Tamr, formerly Data Tamer, wants to help map a company’s data sources

Andy Palmer (top), Alan Wagner, and Nidhi Aggarwal of Tamr.
Andy Palmer (top), Alan Wagner, and Nidhi Aggarwal of Tamr.

As the data landscape at most companies rapidly expands, a Cambridge startup called Tamr believes that a map might be handy.

“People have all this data lying around in the enterprise,” says Nidhi Aggarwal, Tamr’s head of strategy and marketing. “It’s in Salesforce, Oracle, spreadsheets, MongoDB. But when you want to know what is really happening, it is so difficult to connect each of these things together.” And because it’s so hard to understand and create connections between all of a company’s available data sources, “they may only be using 10 percent of the data they have,” Aggarwal says. That’s the reality of “big data”: companies are using only a small fraction of it.

Tamr is having its public coming-out party at the DataBeat conference in San Francisco this week. (I wrote about the company, previously known as Data Tamer, last February, when was still in stealth mode.) The company is also announcing that it has raised $16 million in venture capital funding from Google Ventures and New Enterprise Associates.

Tamr’s CEO is Andy Palmer, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who also founded the Koa Labs shared office space in Harvard Square, which is home — at least temporarily — to the 20-person Tamr team. The company is based on the work of MIT professor Michael Stonebraker and Ihab Ilyas of the University of Waterloo, among other academic researchers. Tamr has recruited employees from Sea Change International, Hopper, Oracle, Apple, and HP.

In a blog post on why he’s joining Tamr as CEO, Palmer says the company aims to turn raw data sources into “high octane information fuel” for making better decisions. He describes Tamr as a “data curation” startup, creating detailed maps of all the data sources at a company, and working with providers of visualization tools to display them. Tamr’s software does some of the work to annotate the information in a database — for instance, understanding that a particular field contains information about the customer’s latest purchase. But it also can enlist the help of human “data stewards,” employees who are knowledgable about a particular database, to describe fields that it is confused about.

“We are to enterprise data what crawlers were to the consumer Internet,” Palmer said in an interview last month at Koa. “Eventually, we want to help you to discover new data sources inside your company and outside it, similar to how Google discovers new websites.”

Aggarwal says that several customers in the financial services and biopharma industries are already using Tamr’s software.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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