In today’s world, making data-driven decisions is increasingly important for businesses. But it’s often hard for professionals with little to no technical experience to manipulate and understand data. Enter BlastPoint, a data analytics platform that uses geospatial technology to allow users to extract data from maps, ask questions about the data, and get actionable answers.
The founders of BlastPoint, Alison and Tomer, met as grad students at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). There was a strong entrepreneurship environment at CMU, where Alison was an entrepreneurial fellow. Alison and Tomer met at a pitching workshop; Alison pitched BlastPoint and Tomer was interested. Together, they built a working demo of BlastPoint and won the McGinnis Venture Competition, receiving not only $20,000 in funding, but also validation from others. They spent eight more months interviewing customers to determine market size and needs, and consequently entered the AlphaLab incubator. BlastPoint made its first sale in February 2017, and now has more than 70 customers, from the tiniest nonprofits to companies with hundreds of thousands of customers. Soon after their first sale, Alison and Tomer won the UpPrize competition and $160,000 in funding.
Alison, the CEO of BlastPoint, has a background in building big data systems for companies, particularly in geospatial data. She realized that the people who really need data are sales and marketing professionals. Her mission, and the mission of BlastPoint, is to put data within the reach of non-experts. When Alison went into business school, she never saw herself being an entrepreneur, but was pushed in that direction. Being a mother, she didn’t see the entrepreneurial path being a sustainable one. When BlastPoint gained traction, Alison decided to work on the business full-time. Looking back, she is glad to have been pushed in this direction sooner rather than later.
Alison’s thinking behind BlastPoint was to put lots of different data sources, both internal and external, in one place. Then, she would use location to make everything make sense. Once location is established as a common point, people are able to tell stories with data. BlastPoint itself uses maps so a lot of people can interact directly with the data and understand what they are seeing. The human brain works well with pictures, and is good at finding patterns. And while there are other geospatial data tools on the market, they are built for people who are experts in reading, manipulating, and understanding data. BlastPoint targets a neglected user base.
Alison draws inspiration from a book on the cholera epidemic in London and how Dr. John Snow used maps to stop it. Through geospatial data, people can figure out what is going on in a particular area and how to deal with it. Tomer and Alison are also learning a lot by observing other companies. For example, Netflix hired and fired people for a while, and was radically honest with feedback. BlastPoint draws inspiration from that honesty and transparency. Alison and Tomer also don’t expect people to be fully developed when they are hired, and so they invest a lot in training at BlastPoint. BlastPoint aims to be a bridge to technology for people who are underrepresented in tech, like moms or people without traditional tech degrees. In fact, Alison has found that the people who aren’t traditionally trained data scientists are often the most passionate.
In one year, the BlastPoint team hopes to fuel growth by building enterprise software. They are hoping to grow to $50,000 in monthly recurring revenue by the end of 2018 and looking to expand their offerings beyond just a subscription-based model. They also want to build more tools and find growth within companies that need BlastPoint’s tools, particularly more sales and marketing departments. Right now, BlastPoint is working on a new lead generation tool that will be able to determine potential customers in a market through maps.
Because BlastPoint is a Pittsburgh company, the team feels like it’s time to build a new network. That’s where Quake’s accelerator comes in. The team wants to find footing in a place where they don’t have a robust network beyond colleagues and friends. By joining Quake’s accelerator, BlastPoint has the opportunity to build their network, reach more markets, and expand its business. Quake is eager to see BlastPoint grow and have a positive impact on businesses around the world.