Analytics startups sweep the field in IBM contest

Nine out of the nine finalists for IBM’s(s ibm) Global Entrepreneur of the Year title are analytics startups. That’s either an anomaly or proof that analytics is hot, hot, hot.
Analytics, or business intelligence, helps businesses make sense,even visualize their data so it’s more useful to them.
IBM, like other tech giants, has been on a bit of an analytics bender in the past few years, buying a slew of analytics companies, most recently Algorithmics last fall, but also SPSS, Unica and others.
Raj Aggarwal, CEO of Localytics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based web analytics startup, said his company’s prior relationship with Unica, which IBM bought in 2010, brought Localytics into IBM’s orbit. That relationship is why Localytics entered the IBM SmartCamp competition rather than one of the other startup beauty contests. Winners of the regional SmartCamp events then vie for the global entrepreneur title.
Localytics’ services gives mobile app developers a real-time window into the usage of their applications, as GigaOM’s Ryan Kim reported here.
IBM holds several SmartCamp contests for startups around the world. The nine regional finalists will meet with IBM and venture capital companies in San Francisco next week. Winners don’t get prize money, but IBM does provide them with resources — hardware, software — and, perhaps more importantly, access to experts in the company and in the VC community.
Aggarwal said meeting experts at IBM was the biggest perk for Localytics. “They introduce us to people, set up meetings. It’s hard for a small company to do that on its own,” he said. IBM gets a lot out of this too: Access to small, nimble companies focusing on a vertical niche that complements IBM’s more broadly focused software.
The other SmartCamp finalists are:

  • BitCarrier: The SmartCamp Barcelona winner analyzes real-time traffic (of the automotive type) information.
  • C-B4 Context Based 4Casting: CB4’s context-based system identifies and analyzes hidden data patterns in large data warehouses.
  • ConnectM: This company’s machine-to-machine technology analyses machine data from different systems for telecom, utility and transportation industries.
  • IDXP: IDXP’s in-store software-and-sensor combo helps retailers understand consumer behavior.
  • Palmap: This company’s new mapping solution helps mobile users navigate airports and malls.
  • Profitero:  Profitero helps online retailers analyse their competitors’ performance.
  • SecureWaters: SecureWaters’s patented technology monitors, detects and identifies toxins in surface water and alerts people of their presence.
  • SkinScan: This mobile application scans the user’s skin to measure skin cancer threat.

Most of these analytics applications are extremely focused on a vertical market — something that IBM, Oracle(s orcl), Microsoft (s msft)  and other big vendors encourage in their ISV partners. The giant IT platform vendors see small, agile companies like these as strategic partners, filling gaps in their own portfolios. One might speculate that SmartCloud competitions give IBM, which has purchased some 70 companies since 2003, a way to identify potential acquisition targets.