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Observable raises $35.6M for data collaboration platform

After spending 15 years at Google, Melody Meckfessel brought at least one key lesson to her data visualization startup Observable: 'no grumpy developers.'

Data collaboration startup Observable said on Thursday it raised $35.6 million in a Series B round of funding.

Total funding to date for the San Francisco-based vendor, which was founded in 2019, now stands at $46.1 million.

At the core of the Observable platform is data visualization technology based on the open source D3 (data-driven documents) project.

On top of that, the vendor provides data collaboration tools that enable users within an organization to share and work on the same data. Low-code capabilities are part of the platform as well, with code snippets that enable users to quickly build visualization for different data sources, including databases and spreadsheets.

Leading Observable is co-founder and CEO Melody Meckfessel, who worked in various engineering roles at Google for 15 years. In this Q&A, Meckfessel details what Observable does and how data visualization and data collaboration work together.

Why are you now raising more money for a data collaboration and data visualization platform?

Melody MeckfesselMelody Meckfessel

Melody Meckfessel: Part of our motivation for raising new funds at this time is that over the last year, we have accelerated our product development and adoption.

We've been doing our own research in our community and recently published the state of data visualization report. What we've found is that data practitioners are using upwards of five tools as part of their data workflow. So our objective with Observable at this point in time is to accelerate our investment, to acknowledge that data is the most important asset for companies in the market and that there is a demand for collaboration to be at the center of data work.

We use the Observable product for our own business analysis and all of our internal dashboards to maintain the platform. We looked at analysis around our growth, both for community engagement, user accounts and for the business, and wanted to come up with an investment that helped us fill gaps in our competency as a company as we accelerate enterprise adoption.

What's one of the biggest surprises you've had about data collaboration and data visualization since starting the business?

Meckfessel: We've always had database connectors. We know that people want to connect to their live data and they want to trust the analysis that they're doing to be able to make decisions.

What we came to realize is that a lot of data analysis happens in spreadsheets. To me, that is an example of how every organization is using different methods to manage and analyze their data at scale with production databases, and also within organizations in spreadsheets.

I think the takeaway there is people want flexibility around accessing their data. They want to access multiple sources and they want to empower people that have different skill sets in the organization to make that analysis better in order to make better decisions.

What is the intersection of data visualization and data collaboration at Observable?

Visualization is really just the means to an end. It's how we empower the data analysts and the data scientists and the other roles to use that visualization to deepen understanding.
Melody MeckfesselCo-founder and CEO, Observable

Meckfessel: We're seeing organizations using Observable to figure out what their data collaboration processes are. So they're using it to determine who's working together and how to make decisions around exploratory projects and turn them into kind of corporate production-level dashboards that are used for data intelligence and organization.

Visualization is really just the means to an end. It's how we empower the data analysts and the data scientists and the other roles to use that visualization to deepen understanding. For us, we view the power of Observable to be data collaboration.

What lessons learned from Google have you brought forward to Observable and its platform?

Meckfessel: I had this mantra at Google, which was 'no grumpy humans.'

I think part of why people get grumpy is because they are constrained. They have a wall in front of them; they can't see the same thing that people are looking at. When you tear down those barriers and you open up the data and the logic and the visualization in one place with a tool like Observable, people are just happier and they want to work together.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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