to recover. After sitting pretty at $128.74 on July 22, Tableau shares are now trudging along down roughly 25% in mid-$90 range.

Perhaps, as analyst firm Morningstar has suggested, investors are skeptical of Tableau’s operating losses as it continues investing heavily in marketing and R&D. Tableau posted a net loss of nearly $18 million for the second quarter, compared with a loss of just over $4 million the previous year. And maybe they’re leery of increased competition as startups, but also large software companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), IBM (IBM) and even (CRM), look to beat Tableau at its own game.

Tableau declined to comment for this story.

If we get past the stock market, though, it’s hard to look at relatively young companies that are growing like gangbusters and see anything but stalwarts in a soon-to-be very valuable software market. Thanks to a glut of new tools developed over the past several years, the business of data — whether you call it big data, analytics or whatever — is really just in its infancy. In fact, many of the biggest names in the industry, such as Cloudera, MongoDB and Palantir, are still privately held and valued in the billions.

There are some wrinkles to iron out as the world adjusts to a trend toward open source and freemium business models, and to business software that individuals can buy. But there’s a huge opportunity for companies to cash in on business demand for better data analysis, and the young companies that live and breathe data seem the best positioned to cash in.

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