Sigma Computing marries spreadsheets, SQL for cloud data wa…

More than 750 million people worldwide use spreadsheets, and that’s why Sigma Computing Inc. thinks the familiar row-and-column metaphor is a good way to work with data warehouses as well.

The company recently introduced an analytics tool that provides live access to data in popular cloud data warehouses from Snowflake Computing Inc., Google LLC and Amazon Web Services Inc. using a spreadsheetlike visual interface.

Sigma runs entirely within the browser, providing a single view of data from multiple sources combined with a back-end query processor that converts spreadsheet formulas into the SQL queries that data warehouses understand. The company claims users can get access to 99 percent of SQL functionality without having to write complex Boolean queries, and that its translated queries run faster and more reliably than those written by hand.

The software can access data in both structured and semistructured formats such as JavaScript Object Notation or JSON. Executives said there are no current plans to support unstructured data.

“You can build the equivalent of any query without writing SQL,” said Chief Executive Rob Woollen, who was formerly chief technology officer at Inc. “The spreadsheet interface is unique in this space.”

Sigma raised $20 million in a financing round led by Altimeter Capital Management LP in January, nearly four years after raising its $8 million seed round led by Sutter Hill Ventures. The product originated out of work Woollen and co-founder Jason Frantz did while entrepreneurs-in-residence at Sutter Hill Ventures, which also funded Snowflake.

“When I was at Salesforce, we struggled with people trying to copy data out of the cloud and use it on spreadsheets,” Woollen said. “We thought we could make it possible for many more people to do analysis.”

The company isn’t the first to try to mask the complexity of SQL. Many other approaches have sprung up over the years, most focused upon manipulation of graphical elements or natural language queries.

In addition to its use of the spreadsheet metaphor, Sigma said, its query engine is distinctive for its cloud-native design, which enables such capabilities as multi-user collaboration across very large data sets. “We marry the spreadsheet interface with the power to analyze billions of rows in the cloud,” Woollen said.

The startup has fewer than 50 paying customers but plans to invest in sales and marketing now that field tests have ended. “We are ready to bring the product to a much larger market,” Woollen said. Pricing wasn’t announced.

Image: Flickr CC

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